Geiger’s Redevelopment: You Can Bank On It

Lost in last week’s hoopla over what Jon Stewart called  “Blizzardpocalypsegeddon” were positive reviews given by the Planning & Zoning Commission to plans to redevelop the 2-acre Geiger’s property.

Neighbors — who have worried about the future of the garden center, which looks handsome from the front but shabby in back — were also largely positive.

So what will go on the site, at the corner of the Post Road and Morningside North?

A commercial/residential complex. It includes 12 residential rental units — 2 of them classified as “affordable” — along with a retail building.

And a bank.

That last part is particularly good news. Because — as every Westporter knows — if there’s one thing this town needs, it’s banks.

Geigers

 

16 responses to “Geiger’s Redevelopment: You Can Bank On It

  1. Referencing your last sentence, when our children were young and we’d ferry ourselves up and down the Post Road a dozen times a week and see “new construction” all the time we’d say, “Fifty bucks its another Bank.” We probably all do/did/do that in this town. But then I would say, “I think it’ll be a Catholic Book Store” they (of course, knowing I’d actually like that) would chime in together, going “BANK!!” and laugh…of course, they were ALWAYS right! Always right…

  2. Bobbie Herman

    Maybe they’ll put in a nail salon, too.

  3. Stephanie Bass

    Curious as to what “affordable” means in this town. Can you do the leg work and tell us what the numbers are for rentals? Thanks.

  4. What plans do “they” have for the beautiful old barn? mmm

    • According to yesterday’s Westport News:

      “The only remaining disappointment for some people is the planned dismantling a historic barn on the property, which was one of the sticking points in earlier plans. The developer intends to offer the vintage pieces of the structure to new occupants for them to use in the interior construction of their units, should they choose.

      “Richard Redniss, project engineer, said the applicants tried their best to preserve the barn, but it was cost prohibitive and impractical.

      “‘The barn is in rough shape,’ he said, noting that a lot of time and money had been devoted to trying to preserve it. ‘It’s not all original, so it needs a lot of help to bring it up to code.’

      “Wendy Crowther, a local historian, said she was disappointed, in part because the Historic District Commission did not step in to save it.

      “‘I have a passionate interest in the barn and in preservation in Westport in general,’ she said, also expressing concern that dismantling the barn would cause the ‘bones’ of the building to be damaged or lost.

      “‘We’re happy to work with a de-commission plan,’ Redniss said regarding the barn.

      “‘As long as we have a good-faith effort to do that and a good-faith effort to integrate into the new structure,’ P&Z Commissioner Alan Hodge said, the plan would likely satisfy the commission.”

      (To read the full story, click here: http://www.westport-news.com/news/article/Revised-plan-to-develop-Geiger-s-site-wins-6035047.php

      • Wendy Crowther

        I was on vacation when Dan posted this article – I’m just catching up with my emails and blogs now.

        I was misquoted in the Westport News article from which Dan drew the above quotes regarding my comments at the P&Z hearing. I did not say that I was “disappointed that the HDC did not step in to save it” [the barn]. What I did say was that I was disappointed that the HDC had offered no further comment regarding the present plan for the barn. Having sadly accepted that the barn will essentially be lost, I made suggestions to the P&Z (in the absence of any suggestions from the HDC) as to how the barn’s bones might be deconstructed, stored, and re-purposed. I also requested that the P&Z, as a condition of approval, require the developer to create signage (to be placed inside or outside the new quasi-replica barn) that would reflect the long history of the site and the original barn that has stood upon it for 150 years.

        Previous to this P&Z meeting, I’d provided the developer and the P&Z with a 19-page document containing all of the historical data I’d researched and written on the barn and its former owners, all done in hopes that the barn would be saved on the site.

        This final plan for the Geiger site represents only the tiniest of preservation victories. That’s because the old barn won’t end up crushed into a dumpster on its way to the landfill (at least not yet). If dismantled properly and marketed well by the developer, some of the barn’s elements might stand a chance of being re-used elsewhere. However, Westport will lose its last authentic, antique, Post Road barn – a barn going back to the Coley family and to the early ministers of Greens Farms Congregational Church, et. al.

        In its place we’ll get a new, fake, barn-like building. This is how the developer will pay homage to the antique barn that they’ll remove (I’ll give them some credit for that). And hopefully, per my suggestion, a historical sign or marker on the site will tell the old barn’s story.

        It’s better than nothing, but a sad loss for me.

        P.S. I totally agree with Matt Mandell’s comments below.

  5. I’ll take a swipe at this. In the past year these are the following stats as far as two bedroom units (homes, condos, multi-family properties). I’m not sure what qualifies as affordable, but…….
    Rooms Beds Baths Total Sq Ft Closed Price
    Min 4 2 1 644 $1,300
    Max 6 2 4 2,559 $4,500
    Avg 5 2 2 1,360 $2,821
    Median 5 2 2 1,220 $2,700

    (I hope this renders well, if not I’ll try to send it to Dan and maybe he can post a chart).

