Sunday’s post described a new vision of downtown Westport.
It explained that David Waldman — the Westport-based developer who conceived of and completed Bedford Square — is under contract to buy both Sconset Square and 155 Post Road East. They’re contiguous properties: Sconset is the small shopping center off Myrtle Avenue with stores like Bungalow and Le Penguin restaurant, while 155 Post Road is the cement building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office).
(Though the Westport Pizzeria building may at some point be part of some deal in some way, don’t worry: It’s open, and will be for the foreseeable future.)
If Waldman buys #155 and Sconset Square, parking areas behind them could be utilized more efficiently. And #155 could potentially house organizations like the Westport Arts Center and Westport Cinema Initiative
That story generated a decent number of comments. But because Sunday was Easter — and the most beautiful day of the year — it may not have reached every “06880” reader.
And not everyone with an opinion might have responded.
A few town officials asked if I thought the comments posted — generally positive, some not — reflect the feeling of most Westporters.
I have no idea.
So here’s another opportunity to respond. Click “Comments” below.
This is far from the final word, of course. But on a matter like this, the more voices, the merrier.
I think continuing the exciting work Waldman’s group has done so far is a huge positive. Downtown has a renewed energy to it now. Continuing to open up and reinvent spaces to bring our community closer together downtown is a great thing. The Westport Cinema, in my opinion, is an exciting piece of that vision offering an art house/film institute in the hub of downtown. The proximity of the Levitt and the Playhouse all within walking distance is really special. We are on the right track!
Main street desperately needs a cinema.
This sounds like a great idea. Let’s continue to make downtown the best it can be.
After 7pm, main street is dead. If there’s a movie theater on-site we’ll see more foot traffic in the evenings, which will undoubtedly flow in and out of restaurants and bars on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening.
Enough is enough! No one I know likes the “new downtown Westport situation” and before it gets ruined anymore, please tell Town officials to say”NO”!
Being a yankee as to spending, I do like using underused town facilities to their max, such as Town Hall and even the schools. It bothers me that we have auditoriums and gyms in place which could be utilized after-hours, such as for the Cinema Initiative. I do like the idea of the Art Center being downtown as long as there would be enough parking; how does the Art Center feel?
David Waldman has found good ways, so far, to open up and revitalize downtown Westport. The “Y” building looks terrific – a great improvement visually. The idea of working with both Sconset Square and the building on the Post Road should benefit both areas.
As long as redevelopment does not adversely affect the ‘character’ of the town, and Bedford Square in my opinion does not, then redevelopment means revitalization. Be nice if some of the retail space could be reserved for local mom & pop stores that seem to be squeezed out elsewhere downtown. And of course, a cinema.
A downtown movie theater and the arts center closer to downtown would be a BIG WIN for our town!
“Sconset Square” which for many years prior was Sherwood Square.
I never understood why a name with deep local significance was replaced by a name with no local relevance. Maybe Mr. Waldman might like to continue his tradition of retaining historical elements that contribute to past, present and future..
I think it sounds wonderful! Everything like this makes our downtown more vibrant. I’ve been away but hear great things about Bedford Square. Can’t wait to see it when I get home.
I’m not generally a huge fan of zoning by public opinion poll but since that’s where this seems to be headed for the moment, I’ll briefly mention a possible concern as a neighbor:
I fully understand that everything is conceptual at present and remain neutral on the proposed project itself, but note that no mention has been made of the underlying zoning.
A significant portion of the area in question (including Sconset Square) is zoned Restricted Office-Retail (RORD2). This height restricted (30ft) zone is specifically intended as a lower impact transition to residential. The zone’s provisions “are intended to retain the residential character of the existing buildings and are not intended to lead to the wholesale redevelopment of those areas to new commercial uses” (Westport Zoning Regulations).
In other words, much of the property within the proposed project area is zoned in a manner that is intended to conserve the quality of life and property values of the residential abutters.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning that at 6:45 PM on Easter the sun dropped below the tallest building in Sconset Square (2 stories). I noticed that the shadow from it stretched across Myrtle Avenue and into Violet Lane where I live.
So far so good IMO. A movie theater would bring more folks to town in the evening (and matinees.) It would provide a welcome venue for students and additional support for our burgeoning restaurant and retail scene. Many remember the movie houses that were thriving here in the past- imagine bringing them back to downtown? It would be a win win for everyone. I vote a resounding YES!
Love it. My husband and I are new to Westport and seeing the early stages of this vision (retaining the historical buildings, revitalizing them, and driving greater traffic and energy) was a huge attraction to selecting Westport as the town in Fairfield County we wanted to call home.
Sounds Exciting! Would be good to have the Arts Center and Cinema downtown and within walking distance of the many great restaurants in town. Haven’t been in the Bedford Square yet but it looks terrific from the road. I like the fact that Westport is becoming much more vibrant day and night.
Congrats to David Waldman.
