Elm Street Swap Would Change Downtown Streetscape

As reported in March on “06880,” 36 Elm Street is the final key to creating an entirely new downtown streetscape. That’s where the Villa del Sol restaurant intrudes into the sidewalk next to the new Bedford Square retail/residential complex. And where an adjacent parking lot — near the back entrance to the old Y and the former Klein’s — is a poorly configured, hard-to-navigate, chaotic mess.

David Waldman — the Bedford Square developer — has spent months pursuing a land swap. He hopes to buy 36 Elm Street, then trade it for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman would build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green.

Villa del Sol would reopen there, alongside 3 small retail stores. Small retail stores would open there. Above them would be 4 apartments — 1 of them rented under state “affordable” guidelines.

The town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery. Waldman says that despite taking Baldwin spots for the new building, the town would net a gain of 2 parking spaces in the new lot.

None of this is new news. But Waldman has just created a web site that shows  — visually — exactly what the move would look like. Here’s the view looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

36 Elm Swap 1

Here’s another view. Brooks Corner — is at left, with Serena & Lily behind it:

36 Elm Swap 2

Here’s an artist’s rendering. The new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left; across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

Elm Street swap - 3

For more information on the proposed 36 Elm Street swap, click here.

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

12 responses to “Elm Street Swap Would Change Downtown Streetscape

  1. David Waldman

    Thanks Dan. One correction. While Villa Del Sol is in favor of the swap, but because they do not want to close, the new building would not work and therefore they will not be part of the proposed plan. Villa Del Sol will continue to operate in its current location while I try and obtain the necessary approvals. Should we be successful, Villa will use the opportunity to build a new restaurant for its long standing clientele. Without the cooperation of Coleen and her family, this potential SWAP could not happen. In the end I was able to pull all parties together to TRY and make this happen and finish what I consider to be the last piece of the downtown puzzle.

  2. David Waldman

    Also, I would, in conjunction with my neighboring landlords, demolish the building and build the new parking lot. There will be no additional expenses for the town, other then the sidewalks running up Elm, as it pertains to this project.

  3. Bart Shuldman

    Is there any argument not to do this? Seems a win-win for everyone.

  4. If Westport wants to sell town land, that parking lot should be put up for sale and the highest bidder should get the land. It should not be a private deal giving away land for cheap.

    • Hmmm- not a sale of land and lost parking downtown. Just an opportunity for the town to swap one parking area for another parking area- giving a better distribution of parking, two extra parking spots and a much nicer looking street. If this makes sense to the town- David Waldman would buy a building to demolish it for a parking lot and in return could then build a building on the swapped land. It makes sense if you want more parking and a nicer looking street at little or no cost to the town.

  5. Joelle Malec

    I live downtown and walk everyone of these streets with my dog (and husband) each morning. This is a win win for everyone!! Let’s make this happen!

  6. Bruce Erickson

    Westport was so much nicer in the old days before all these changes were made. Living in upstate NY now retired, when visiting old friends and relatives back in Ct. I find driving through Westport rather stressful with all the changes and volume of traffic on the roads. Progress isn’t always good. Just my two cents.

  7. Larry Weisman

    While there is considerable short term merit to David Waldman’s proposal, it’s downside in the longer term may be that it would limit or defeat any attempt to build a much needed, often discussed parking structure on the Baldwin lot. We should take a closer look at the long term implications before endorsing this tantalizing proposal.

    • David Waldman

      That is a fair point Larry and one I have heard before. As I am sure you are aware, I have always been a strong supporter of a potential parking level but ONLY in the context of having a “buffer” building fronting Elm Street so as to not allow the current parking lot and additional level to be a visible eyesore. With that said, I have a few comments to help others understand what I am thinking.

      First, like I did with the moving of the Kemper Gunn house, this potential swap and new building would be designed to incorporate a future parking level while still serving as a buffer building to the existing one. However, unlike the Kemper Gunn move adjacent to the proposed swap, which in the end took parking away from the total downtown inventory, this proposed swap ADDS over 8 parking spaces on the ground today. It is true that a new building in this proposed location would inhibit the final number of future parking spaces should a parking level be added to the combined Baldwin/acorns lots, but that is only true if the Town felt a buffer building was unnecessary, something which was addressed in the most recent downtown plan and was clearly NOT what the town felt would look and feel correct.

      Next I think it is important to discuss IF a parking level is needed. Again, I remain a proponent of the future level BUT I think it is premature to determine if it is needed. With the progress Dewey and the Town have been
      making with the combining of the Baldwin/Acorns lots, this merging is becoming a real possibility. The merging alone, with my proposed swap included, would add an additional 20+ spaces to the total inventory. This is a result of better ingress/egress and combination of garbage pick up areas. While the final additional parking spaces is still being determined, the clear advantage of the merging of the parking lots is to the adjacent residential streets. Once combined shoppers will be able to navigate between Elm and Myrtle without chocking the town streets.
      Now, Add to this the 100 spaces which were included in Bedford Squares development and I think it is prudent for us to see how all of this new development works together and see if, other then for Black Friday, sidewalk sales and the holidays, a parking level would be needed.

      If it is still needed it can be addressed once Bedford Sqaure is completed and as I said above, this swap would not proclude that level from being added in the future.

      In the end the swap is a win win. The town takes two poorly configured lots and combines them with 36 elm street to create a very useable and pedestrian friendly lot and a new buffer building is added along elm street towards Kemper-Gunn allowing for the continuation of the shopping experience.

  8. Bobbi Essagof

    Wow 2 more spots! I’m with Larry. Lots of new stores and restaurants but nowhere to park? Doesn’t sound like a plan to me. This might make a good Staples Challenge, where are we going to put all the cars?

  9. Larry Weisman

    It might be useful to look at a proposed regulation which was drafted but never considered by a prior P&Z, designed to encourage relocation of downtown parking to facilitate new development and requiring that the new parking be screened or buffered by the new buildings. There is something to be said for treating “downtown” in a holistic manner which permits future development while requiring increased parking. That’s pretty much what David is advocating but rather than approach the issue on a case by case basis, I would favor a more comprehensive solution. So I think we’d all be well advised to slow down and wait – as David suggests – for Bedford Square to be completed and, in the meantime, maybe the P&Z might resurrect the earlier draft regulation and rethink how best to accomplish the desired end.

  10. Michael Calise

    Would be great if we could have some real facts – such as the value of the increased development rights and if the town is going to get paid for that.
    If abutting property owners want to contribute as Waldman suggests that is their decision but the town needs to be fully compensated for the increased zoning rights and loss off future development opportunities. We should not allow this to become a replay of the Kemper Gunn fiasco. Philip Ross is correct this should be handled as municipal land transfers are normally handled in a fair and open market manner. Some currently “working” on our downtown “re-design” may not be able to approach this in an objective and un-biased manner.