Big Plans For A Little Downtown

Here are some new renderings of Bedford Square — the retail/restaurant/ residential complex planned for the Church Lane area, once the Westport Y departs for Mahackeno.

Looking west, down Church Lane. The original Y building is at the left in this drawing.

Looking west, down Church Lane. The original Y building is at the far left in this drawing.

Looking east, up Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity. The Spotted Horse is on the right.

Looking east, up Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity. The Spotted Horse is on the right.

Church Lane again. This time Urban Outfitters is on the left.

Church Lane again. This time Urban Outfitters is on the left.

A view from behind, of the renovations to the original YMCA Bedford Building.

A view from behind, of the renovations to the original YMCA Bedford Building.

A view of Church Lane, from the corner of Elm Street (on the right).

A view of Church Lane, from the corner of Elm Street (on the right).

Looks like a lot of changes to downtown, right?

For a vastly different perspective, check out this aerial view of Westport, looking east. (Post Road West is at the bottom of the photo, leading to the Post Road bridge. The athletic fields on the lower right are between King’s Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools.)

Suddenly, downtown seems quite small.

And very insignificant.

Downtown aerial view

(Photo credit: From the Air.)

110 responses to “Big Plans For A Little Downtown

  1. Babette d'Yveine

    Will the old firehouse be torn down? I can’t tell from the sketches.

  2. The Music Man

    Now that everyone has GPS, everyone will know how to avoid the gridlock – the Westport Back Road Shuffle: bringing primary road traffic to a secondary and tertiary street near you! Coming soon all over town!

  3. Wow, looks great! Much better then the previous designs they presented. This one, which i heard was approved by the ARB earleir this week, has a much better scale and looks more consistent with the neighborhood. Dan, you said in your year end wrap up that Church Lane is beggining to feel not like a dark, boring sleepy street (thank you Spotted Horse and Pink Sumo) but more like and extension fo Main Street and eventually the new heart of downtown. If Waldman and his team can make the final product as good as the drawings, you will be correct. Can’t wait for it to be done. Wonder who the Tenant’s will be? Dan, was there any mention of that? Also, are the residential units condo’s or rentals?

    Either way, very exciting!

  4. Sank T. Monious

    It’s beautiful. Too bad the poor people that are marooned out at Camp Mahackeno won’t be able to enjoy it. Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  5. David A. Waldman

    Happy to try. First, the Historic Fire House and Bedford Mansion will both be restored and repurposed, much like we did with the adjacent Patagonia building. Second, as mentioned at the HDC meeting and in a press release we sent out on Monday, the 1885 Queen Anne house has been offered to the town for relocation to the upper corner of the Baldwin Lot (across from the Designs Within Reach building) so that it can be saved. Bedford Square has agreed to absorb the cost to move it and place it on a new foundation and then gift it to the town, who can then decide how to best use it for the future. As for the residential units, at this point in time we are proposing rentals, with the required affordable housing component, totaling 30 units for the entire project. Since our construction is not slated to commence until late in 2014 and be completed in late 2016, that may change. As for potential tenants, keeping the preceding timing in mind, it is too early for us to engage anyone at this point in the process. We have designed spaces within the project which are small in size so we are hopeful that will assist us in attracting more mom and pop retailers as well as a mix of Tenant’s currently found within the area. While we are very pleased with the recent ARB and Flood and Erosion Control approvals, as well as the backing of the HDC to relocate the Gunn house, we still have many more approvals to obtain before we can we can proceed. We are confident our architects and engineers have designed a project which will allow us to achieve our goals, obtain our approvals and construct the project so it is better than the rendering and of the highest quality. We hope it is clear from the changes we made that we have listened to the town, its respective boards and agencies as well as the residents and created a magnificent project we can all be proud of.

    We are looking forward to moving forward and continuing to improve upon our already great downtown.

    • David. Great job. This will bring more excitement and activity to our downtown area. More to do. Not will help to creat a vibrant downtown with much to do both during the day and night. No need to go to Fairfield. Great vision and wishing you good luck on the execution.

      Just think if the Y has moved to Barons South. Downtown Westport would be the place to be.

