Category Archives: Real estate

[UPDATE] Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Linda Fiorentino’s Real Estate Dealings, Thanks To In-Depth Media Reporting

(A Westport realtor has just emailed the news that Linda Fiorentino’s house was withdrawn from the market last Friday [April 17]. He says it was first listed on November 14, 2014 for $1,250,000, then reduced to $1.1 million on January 16. Oh well…it’s an interesting story anyway.)

I hate getting scooped by TMZ.

But — because the “06880” tagline is “Where Westport Meets the World” — I have to pass along the news they breathlessly (and exclusively!) posted today:

“Men in Black” actress Linda Fiorentino knocked it out of the park as Laurel Weaver in the hit movie … she’s about to hit another homer with her farmhouse.

Our real estate sources say Fiorentino — who also played Jesus Christ’s last living relative in “Dogma” — is looking to turn her 2-bed, 3-bath 1679 sq. ft. Westport CT colonial into over half a million in profit.

The house owned by Linda Fiorentino, which TMZ is so excited about. Must be a slow news day. (Photo/Jillian Klaff Homes)

The house owned by Linda Fiorentino, which TMZ is so excited about. Must be a slow news day. (Photo/Jillian Klaff Homes)

We’re told Fiorentino bought it in 1997 for $578k — the same year as MIB. It was worth the price just for the beach house and 1/2 garden. She just sold it for $1.1 mil.

If you snag this crib, you could be MIB on the reg too … Makin’ It to the Beach. (sorry, we couldn’t resist)

Hard to believe, but in the media frenzy over Fiorentino’s real estate dealings, the journalism in New York Post‘s Page Six is much more sophisticated.

Though more salacious:

This time, Linda Fiorentino won’t be home for a “Last Seduction”-style open-house scene.

In 2006, when the sultry “Men in Black” star was selling her Upper West Side apartment, she was in the shower, unaware her broker had scheduled an open house.

Hearing voices, she ran out in only a towel to be confronted by 10 wide-eyed possible buyers.

Linda Fiorentino

Linda Fiorentino

Now, Fiorentino’s $1.1 million summer cottage and art studio in Westport, Conn., will be empty during showings.

Some sale proceeds will be donated to the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve, created after locals blocked a developer from building condos by the beach. The listing broker is Jillian Klaff of William Raveis.

I have no idea where they got that “condos by the beach” story, BTW.

(Hat tip: Rich Stein)

Bridgewater’s Glendinning Goes Green

Bridgewater Associates is the world’s biggest hedge fund. It’s also one of Westport’s leading taxpayers.

But the firm keeps a very low profile. If not for the big buses zipping employees between their Glendinning headquarters complex on Weston Road and a 2nd office at Nyala Farms near I-95 Exit 18, no one would know they’re here.

However, a small blurb in this week’s Wall Street Journal raised concerns with an “06880” reader. The paper said that — after its plan to move to Stamford fell through — Bridgewater wants to renovate its Glendinning offices, and create an underground parking garage.

The project “could require the involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers,” the WSJ noted.

Bridgewater headquarters

An aerial view of Bridgewater’s Glendinning headquarters. Note the parking spaces on both sides of the river.

“Scope of project sounds mind-blowing,” said the email I received. “How come nothing online?”

It’s not as massive as it sounds. In fact, Bridgewater — whose corporate culture has been called “cultish,” “bizarre” and “not for everyone” — has for nearly 20 years been a careful steward of the wooded, riverfront Glendinning property (and an excellent tenant in the hidden-away Nyala Farms complex too).

“This is a unique setting: a beautiful, bio-diverse area,” a company representative told Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission at a pre-application hearing earlier this month.

Bridgewater hopes to increase the functionality of its “somewhat tired” buildings — though not increase their footprints — while maintaining the natural environment that may contribute, in some way, to the hedge fund’s successful management of $169 billion.

The buildings on the Glendinning site are half a century old.

The buildings on the Glendinning site are half a century old.

Glendinning (named for the marketing firm that originally developed the property) sits at the confluence of the Saugatuck and Aspetuck Rivers. It’s in a 100-year floodplain.

To mitigate flooding — a problem in the past — Bridgewater wants to move 170 asphalt parking spaces underground. The new parking garage will be planted over, with bio-filtering greenery.

