Next Thursday (February 27, 7 p.m., Town Hall) the Planning & Zoning Commission will review Text Amendment 672. It would limit the size of commercial tenant spaces in the Business Center District and Business Center District/Historic to no more than 10,000 square feet. The amendment would also preclude the merger of commercial properties or tenant spaces across property lines within these 2 zones.
At least 1 downtown landlord opposes the change. Writing to fellow property owners, the landlord says that passage “could have long-term negative effects on our downtown,” and on future property values.
The landlord continues:
In its simplest form, this amendment would prohibit a single building/landlord, who has a property with more than 10,000 square feet of leasable retail space (either on one level or multiple levels), from combining spaces to allow for a new 10,000 s/f or greater tenant. This applies to reconfiguring existing spaces as well as new projects within the 2 zones — essentially all of downtown Westport. This would apply if a single landlord or multiple landlords with adjoining properties wanted to do the same.
The landlord says the following examples would have happened if this amendment was already on the books:
- Banana Republic could not occupy its current location.
- Acadia would have been prohibited from combining 3 floors of retail at 125 Main Street to allow the Gap to move in.
- Restoration Hardware would not have been allowed to occupy its current space.
In the future:
- If Tiffany wants to expand to the 2nd floor retail space above it, it could not.
- If Nike wants to expand into the adjacent Allen Edmonds/Theory/Lulu space, it could not.
- If Brooks Brothers wants to expand into the adjacent William-Sonoma space, it could not.
- If a single tenant wants all of the first floor of 180 Post Road East (the Michele’s Pies building), it could not happen.
In addition to those individual landlord examples, the downtown property owner says that “multiple landlords crossing lot lines and combining spaces” could also be affected. For example:
- When Barney’s was in Westport, it expanded its men’s department by breaking through a 2nd floor party wall/lot line, creating a 15,000 s/f store (2 landlords, 2 properties).
- Talbots expanded its brand by breaking through a party wall/lot line, taking over the old Remarkable Book Store and creating a single 12,500 s/f store.
The landlord writes, “Our P&Z thinks this will create an environment that is more friendly to ‘mom and pop’ businesses. This is not the case. It will only discourage all commercial activity in downtown Westport. Would you lease a space that is 8,000 square feet with an interest in expanding, when you know you cannot go over 10,000?”
The landlord concludes, “There are many ways to encourage economic diversity within our downtown area. However, a regulation change at this point is premature, especially without consideration of any alternatives. This proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem that does not exist.”
“06880″ readers — property owners, shoppers, whomever — do you agree or disagree? Hit “comments” to weigh in. NOTE: Because the landlord has asked not to be identified by name, anonymous comments will be allowed for this post only. However, please keep all remarks civil and on target!