    • David, I’m in favor of commercial landlords improving their property based on their self interests to improve their income and assets within the confines of zoning regs.
      Though I don’t always agree with your approach, I admire that you do a top rate job and that you are “all in.”
      Why don’t the other Main St. landlords put the same effort into their holdings?

  6. Sank T. Monious

    David, nice work and nice sentiments but if the boat’s leaking faster than you’re bailing you’ve got a problem. We used to have a downtown Y and a nice Y camp in the country, now we’ve got ????? If this deal goes through it will haunt this town forever.

  7. Judi Simonetti

    It looks GREAT!! I look forward to seeing it come to fruition. I loved “old Westport”, but am looking forward to seeing Church Lane redeveloped and revamped. All the new jobs coming to Westport, tax revenue, life! Bring it on! I see the great job David Waldman did with The Market Place, which was a tired old building, and he made it into a beautiful new locaiton for The Gap and other tenants! Add to that the gorgeous new restaurants on Church Lane and Restoration Hardware, and I think David Waldman has done an exceptional job improving Westport. There are people who will always find something to complain about, and that’s just life. I could find things to complain about, but just choose to be happy and show gratitude towards anyone who wants to improve Westport and bring life back to downtown!

    As a Westporter since 1971, I would love to see The Selective Eye back, I’d love to go downtown and buy two slices and a soda with $5 and have enough money for a magazine (or back in the day a pack of Cloves from Dorain’s)! It’s not going to happen. I remember going downtown with my friends and we’d go to a movie, walk to the pizzaria for a slice, or TCBY for cone and we could spend hours downtown hanging out. We also had Arnie’s Place. I loved growing up here, but things have changed.

    So, I look at what we have now and have much gratitude for people like David Waldman who work to improve our town! Bravo!! It’s nice to have so many restaurants to choose from and to see people walking around again! If there was a way to get back a few mom and pops, that would really be wonderful. We do have some great shops now, so it would be a welcomed addition!

    • Judi, aside from the real estate taxes Mr Waldman will be paying on the previously tax exempt Y property, what additional taxes should we expect?

  8. Looks fantastic! Thumbs up! Nicely done David

  9. anyone eaten at Pink Sumo yet? Any good?

  10. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Well Done David!!! Congrats!!! I grew up off of Wilton Road. Mahackeno was my backyard adventure playground…. The choice was not made by David to have the “NEW Y” to go there… will be a major adjustment and most likely SUCK for all of us in the beginning, but who knows…. Again great work in achieving new beauty to our little town on the sound…

    • I guess we will not see you at the ground breaking.

      • Why even give RLS the satisfaction of a response? Although, again, I will say that he is correct. It will suck a lot.

        • It will be no worse that the current situation; much of the griping comes from those who do not use the current Y regularly. Parking is impossible. The traffic in front of the Y is a mess. The structure is old and floods. Why are people still flogging this dead horse?

          • Because the horse is not dead. It’s alive and well. If you lived near the new site of the Y, I’m almost positive you would feel the same way.

            Or would end up feeling that way, once they are halfway through construction. But you just keep spouting off lies. That’s fine. Good for you

        • Richard Lawrence Stein

          Why the rancor Jim? What did I say to warrant a mean spirited response

      • At least RLS seems to have an open mind on the subject (unlike some): “…most likely suck for all of us in the beginning, but who knows…”

        What more can anyone ask of anyone else?

      • Richard Lawrenc Stein

        You are correct, I won’t be at the groundbreaking. I will most likely be working. I look forward to taking my daughter to swimming and other events that will take place there. The ship has sailed, its going to be built on a site that was not the wisest. I only wish and hope the best for the Y and Westport. I think David too, has that in mind. We have known each other for years. We don’t socialize or do business, but we grew up together in a town that did well for us, and hope it can only get better.

  11. Will Church Lane remain one-way?

  12. David Waldman is not honest…Just saying!!

    • Bart Shuldman

      Why don’t you use your real name and we can see how honest you are. Sad calling anyone names when you hide who you are.

    • What exactly is your conspiracy theory? If you are going to say that someone is not honest you should elaborate. I can only see that he is planning on moving development of Downtown Westport forward whereas right now it’s in limbo as in not quite the tasteful country main streeet it once was and not an upscale suburban main street that his plans show it could be.