There will also be a new central green. As adjacent buildings are renovated, coverage will be reduced by 30 percent. Coverage on the adjacent Ford Road parcel may increase slightly.

Natural plantings will restore 1000 feet near the Saugatuck River’s edge. Bridgewater will work with Trout Unlimited to add a new fish ladder too.

A realigned driveway and new bridge will connect the complex with Ford Road. Bridgewater promises to buffer it well.

The river (and dam) on the Ford Road side of the property (left in this photo) will be protected and enhanced, in Bridgewater's plan.

The river (and dam) on the Ford Road side of the property (left in this photo) will be protected and enhanced, in Bridgewater’s plan.

Bridgewater has already met with Westport’s planning, engineering and conservation departments, plus the fire marshal. They’ve talked with the Department of Environmental Protection.

They’ve also sat down with owners of nearby properties, on Weston and Ford Roads.

“This is the best stewardship of a unique natural resource,” a Bridgewater spokesman told the P&Z. Members had several questions, but seemed to appreciate the company’s commitment to green space.

The process is still in the early stages. Applications and reviews are needed by conservation, flood and erosion and architectural review boards, plus the DEP and FEMA. It could be 6 months to a year before the P&Z hears the application.

Bridgewater is a hedge fund, not an insurance company. But it sounds as if they’re borrowing a famous firm’s motto. You know: Like a good neighbor, they’re there.

(To see Glendinning’s full presentation at the P&Z meeting earlier this month, click here; then click “Agenda.”)

This Old House #6

Last week’s house — labeled “Cross Highway — near Bayberry or Great Hill Rd. Westport” — has been positively identified as 167 Cross Highway. Click here for that photo, and comments.

This week — in our continuing quest to help the Westport Historical Society identify 1930s-era WPA photos, prior to an exhibition on old houses — we present the Osborn House.

Actually, an Osborn House.

There are 2 by that name in Westport. One — from around 1683-87 — is the oldest surviving house in Westport. Located at 187 Long Lots Road, today it’s the Wynkoop house. (Fittingly, the late Susan Wynkoop was a WHS president.)

The other  house — the one “06880” readers are asked to help identify — could be anywhere in town. The inscription on the back says simply “Osborn Ho. Westport.” Here it is:

This Old House - April 8, 2015

So put on your thinking caps. Click comments if you think you know where it is (or was — it may have been torn down in the decades since the WPA photo was taken).

PS: “Osborn” might also have been spelled “Osborne.” Does that help?

Chabad Grows Into Its New Home

Three years ago, Chabad Lubavitch of Westport bought the old, abandoned Three Bears Restaurant. An “06880” story — including neighbors’ complaints of renovation work done prior to the permitting process — drew a record 217 comments.

Three years later, Chabad is preparing a moderate expansion plan. All is going smoothly — so well, in fact, that neighbors are ready to toast “L’chaim!”

Chabad Lubavitch's home -- formerly the Three Bears, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Chabad Lubavitch’s home — the old Three Bears, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Though it’s called “Chabad of Westport,” the local branch of the international group serves Weston, Wilton and Norwalk too. The old Three Bears property — at the intersection of Wilton Road and Newtown Turnpike — is centrally located for all 4 towns.

It was Chabad’s 1st true local home. The organization — whose aim is to enhance Jewish life through programs, social services and worship — had rented a variety of sites for 18 years, including Ketchum Street, the Westport Woman’s Club and Camp Mahackeno.

Chabad has flourished. It runs a religious school, teen and adult programs, and a summer camp (at Coleytown Elementary School). Recently, they hosted a festive Purim party.

Another view of Chabad, looking toward Wilton Road.

Another view of Chabad, looking toward Wilton Road.

The new addition will enhance Chabad’s services — and the neighborhood — say Rabbi Yehudah Leib Kantor and Peter Greenberg (a Chabad member and partner in Able Construction, who is doing the project at cost). The architect is Robert Storm.

The historic nature of the building — including, importantly, its street-facing facade — will be protected. New construction will be in “the New England vernacular” — fieldstone and shingles — blending in with what’s already there.

The additions and renovations — enlarging the current 9,000 square feet by 4,000 more — will take place in the back. A new 300-person sanctuary will double as a function hall for holiday events, and bar and bat mitzvahs (right now, Chabad rents the Westport Woman’s Club.) The religious school will be housed in the lower level.