    • As I suspected, this did not render well. Dan tried editing it, too. I sent a PDF to Dan but that doesn’t post well. If anyone wants the stats on that PDF I’d be happy to forward them.

  6. Thânk you, Dan. Ít sém sá to uế bít and piéces ò the barn á decoration. Đóes Anyone know hơ to giết nhậpò of. Mỹ keyboard? I Thìn ít í vietnamese. mmm

    • Mary: Go to Control Panel. Click on “Region and Language.” Then go to “Keyboards and Language.” Hit “Change Keyboard.” Scroll down. Find “Vietnamese.” Click “Remove.” Hit “Apply,” then “Okay.” Good luck! This is a full-service blog! – Dan

  7. David J. Loffredo

    “Affordable” has nothing to do with the actual cost of the real estate – plus these are rental units. Even if you were able to purchase something, it would come with a very restrictive deed.

    Affordable housing and 8-30g eligibility has only to do with your income as a % of the state’s median income, which is an annually moving target.

  8. Matthew Mandell

    There are two parts to the Geiger project and approval by P&Z

    1. What occurred was that a developer used a zone that was created to specifically use a post road property and build a mixed use development with affordable units, 20% of the total number.

    This shows that Westport is working to create affordable housing, a developer worked within our zoning and all is good. This is in contrast to other developers in town who wish to exploit the 8-30g law and over denisify and over develop our town. Bravo to one, shame on the others.

    2. The Barn. The developer, Coastal, on first attempt was going to raze the barn. People objected, they met with them. To the credit of the developers and Mr. Redniss their consultant, they came up with a plan to save the barn in exchange for a few bennies, such as an easing up on a few parking spots. This was a good plan, a give and take by all parties to save the barn. The P&Z concerned that such bennies would be abused, possibly by other developers, denied the plan. Personally, I did not share that concern and advocated for the plan.

    So everyone went back to square one and the barn is toast. Hopefully they will find a way to use the pieces and pay homage to it. In the mean time P&Z needs to adjust its regs to allow for the saving of historical buildings on commercial properties. Section 32-18 in the regs has this for residential properties, they need to incorporate it for commercial. Time is running out. We lost an 1835 house on Post Road West in July, and now this 150 year old will go. We did save Kemper Gunn.

    Both these issues are about town character. One concerning our self determination to choose the density and location of affordable housing as we see fit. The other is preserving our past while embracing the inevitable changes as we move forward. The Geiger project is a great lesson.

  9. Stephanie Bass

    I get that “affordble” means income, not rental $$$s; I hear you saying that it is a % of median income for the state of Ct. and rolls every year. So, what was the median income for the state in 2014? And if you are already in, and don’t qualify for the next year because the median income rolled or you make more $$$ and place yourself out of the range, must you move? This sounds like one big mess.

    • David J. Loffredo

      There are two rules:

      1) Less than 80% of the State Median Income. In 2014 the SMI for a family of 1 = $54K, family of 2 = $71K, family of 3 = $87K, family of 4 = $104K. I don’t know if you have to “re-qualify” periodically or how that works.

      2) What you pay for housing can not be more than 30% of your household income.

      So if you do the math:

      Family of 1 = 54K x .8 = 43.2K x .3 = 13K/year for rent max
      Family of 2 = 71K x .8 = 56.8K x .3 = 17K/year for rent max
      Family of 3 = 87K x .8 = 69.6K x .3 = 21K/year for rent max
      Family of 4 = 104K x .8 = 83.2K x .3 = 25K/year for rent max

      So you get an idea of what they can rent 1/2/3 bedroom units for and so forth. The income bar is what I think we struggle with in Westport, there are a lot of people who think they might qualify who have too much income coming from investments, etc – that they’re disqualified right off the bat.

      I hope this helps. I think conceptually it’s a great idea but practically speaking it’s pretty limited and allows for developers to abuse it.

      • Bart Shuldman

        As most know, almost all Westporters will not qualify for affordable housing. It is not only your income, but you add in a percentage of your assets, such as 401k’s, savings, etc. and don’t think you can move money to a child to hide your assets. They look back.

        With more affordable housing coming and adding more children to our schools, someone should do a calculation of the costs coming. If the average cost per student is $30k, what happens to taxes? What happens to class sizes?

        As more senior citizens are forced to leave due to the higher taxes and more young people buy those homes then we are removing a tax payer who has no children in our schools to one with 2.2 children added.

        My understanding is Westport already meets the 10% state requirement if we could add the housing before 1990. Why the statue does not allow a town to include before 1990 is ridiculous. It punishes towns that were forward thinking years ago.

        Westport could face serious school and tax issues as we must add in more affordable housing. As some feel it is good, I would suggest we understand the cost first. Just look to OPEB, a benefit program that has horrible cost issues to Westport to see what happens when future costs are not discussed.

  10. Stephanie Bass

    Thank you, David. That’s exactly what I wanted to know. The money left after paying rent would make it extremely dificult for any single person or family in this group to live in Westport.