      • Conspiracy theory…I’ll tell you what is really going on…there is a secret plan to put in a pool hall.

        That’s right Westport, you’ve got Trouble, Trouble I say, right here in Westport. With a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.

        Sorry, with The Music Man posting earlier, I just snapped.

  13. Lots of brick, slate and concrete. How about some green space blended in besides the few tree planters that are shown.

  14. Sorry Bart I can’t use my name because I’m afraid of David Waldman!! Don’t want him coming after me , like when he broke into one of his tenants spaces in an effort to get them out.

  15. Matthew Mandell

    David and I don’t always agree and David even said that in a meeting once as a caveat when he once did. It’s Westport everyone has opinions.

    This is looking good and David is trying to do good things. Though we’ll see how far he stretches the rules needing the P&Z and ZBA still to agree to some things. Too technical to discuss here.

    But he is listening. Which is something developers didn’t used to do, but the coordinated efforts of many Westporters has made this now part of the equation.

    Originally the 1885 Queen Anne (Gunn House) was going to be razed. After discussion, David is offering to move it, at his expense. Wonderful. Not only does this save the house, which I visited this week and is worthy of saving, it tells other developers you have to do things like this in Westport. David first did it with the Spotted Horse house and now this.

    There are other historic places and buildings in jeopardy of the bulldozer and we can point to these as examples of what has to be done or you don’t get to build in Westport. Preservation, not destruction.

    The new design which changed again recently is a direct result of conservations. Developers used to build what they thought, that’s changing. Imagine if that was the case in the 70’s, maybe some of the ugliest building in town would not be so or there at all. Can you all say Wright Street????

    Anyway I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out and will be at the bigger meetings keeping and eye on it as I’m sure many of the folks who helped get us to this juncture will as well.

    Matthew Mandell (and yeah, I post with my name)

    • Bart Shuldman

      Matt. Good to see you use your name. Amazing how some hide theirs.

      Our town needs more revenue and places to go. Too many times I leave Weatportnfor entertainment or dinner. Or both (just kidding).

      A balance with those that want to preserve with those willing to invest in our town will make it a place where people want to come and work. We know we are losing a big office full of people soon. And we know our costs will continue to rise. More investment can only help.

      The result should improve our home prices and tax base. Which we know we need.

      It is wonderful to know Mr Waldman has been working to meet both needs. The design looks promising and fun.

      • The old time crazies will be on here soon enough to decry the “end of Westport” as we all know it. Just you wait.

        Meanwhile, I say GET WITH THE TIMES, people!! This is all good for the town and only makes us more attractive. Some people in this town, who I will not name, would like to keep us held back in the 1970s artist’s colony.

        Gaining more revenue and creating new local “nightlife” leads to higher property values and lower taxes. Not to mention the wealthy families it attracts which is better for this town for many, many reasons. Keep up with the changes, oldies! Bart Shuldman has the right attitude.

      • It’s not so much that anyone is hiding their name as most of us who use ‘anonymous’ just do not feel that our names should add weight to the conversation. Instead of the term ‘anonymous’ we should maybe instead use ‘humility’ so the purpose of remaining ‘anonymous’ is better understood.

  16. Looks very promising.

  17. Matthew Mandell

    Bart – Just go to Saugatuck. I have been working to show that’s the new place in town to hang. And it has no chain stores (expect dunkin who worked with us to create a low key look) which is something that all of us should work to preserve. Downtown is a mall and it won’t change. David’s plan only continues this, but it will create some needed night additional nightlife.

    I hear what you are saying about more revenue for the Town, but not at the expense of our character or small town feel. There is a move on to increase commercialism, but how. I can only see it being up or out. Height or into residential neighborhoods. Neither are acceptable and why the P&Z changed hands in the prior election. Overdevelopment was soundly voted out and reason in.

    As to Frank, I might be one of the crazies. I am firmly in the camp of keeping Westport unique and small town. We don’t need to be Yonkers. In years to come if we remain the small town people think of as New England, our property values will soar and that’s how we increase value. So beware of the snake oil salesmen telling us to create more and more, its a false truth. It brings with it unwanted ills.

    • As someone who dabbled in Westchester County real estate investments, you couldn’t be more wrong.. The numbers refute this.