A rendering of the addition.

A rendering of the addition, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Also planned: a new lobby, kitchen and elevator. The interior of the existing building will be “freshened up,” Greenberg says.

The 100-car parking lot entrance closest to Wilton Road has been closed. That should ease traffic by the light.

The back of the parking lot, meanwhile, will be raised slightly, to protect nearby wetlands.

Another rendering -- parking lot view.

Another rendering — parking lot view.

Chabad has already presented plans to Westport’s Flood and Erosion Control Board. Ahead are more panels, including Conservation, and Planning & Zoning.

A variance for coverage will be needed from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This is routine, Greenberg says, for nearly every church, synagogue, school and commercial property.

“This is a community project,” the rabbi notes. Funding comes entirely from area residents. Feedback from neighbors has been very positive, he and Greenberg say.

Chabad hopes for approvals within 3 to 4 months, with construction completed by next spring.

From their lips to you-know-who’s ears.

A “Town Forest” Downtown?

On Thursday night, the Planning & Zoning Commission resoundingly affirmed that the Baron’s South property should remain open space.

By a 4-1 vote (1 abstention), the P&Z approved an amendment that seems to end plans to build a 165-unit senior housing facility on 3.3 acres of the 22-acre property. 60 percent of the units were to be considered “affordable.”

Town officials have fought for years to add senior housing to Westport’s stock. Baron’s South — located between South Compo and Imperial Avenue, and which includes the Senior Center — seemed to many to be a perfect location.

Others were just as adamant that it be retained entirely as open space.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

One — who asked for anonymity, for personal (non-political) reasons — offers an argument that hasn’t been heard much in the debate.

She is “not a tree-hugger.” But after consulting with state officials (including the deputy director of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and scientists, she was told that “it would take 200 years to re-grow a true-practice urban forest like this.”

According to the Westporter, all those experts were “adamant that this parcel should be held as protected space in perpetuity as Westport’s town forest.” In fact, people familiar with the property “believe it can be enhanced to become a world-class arboretum.” Grant funding could help Westport “inspire other municipalities.”

The Westporter says, “we either act as responsible stewards of this municipal forest, or it will be lost forever to buildings, ancillary infrastructure, paved parking lots. Mature forests can never be replaced.”

She also fears unintended consequences from construction, such as soil erosion and rain runoff, along with the potential for more land being needed later for ancillary development.

Part of the Baron's South property.

Part of the woods on the Baron’s South property.

The RTM — by a 2/3 vote of its 36 members — can reverse the P&Z’s decision. There will be plenty of lobbying by town officials who have advocated for senior housing — as well as private citizens who believe that 3.3 acres downtown, adjacent to the Senior Center, is a perfect place to help keep older Westporters here.

What’s your opinion? Did the P&Z avoid a slippery slope that begins with construction on 3.3 acres out of the 22? Or is senior housing the right use for what is now open space downtown?

Click “Comments” to make your views known.

This Old House: #3

“This Old House” is a new series on “06880.” Every Wednesday we’ll show a Westport house, photographed in the 1930s for a WPA project. They’ll be featured in an upcoming Westport Historical Society exhibit on preservation in Westport — but we need readers’ help in identifying them.

The jury is still out on where the 1st house (posted last week) was located — or whether it’s even standing. It’s near the corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway, but we’re not sure exactly where. Click here, then scroll down to “Comments” to see the ongoing debate.

At least that had a relatively clear location. All we know about this one is a single word on the back: “Coleytown.”

This Old House - March 18, 2015

If you recognize it — or think you do — hit “Comments” below. As with all houses in this series, it may have already been demolished.

Saying Goodbye To The Bedford Estate

The Bedfords giveth.

And the Bedfords taketh away.

One of the town’s most philanthropic families — think the YMCA, schools, the Westport Woman’s Club and much, much more — has long owned property on Beachside Avenue.

But Ruth Bedford died last June, at 99. Now her estate, at 66 Beachside, is slated for demolition.

Bedford demo

The sign notes that 3 buildings are intended to be torn down. All are 114 years old.

The Bedford family also owns a 2-story house at 225 Green’s Farms Road, opposite the Nyala Farms office complex. It too was built in 1900.

