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.


25 responses to “A Developing Story

  1. Let’s not forget the beach!

  2. Wendy Crowther

    Add to the list the Sasco Creek Village affordable housing site that has been getting an upgrade. The mobile homes are being replaced by new apartment buildings – also affordable.

    The former Hay Day (and its successors) is morphing into a Maserati dealership as we speak. Boccanfusco’s, across from Starbucks, has left the scene and the building is undergoing a major facelift. What is it going to be, anyone know?

    Since you also mentioned projects that are poised for redevelopment, Geiger’s Garden Center is on that list, as is the area behind and adjacent to Westport Wash & Wax.

    Also…how about Goodwill, or was that 2013?

  3. Oh, and the closure of Daybreak and proposed home lots there

  4. As regards residential development we need to keep an eye on density (there is a cap on density ), and the effects these projects will have on the towns infrastructure, taxes, schools and services in general. A good example of bad planning would be that if all projects were to be approved the town would have a minimum increase of 630 housing units while parking at Compo would be reduced by approximately 230 spaces. Residents need to stay vigilant and the town needs to monitor growth so that we don’t wake up in 2016 wondering what happened. Developers will cry foul play and that you can’t stop progress but progress is not traffic jams, increases in property tax and overcrowded schools.

  5. Matthew Mandell

    Yes Westport is changing. Some good some bad. But we have to again be very clear on what we want out town to be. In the blink of an eye we could be one of those Long Island towns without any character,

    We have possibly 600 new units of multi-family housing coming. That’s over 5% of the town stock. What will that do to us? What impacts? Schools, police, fire. traffic, garages….. taxes, ever just finding a nice spot on the beach,

    We can’t say no to it all, some is reasonable, but we cant absorb it all either.

    We as a town need to quickly see the light and understand what will aid us and what will harm us and work accordingly to preserve what we have.

    (FYI Railroad place would not be Phase III of Saugatuck, it would be an independent piece, technical issue here, as it is not GBD/s zone) But yes we need to be very very careful with that one and all other development down there, it is a fragile and infrastructure constrained area. It cannot be a dumping ground in the name of “transit oriented development.” Watch that phrase folks, it is smoke and mirrors.

    • Cheryl McKenna

      Thank you Mathew Mandel the LWV will be keeping a close eye to insure transparency for our Westport citizens.
      I urge all of us interested in RE developments to watch P and Z and how they comunucate and vote and why .
      Might the word. “planning “be talked about with the downtown planning commission as they hired consultants to help insure a beautiful town and good traffic flow,sidewalks and lighting that is consistent etc etc. A “plan”in other words. 🙂
      Millissa Kane is the chair of DPC ( downtown planning commission )and is quite open to communicating with all as was the previous chair Dewey LeSalle.
      Does P and Z not listen to these committee’s for a reason … To be fair at time of presentation ?
      But planning in our town might go smoother with less wasted energy if P and Z could give some input early no?
      I am learning but more government gets harder to understand and I watch often.

      • Exactly how do you and Mandel propose to find out what “we” want? How do you propose to determine what is best for all of us?

        • Cheryl McKenna

          You misunderstand my post I just observe government in action for the League. We are all about transparency in government .
          I was just suggesting and
          hoping all the town committee’s and elected officials try to communicate . It was a suggestion you see? I am not connected to Mandel I just replied to thank him for informing me of the train station development coming so I may watch …
          Do you own the railroad place building by any chance?

  6. Bobbie Herman

    Have the Westport Arts Center plans to take over Jesup Green been approved? I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about that, just that WAC wanted to do it.

  7. Matthew Mandell

    I venture to guess that most people would like our town to continue as a small town based on single family homes. If this is not the case, why would they be here, there are plenty of other places that have lost their character. I have been at this for 13 years now monitoring and defending the town from overdevelopment and increased density. I and others who feel the same have only gained partners along the way.

    Mr. Petrino, you asked how do I know. By asking. So what do you want?

    As for P&Z I am not worried about them listening when it comes to this issue. Downtown is not the issue, it is the rest of the town.

    • I have lived here 35 years. The town has changed in many ways over that period, and yet people continue to want to live here. There is no way to know what will attract people to Westport 35 years from now. You fight for what you want, but you cannot know what will attract new residents in the future. Your efforts merely lock in the past as you see it. People will reveal their preferences as time passes; in the marketplace.

      • Matthew Mandell

        People come here because it is different from elsewhere. They come because there is a sense of place here. I am not locking in the past I am preserving as we move forward. You bet I will continue to fight what I believe is right. No one knows what people will want in 35 years, but I can guess and we have it now,

        • Your guess is worth exactly what we paid for it. BTW there is a sense of place everywhere.

          “You bet I will continue to fight what I believe is right.” I bet you will.

  8. What’s happening with the YMCA building where I spent hundreds of hours in the 50’s and 60’s?

    David Grant



  9. We have ten pounds of potatoes.
    And a five pound sack.
    That math is beginning to come into stark relief.
    Especially downtown.

    • Figurative or literal waste?
      Having moved away over 35 years ago, it’s telling that so many of my Staples classmates speak sadly about the changes. Few stayed. Few visit.

      • Not true, Nancy. I constantly run into people from your class, and those of your era, who stayed (or moved back at some point). The number of students at Staples whose parents went there is very surprising. As for visiting, it’s constant. And you should see the faces of the Staples reunion-goers every year (I give tours of the high school for them). They are very happy to be back (while noticing many of the changes).

        I wonder why, if Westport is such a bad place, you continue to be obsessed with it. And feel the need to comment on nearly every story, from the other side of the continent.

        • I simply want to preserve what’s left, as do my friends.
          Thoughts and information from the other side of the continent re municipal matters/ historical matters should be welcomed. We all encounter the same issues, problems, and hopefully find answers from each other.

  10. David J. Loffredo

    Westport School Population 2000 = 5007
    Westport School Population 2013 = 5765

    No new facilities, classrooms are 115% of where they were when we moved here and the number is only going up.

    • Years ago the great seers who were guessing about the future of Westport, guessed that no young people would move to Westport because the cost of housing was too high. As a result of this guess, a number of schools were closed, and/or given away. The guess could not have been more wrong, but the guessers had done their damage, and the taxpayers were stuck with the bill when their projections with respect to demographics proved to be wildly wrong. Good luck trying to get the new group of guessers to develop a rational approach to the matter of school population this time around.