    • Westport is not characteristic of New England and it never will be. It is a suburb of NYC. The market will decide if property values will soar, so instead of staying locked in the past, why not let the market reveal its preference.

    • Too bad you had to bring politics into the conversation. The previous P&Z is why you have some sound development in Saugatuck.

  18. Matthew Mandell

    I highly doubt having a community that is unique, desireable and livable wouldn’t have higher values. That Westchester is failing to be that is not a surprise, and can’t be a model worthy of comparison.

    But do what you will. You will help destroy what we have. Enjoy the traffic and the densification. Enjoy standing on a street and wondering is this Ohio or Wisconsin or Yonkers. Enjoy the mall we call downtown.

    In the mean time as people who seek refuge from the city move here they will side with those interested in keeping our character as it is, the reason they moved here. Sure changes will occur, but under a watchful and discerning eye. And David’s plan could well fit, to bring this back around. Certainly with the modifications and preservations instituted. But overall The P&Z election proved the voice of the people, Westport is to stay unique and that will benefit us, socially, financially and spiritually. And I am glad we are not Westchester.

    • There are no more residents of Westport now than there were in 1970. The “density” you decry has been with us for 40 years. Westport today is not what it was 40 years ago, and that is a good thing. The Westchester argument is irrelevant. Westport will evolve to refelect the demands of the market, as it has for decades; if it does not; real estate values will decline as people opt for other locations.

    • Matt. While we can want our building to reflect our desire to look a certain way I feel it very difficult to legislate success. Danding small shops and businesses is noble but is not a recipe for growth for our community. If a ‘hot’ new store is Urban Outfittets and an example and our children want their clothes, then that is where we will shop. If we create a barrier and not let them into Weatport then our shoppers and others will not come.

      The world has changed for better or worse. And Weatport needs to adapt and prosper for all is us. Not just some who want to hold into a certain concept.

      We have much to offer. Beaches. Great schools. Whether we have a chain store in our downtown is not as important, my opinion. But the opportunity to shop on our town, to have a place for our children to go and enjoy what they like and hopefully have the restaurants and other places for nightlife can only help grow our town. It is not a negative.

      Your friend-Bart

      • My spelling stinks. Sorry everyone.

      • Traffic congestion in Fairfield County is a regional problem. The town’s approach to zoning and planning should be to minimize the amount of traffic that comes off the disaster areas known as i95 and the Merritt into downtown Westport – not to increase it. Downtown real estate is thriving just the way it is – encouraging excessive development off of the base we currently have benefits only a select few at the expense of every resident’s quality of life.

        As Mr. Mandel noted, the BSA plans have been shaped through strong community “interaction” (resistance) – as the gavel-less Mr. Corwin can attest. Hopefully, the current P&Z will live up to their election promises. We shall see.

        • The Music Man

          The Mu is me

        • “Excessive” is in the eye of the beholder. “….at the expense of every residents quality of life.” do you usually exaggerate to this degree? BTW if it benefits a few it cannot be at the expense of everyone. The times they are a changing.

      • Matthew Mandell

        Bart – I don’t believe a town has to be a shark and constantly moving forward to survive. Charge will occur, but it CAN be legislated, controlled and shaped. Zoning is part of our collective ideal and can and should be used to mold our world.
        And yes- your friend Matthew

        • Matt. I guess I disagree with you. Our town must move forward to survive.

          People invest in their homes and we receive higher taxes for it. We expand our commercial space, and yes, in a way that is controlled, and the town prospers.

          And with good attention by some, we watch as these developers build nicer buildings. I am still looking to see what we are trying to preserve given what I see is horrible existing buildings. The Y from Church Street looks like an ugly 1960’s school building. No beauty there. A least my opinion. So why not move forward.

          We have watched as our town budget approaches $200 million and we must add to that our $200 million in liabilities (OPEB AND PENSIONS). $400 million. The ‘controlled’ expansion and the choice by some homeowners to build has only helped those others in town that don’t. If this did not occur we would be facing much much higher taxes for everyone. Even those that cannot afford it.

          Add to that some residents, I am one, who would rather have their children shop in town and we see progress. While the small store Lucy’s is now closing Urban Outfitters is doing well. The market has decided that, not legislation. And I like their prices too.