And it too is slated for demolition.

Tearing Down A Teardown Sign

The stretch of Hillspoint Road from Hales Road to Old Mill is not an official historic district. But plenty of older, handsome homes line both sides of the street, as it dips gently from I-95 and the railroad down to Elvira’s.

For a long time, a “demolition” sign seemed to doom 158 Hillspoint Road. But the other day, Fred Cantor — who in addition to being an alert “06880” reader is also a very alert neighbor — noticed the sign was gone.

He spotted contractors’ trucks on site. So on one of his walks he talked to a next door neighbor, and a worker. Both confirmed that the home was sold, and will stay.

Score one for preservation!

158 Hillspoint Road is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

158 Hillspoint Road — built in 1803 — is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Fred is not content to just spread the good news. He also passes along the history he’s dug up.

According to tax assessor records, Fred says, the original portion of the home was built in 1803.

Fred found information from former owner Sue Braley on WestportNow in 2013, when it was first slated for demolition. Sue — who sold it in 1996 — said it was originally an outbuilding of the Sherwood House at 160 Hillspoint, then modified for human occupation in the early part of the 20th century, when artists and others began coming to Westport for the summer.

Sue writes:

Oral tradition claims that it was a tea room for the tourists, perhaps operated by Edith Very Sherwood, who lived at 160 and was the Westport librarian.  (A subsequent owner was) Richard Seyffert, a portrait and landscape painter who began construction of the studio toward the rear of the property.

Felice Holman Valen (the author of over 20 children’s books, including “Elisabeth and the Marsh Mystery” and others clearly inspired by the nearby mill pond) and Herbert Valen (who worked in advertising and later as a “gag” writer for the New Yorker) owned the property from 1955 to the late 1980s.

Westport’s old homes are disappearing at an alarming rate. How nice to read of at least one that escaped a very imminent wrecking ball.

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint is #170. It bears a plaque, dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint, this house bears a plaque dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

 

This Old House: #2

Last Wednesday, “06880” inaugurated our “This Old House” series. Each week, we’ll run a photo of an old home that will be shown at an upcoming Westport Historical Society exhibit on preservation.

We began with a house the WHS had already identified. Several readers — not many! — knew it’s now the site of the Tavern on Main restaurant, downtown.

But the rest of the homes in this series — all taken in the 1930s by WPA photographers — have stumped even Historical Society experts. We’ll highlight the photos in the hopes that at least one alert “06880” reader knows something about the house.

Lost house - March 11, 2015

The inscription on the back reads (vaguely): “Warner; S. of NW Cor. Cross Hgwy. toward Coleytown.” Like all the photos we’ll run in this series, we don’t even know if it’s still standing.

Got info? Click “Comments” below.

Westport Inn: New Owners Revealed

So who exactly purchased the Westport Inn, saving it from possible demolition and Westport from the specter of a 200-unit, 5-story housing complex? And what did they pay?

The new owner is Building and Land Technology. The purchase price was $14.5 million.

Building and Land TechnologyBLT is described in a press release as “a leading real estate investor, developer and operator in Fairfield County and nationally.” It owns over 50 hotels across the US, and has developed numerous mixed-use projects, including Stamford’s Harbor Point.

Among its “premier commercial holdings”: the Nyala Farms complex, adjacent to I-95 Exit 18. Originally built for Stauffer Chemical, it now counts Bridgewater Associates as its anchor tenant.

“We’re pleased to add the Westport Inn to our local portfolio,” said Carl R. Kuehner III, CEO of BLT. “We believe that the Inn complements our office holdings here, and will continue to provide benefits for local corporations as well as residents of the Westport community.”

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT's purchase today for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT’s purchase today for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

First Selectman Jim Marpe — who with Planning and Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens worked to find a purchaser for the Sheldon Stein-owned Inn — said that BLT has “an extraordinary local and national reputation as a real estate investor, and is an experienced hotel owner. It’s gratifying to achieve a result that forestalls previous plans to develop multifamily housing on the hotel site, which we determined was not an appropriate use here.”

Stephens noted that apartments would have resulted in “excessive densification,” as well as the loss of much-needed hotel rooms.

The  Westport Inn recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It includes 117 rooms, plus 6000 square feet of event space.