Category Archives: Real estate

It Took Only 2 Minutes And 31 Seconds To Move The Kemper-Gunn House Today

At least, according to this video shot by Matthew Mandell:

Moving Day: Part 2

It took a couple of hours, but the Kemper-Gunn House finally made it across Elm Street.

Gunn 8 - JPV

The Kemper-Gunn House in mid-move…

...and, for the 1st time in 125 years, a vacant spot on the corner of Elm Street and Church Lane. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

…and, for the 1st time in 125 years, a vacant spot on the corner of Elm Street and Church Lane. (Photos/JP Vellotti)

A small part of a porch overhang was removed to clear a parking lot light pole. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

A small part of a porch overhang was removed to clear a parking lot light pole. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The Kemper-Gunn house in (almost) its final location. In this view up Elm Street, it almost looks like it's been there forever.

The Kemper-Gunn house in (almost) its final location. In this view up Elm Street, it almost looks like it’s been there forever. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

At not quite 9:30 a.m., the day's work -- moving a house -- was done. In coming days, the house will be settled into its new foundation. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

At not quite 9:30 a.m., the day’s work — moving a house — was done. In coming days, the house will be settled into its new foundation. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

How Do You Move A House? Very Slowly. And Carefully.

Today is moving day in downtown Westport.

The Kemper-Gunn House is being relocated across Elm Street, from its perch on the corner of Church Lane to the Baldwin parking lot.

Curious Westporters gathered at dawn to watch the landscape-changing event. JP Vellotti was there too, snapping special photos for “06880.”

Here’s his 1st set. More will follow, when the dust — and the house — settle into their new “home,” later this morning.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it's ready to be relocated.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it’s ready to be relocated.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, and moving company representatives pause for a photo.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, developer David Waldman and an associate pause for a photo.

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

The Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

A Developing Story

Ever since the Wright Street and Gorham Island buildings were erected in the 1970s — and those were quite some erections — Westport has been consumed by construction.

Even so, 2014 stands out as a landmark year.

Here are some of the developments — as in, real estate developments — that have occurred in the past few months. Or are occurring right now.

  • The Y moved into its new home. The Kemper-Gunn House is being moved across Elm Street to the parking lot, and Bedford Square will soon rise downtown.
  • The Levitt Pavilion finally completed its renovation. Nearby, plans for Jesup Green — with possibly reconfigured parking, a new Westport Arts Center and a renovated library — are in the works. And, of course, committees and commissions have been talking all year about new ideas for all of downtown.
  • Across the river, Save the Children has skedaddled. That fantastic waterfront property will be redeveloped, such as the adjacent Bartaco/National Hall buildings have been reimagined recently.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River includes the old National Hall and the relatively new Wright Street building. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

  • Compo Acres Shopping Center is being renovated. The Fresh Market shopping center — and the one across the Post Road, with Dunkin’ Donuts — will get a facelift (and new tenants) soon.
  • Applications have been made for housing on the site of the Westport Inn. Across town, there are rumors of new housing on Hiawatha Lane, near I-95 Exit 17.
  • Senior housing has been shot down on Baron’s South. But it won’t remain undisturbed forever.
  • Phase II of Saugatuck Center has been completed. Phase III — on  Railroad Place — is coming down the tracks.

That’s a lot — as in, lots of building lots.

And nearly 2 months still remain in this year.

P.S. Oh, yeah. The beach too.

 

Compo Acres Construction To Be Halted

Equity One has heard the pleas of Compo Acres Shopping Center merchants.

They’ve agreed to a new construction schedule. The parking project and sidewalks are now slated to be completed by November 15 — if possible. The holiday season will not be impacted.

While it’s not a perfect solution — renovations on 2 storefronts will continue — it’s far better than the previous plan, which would have devastated merchants during the crucial holiday season.

Who says you can’t fight City Hall corporate America?

The sidewalk in front  of Compo Acres Shopping Center may soon be finished.

The sidewalk in front of Compo Acres Shopping Center may soon be finished.

 

 

Compo Acres Renovation: The Sequel

The renovation of Compo Acres Shopping Center has been controversial for several reasons.

As noted yesterday, merchants worry that the ongoing, long-running project will run through the make-or-break holiday season.

They’re not the only ones upset. Neighbors have put up with noise and dust, as the upper back parking lot has been leveled.

The resulting one-level lot is intended to be easier for shoppers and employees — few of whom ever ventured back there.

But it’s also resulting in a loss of privacy. A number of trees were felled and shredded this week.

Compo Acres trees

It may not quite be “paving paradise” to put up a parking lot. But those trees sure were nice.

 

Steve Silver: Compo Acres Is Open For Business!

There’s never a good time for a commercial property owner to do a major renovation.

But there is a worst time: the holiday shopping season.

Steve Silver has lived or worked here his entire life. He and his sister Sue have a combined 70 years’ experience with Silver of Westport, the store their father founded in 1951. It’s the oldest continually operating store in town.

Their lease in Compo Acres Shopping Center has 16 years to go. Since April, though, they’ve been looking for someone to join them, or take over their luggage and gifts store. Nearing retirement, they want fresh ideas (and legs).

April is when construction began on the center. Steve says their landlord — Equity One — “seems to be doing everything possible to make our business fail.”

The company — which owns 2 other shopping centers in town — has simultaneously blasted and reshaped the back hill into level parking spaces; installed new sidewalks  and curbs around the building, and gutted 2 stores for new tenants.

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center...

The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center…

The results will be nice, but timing is everything. Compo Acres has been a mess for 7 months. And Equity One plans to continue work straight through Christmas.

The Silvers — and several other tenants — asked for a break from November 1 through December 25. That’s the period when most businesses make most of their money. The landlord said no.