          Thanks for caring and working with these developers. They seem to be listening and the improvement to the existing architecture is progress.

          • Bart is a smart man, and I am in complete agreement. Of course there has to be some regulation – no one can deny that basic principle, Matthew. But there is a fine line that has to be walked and I’d prefer that we put the success of our community over the “aesthetics” of our community.

            People believe that it is our ‘quaint’ New England charm that makes Westport such an attractive place. Okay, maybe 20 or 30 years ago… Sure. But not anymore.

            The reasonable property taxes, the top-notch school system, the public community offerings, the vicinity to NYC, and the low crime rate are what makes Westport attractive. 90% of the new families moving here are probably choosing between Westport, Fairfield, and Darien. And for those very reasons.

            If they would rather be thrown back into 1950s New England, head up north.. But you’re living in an idealistic world if you think the transformation is happening. Wake up — it already did happen!

  19. Matthew Mandell

    Anon – are you the same one as the one before or a different person. I can’t tell.

    but Puhlease, don’t start a conversation about Saugatuck or P&Z with me, unless you have a few hours……

  20. The Music Man

    At least Mr. Waldman is using his own money and land to build his dream – unlike Mr. Joseloff and Mr. Steinberg. However, with their combined dreams of development, we’ll probably need to add extra exits on 95 and the Merritt handle the additional traffic.

  21. I hope Mr. Waldman includes a nice water feature in his plans!

    A large fountain would be nice!

  22. The review process and public comments seem to be working. The new renderings are an improvement over the previous design that simply copied the one-off Tudor style of the old Y building and the low-rise contextual scale is appropriate. Can we agree that new shops and restaurants in a walkable downtown are preferrable to the alienating strip shopping experience on the Post Rd?

    A lot of commenters assume this development and the new Y will create terrible traffic both downtown and at Mahackeno, but has anyone analyzed the traffic studies to see if this is true? Just wondering if the situation was reversed and the Y was already located at Mahackeno and planned to move downtown – would there be an uproar about increasing congestion downtown?

    • Yes, if the Y were moving downtown the same cast of characters would emote about how traffic will increase downtowm. It does not matter what the change is, there are those who object as a reflex.

  23. Westport is not a science experiment where we can choose to stop it at any given time. Just ask the Jessups, Staples, Bedfords et al what they would think of our town now compared to the farms of yesteryear.
    It is true that the population of Westport has been stable for 30 years or more. It might increase a bit around the edges but won’t hit Yonker’s density.
    I simply believe that Westport residents should benefit from the commercial growth, within P&Z regs. We don’t/can’t charge a sales tax, no parking meters, many of the chain stores decline to take out ads in the schools publications etc. etc.
    Who pays for the wear and tear on the roads, police and other town services?

  24. Babette d'Yveine

    I hate to be a party-pooper, and I do find the proposed buildings attractive, but — they seem kind of plastic to me. The Westport I’ve known and loved for years has character. These buildings do not. They look like something out of one of those planned communities in Florida.

    • This ain’t your grandmother’s Westport. I think that has been established on Main Street already. Start to go with the changes or get left behind… It’s your choice!

      • Sank T. Monious

        Jim, what do you recommend?

        • He seems to be suggesting that you get left behind with Babette.

          • Exactly. Which, if Babette prefers as much, that’s fine to me.. It just breaks my heart when I see many of the old timers try to cling on to the Westport that once was.

            The artist’s colony from 60s and 70s it ain’t. It’s a town. Like any town. And towns change — it ebbs and flows through generations. That’s how life works. That’s how the world works.

            • I moved here in the 1970’s; the artist colony ambience was gone. It is a myth that the 1970’s were the good old days.

    • Bart Shuldman

      What great architect is anyone speaking about regarding the commercial property built in Westport? The CVS plaza? Great cakes plaza? Even downtown buildings over the many years is not very impressive. What is this stuff about the past?

      I applaud the developers working on Saugatuck and the new downtown area to IMPROVE what we have. And willing to listen and work with the community. From what I see this is not what exists today. The CVS plaza is ugly and a nightmare with parking. Is the Brooks Brothers Plaza any better?

      Some might not like the tenants but the improvement to the looks is great. Thank you. And thank you for willing to invest in our community.