“We all love what we do here,” Steve says. “Our staff has stayed with us for over 15 years. Endless numbers of young people pass through here every Christmas, helping us. Many of them come back to visit, and remember their experience.”

Silver of Westport has supported nearly every charity that knocks on their door. That’s what locally owned businesses do. Steve himself was a 33-year United Way volunteer, and chaired 2 preschools.

“I always hear about mom-and-pop businesses failing,” Steve says. “I want people to know that it is landlords you have to look at — well, at least Equity One. And if nothing happens here, Equity One — which has already forced out businesses at Fresh Market center — needs to know how much Westporters care about their hometown.”

...and the rear.

…and the rear.

In 1963, Silver’s burned to the ground. Townspeople, fellow merchants — and a caring landlord — helped Steve and Sue’s father get back on his feet.

Silver’s asks area shoppers to help them and their retail neighbors out this holiday season. Ignore the parking mess. Ignore the scaffolding that makes it seem like the shopping center is closed.

Instead, help support the many local businesses that make Westport what it is.

And, if you’d like, contact Equity One to ask for a holiday season without hassles. Project coordinator is Michael Lai (mlai@equityone.net); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (efierberg@equityone.net), and COO is Michael Makinen (mmakinen@equityone.net).

A Sneak Peek At What’s Coming Down The Pike…

…or, more accurately, next to the Turnpike.

And on the Post Road.

A Westporter with political connections gives some background:

Connecticut legislation known as 8-30g mandates that new development projects include 30% “affordable” residential units. Developers around the state have made humongous proposals that include large amounts of affordable housing — then “offer” a “compromise” of scaling back, in order to get what they really originally wanted.

Last week, a developer came to Town Hall with an application to demolish the Westport Inn. In its place would come 2 levels of underground parking. On top would be 2 stories of housing — with 50 units per floor. It would be the largest new building on the Post Road in decades — rivaling the Wright Street office complex across town.

The Westport Inn has stood on the Post Road East since 1960 (it started as a motel). It may not stay there forever.

The Westport Inn has stood on the Post Road East since 1960 (it started as a motel). It may not stay there forever.

Also across town from the Westport Inn, a developer is eyeing Hiawatha Lane. That’s the limited access neighborhood adjacent to the I-95 Exit 17 on/off ramp, which already includes some of the most affordable houses in Westport. The developer would like to build 100 — maybe even 200 — units of housing there.

If both — or even one — of those proposals passes the many approval hurdles, it would affect every aspect of life in Westport. Education, traffic, emergency services, you name it — all would be impacted, in a variety of ways.

Neither proposal is on the Planning & Zoning calendar yet, where such developments usually begin.

But people on the street — Post Road East, Saugatuck Avenue, and points in between — are already talking about them.

Old Tree + New Home = ?

For decades, this Bluewater Hill tree has been a neighborhood landmark:

Bluewater Hill tree

But the house will soon be torn down.

Will the tree be sacrificed — or saved?

No one knows.

And everyone worries.

Not Just Another Teardown

Realtors love new construction: It sells. But there’s something to be said about old homes too — especially when the teardown is one you grew up in.

Back in the day, Toni Horton was a 1978 graduate of Staples. Today she’s Toni Mickiewicz, and a William Raveis realtor. She also blogs about real estate trends and local news on “From Town to Shore.” Yesterday, she wrote about another teardown. This one is personal: It’s the home she grew up in.

Toni says:

I was recently told that my mother’s house in Westport had a demolition sign on it. Even though we sold it three years ago, it will always be “my mother’s house.” Well, that is until it’s torn down.

The house of Toni's youth.

The house of Toni’s youth.

It wasn’t my favorite house. I actually always thought that it should be torn down. It was a combination of stages in my mother’s life. It started as a little tiny beach house with no heat and it sat on wine barrels. It gradually grew to have an architecturally designed front section with two floors that looked a little like a church.

When I went off to college it grew a backside with 2 floors, 4 bedrooms and 3 additional bathrooms. It never really matched the front, or anything else for that matter, but it added square footage and allowed my mother to rent it out regularly as we all moved out and she had to spend most of her time caring for my grandmother in Norwalk. The house worked for her and it gave her children what she wanted all along — a place to call home, an education in a town with a reputation for excellence, and a “castle” by the water.

Once, Toni asked her mother if there was room for a pool. Her mom replied: 

“Why would you want a pool when we have the beach?”  I was much older when I finally got how blessed we were to live where we did.

Views of the water, from the home.

Views of the water, from the home.

When I moved back to Westport — a grown-up having been married, raised children, divorced, and re-inventing myself — my mother let me live at the house, as a paid renter of course, but the house was there for me. It was my transitional home for 6 years. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my home, a place to provide my youngest with an education in a town known for excellence. It was our “castle” by the water.

Now it will be torn down. And while I know it’s the right thing to do to get the “highest and best use of the land” for the new owner, it still made me more emotional than I ever imagined.

This was my home, where I grew up and where I sought refuge. It provided me, my siblings, many cousins and lots of renters over the years, a lot of fun memories along with the challenges that an imperfect house can provide. It will only be in my memory now and that is a little sad for me.

Toni knows she is not alone. Many friends have experienced similar situations. And, she adds:

Toni Mickiewicz

Toni Mickiewicz

Much of the landscape of my childhood is gone. Allen’s Clam House, where I used to work in the kitchen, has been gone for a long time. Ten Pond Edge Road, where I lived with my “other” family when my mom rented out the house for the summer, has been torn down as well.

I could go on, but what I really want to say is that after tearing up a little and feeling woeful for a time, I realize that it is okay. I am who I am from my experiences and life lessons in this town and in this home, and I will always have that.

Thanks Mom, for what you did for us and allowing us to grow up in a castle by the water.

(To read Toni’s full blog, click for “From Town to Shore.”)