  25. Sank T. Monious

    The party was already pooped, Babette, you were just telling the truth. They’ll hang you for it in effigy but honesty has its own rewards.

  26. Sank T. Monious

    I tend to be less critical of the current drawings displayed above I think they represent real progress. I’ll draw incessant flak but I think until the ground breaks on the “New Y ” that all entities ought to come together on an alternative and simply plead temporary insanity. No one will remember whose idea it was anyway. I grew up with Camp Mahackeno and if it isn’t seen as an asset in that light anymore I’d rather see it returned to wild space or even sold at market value for some REAL estates, not McMansions. The Baron’s property is capable of much more than serving as a virtual outhouse for Westport’s canines and if the Save The Children property is truly up for grabs than it is right on top of the jewel of the town and once it goes who knows what will end up there. I can’t understand why that beautiful hotel that used to be Fairfield Furniture has gone to the dogs. When they redid that 25 years ago it should have won awards and they should be packing it in. I’m an old Westporter and I hate to see the squabbling and I hate to see the way the town has caved to outside commercial interests. Everybody thinks they’re right and yet everybody always loses. That’s all I’ve got to say except Dan Woog has no agenda other than speaking his conscience. He’s always against screwing people so if you’re not with him you know what you’re with. Pax Vobis Cum!!!

    • And the Dodgers should move back to Brooklyn. Westport is not moving your way; must be tough. “Outside commercial interests ” that’s funny. Who are the inside commercial interests?

      • Whatever suits Sank’s personal interests and agendas, it seems. All this nonsense about caving into commercialism. Are you kidding me?

        This is the free market, baby. It is capitalism at its finest. It’s the best system in the world and sometimes that does have a hand in changing environments or towns. What are you going to do?

        Learn to embrace change and just try to roll with the minor alterations. It’s not like the ENTIRE landscape of Westport has been ruined. I mean, come on. Let’s not be so melodramatic.

        • Sank T. Monious

          Don’t lecture me on embracing change Jim when you have no idea of the qualitative trade-offs that have been made. Given where you probably come from its obvious that this change is an improvement for you and for that you should be grateful. Take paradise and put up a parking lot, Jim you wouldn’t know the difference anyway..

          • Do you long for the old dump where the library now stands? Wasn’t that a bit of paradise right here in downtown Westport?

            • Sank T. Monious

              Anon, My two grandmothers, Martha Myers and Georgene Wassell, members of the Westport Women’s Club (located in the same place 55 years ago as it is now) nearby and their colleagues at the WWC, staged a “Tea Party at The Dump” that attracted a bit of notoriety at the time. It was not to protest taxes it was to mock the decision to locate the dump both on a watershed (the Saugatuck river) and the center of town. It went in anyway. So NO I don’t long for the good old dump. But history inevitably repeats itself.

              • So, it is fortunate your relatives were not successful. If there had been no dump, where would the library be? And history does repeat itself. When the town was set to buy the Longshore facility the carping an whining was loud. When the playground was built at Compo, the carping and whining about changing the character of the beach was loud. In fact, just about any change brings out the carpers and whiners. History is repeating itself; don’t you think?

                • Sank T. Monious

                  Actually, you raise a great point! The dump WAS at Longshore for awhile. I remember when they talked about hauling garbage on barges out to the middle of the sound and dumping it there. it was stupid and they decided not to do it. People do dumb things despite being questioned. And history DOES repeat itself. Is repeating a dumb thing that was done before really “change”? I suppose it is but then is all change good? Is keeping a good thing unchanged bad and is tolerating the continuance of a bad thing good? I think the questions I raise may be thought of as too late and that’s why everybody gets pissed at me but shit I’ve pissed off a lot of people by asking good questions. Is it ever too late to ask a good question? Is it ever too late to do anything good? I said earlier that until the ground is broken its not too late. Was that a dumb idea? I wish I still lived in Westport I’d be pissing a lot of people off just like I used to do when I lived there. thanks Dan for giving me the ability to annoy stupid people at long distance. Its much more fun and it is tax-free. If you don’t put a tax on something than you get more of it. Look out, here I come!!!!!

                • Yes, Longshore and a children’s playground are just like a mall. Really?

                • John McCarthy

                  Carpers and Whiners…..we should get t-shirts.