Good heavens, it’s an Easter miracle, look at all the supportive comments that have suddenly materialized. Like magic. Or something.
Is Sconcet square going to disappear? I support revitalization but that particular shopping center has character and it will be sad to replace it with another wonderful project but that will read very 2017 . I like what happened with the Y , but lets be careful we need to know when to stop.
I am in full support of the arts and if someone wants to take a flier on a movie theater…go for it! We have had a few and they have gone the way of the DoDo Bird. What people need to understand…is that a respectful and inclusive discussion about how this proposal impacts the abutting neighborhood unfolds. I am certain that David Waldman will take this into consideration. No one, to my knowledge, has publicly seen this proposal. It is my hope that David will his embrace his past sensitivities and continue his successful development recipe. Let’s not rush to judgement but we all need to be cautiously optimistic speaking purely as a resident who truly lives in the immediate downtown area.
It sounds like a wonderful idea to me. Bedford Square is so beautifully conceived, I think we should welcome additional projects
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I think Sconset Square is one of the most charming areas downtown. I would hate to see it over-developed. I think it should be left just as it is. However,155 Post Road really doesn’t have any particular architectural charm. If it were converted into an Arts and Cinema complex, it would be a great asset to the town. It would certainly liven up the downtown area, which becomes a ghost town in the evening.
Do we all forget about the Fine Arts Cinema 1&2, which currently houses Restoration Hardware? For those new to Westport, we had a downtown cinema complex and it died a horrible death. The Joseloff Family had the smarts, as developers to lease the space out to Restoration Hardware. Fine Arts was DOA when we moved here in 1997 and so was downtown for that matter. It still remains dead after 7pm. I know…My wife and I stroll downtown often. As I said in my previous post….If the Westport Theater Initiative or someone else want to develop a venue…go for it but, whatever happens, it must be respectful to the abutting residential neighborhood and follow the zoning rules and regulations which are there for a good reason. Easy to be a “backseat critic” when your neighborhood is not potentially being encroached upon.
I urge that we take a PAUSE before we do more downtown retail/commercial development. The new and old retail spaces are not fully occupied yet so we haven’t even experienced the new traffic burden. Nor has the 2017 downturn in the retail industry hit Westport commercial real estate yet.
Also, our community neighborhoods are so unique..,,I agree with the downtown homeowners asking that zoning regulations be protected.
Additionally, we don’t need more retail space to get the movie theater or to move the Westport Arts Center. Be aware that those can be/are separate proposals. The developer/development thus far has given us retail/restaurants. The Levitt and the Playhouse are private entities which had to privately raise the funds to build their theaters and to keep their institutions going.
I have enjoyed the Westport downtown for over 40 years and I have experienced the many changes it has gone through. The town right now needs to PAUSE.
Finally, instead of more retail, remember that one of the best sources of tax revenue per square footage is luxury office buildings which attract financial firms…not retail space which creates a much greater drain/cost on our social services…like police, fire department and public works…like road/sidewalk maintenance. We as residents/homeowners must pay those cost increases as well as experience the increase in traffic and crime which is associated with more commercial retail space.
PAUSE. PAUSE. PAUSE.
As a resident in the downtown neighborhood, I absolutely agree!
PAUSE, PAUSE, PAUSE.
Do independent movie theaters make money or is some fat cat going to fund it? The theater in Fairfield crashed and burned, pretty sure we need to do our homework before we suffer the same fate.
Well, the Avon (in Stamford) is a non-profit that, to the best of my knowledge, received significant funding for its renovation from a couple of wealthy donors–and it is a beautiful facility that seems to be doing well.
The Bethel Cinema, I believe, is privately owned and seems to be doing fine. (We have friends who live up in that area and go pretty frequently.)
My wife and I go a lot to the Garden Cinema, which typically draws small audiences when we go on a week night–but also can have decent crowds when we go to a weekend matinee or when we go occasionally on a Friday night or Saturday night. I think the Garden is owned by a real estate developer.
My understanding is that the Westport Cinema Initiative would look to bring a mix of films, including movies directed at kids.
Re Jamie’s reference above to the demise of Fine Arts 1 & 2: that might have had to do with the ability of the theater at that time to get popular first-run films in timely fashion while in competition with the nearest multiplex. Or it could have also had to do with the property owners recognizing they could generate a lot more money from leasing a prime large downtown property to Restoration Hardware than in running a movie theater. Obviously the owners are in the best position to answer that.
But if the Westport Cinema Initiative can raise some money and work out a deal with David Waldman, I guess I don’t understand why anyone would be opposed to that. What’s the downside of having that happen?
I guess I’m not a believer unless there’s some significant financial subsidy. I wouldn’t count on a developer, maybe Harvey Weinstein is interested in a screen in his part time hometown?
Westport rents are what 10X Bethel? Probably more.
With the adevent of high definition everything and entertainment on demand on screens you can carry with you, I think the concept of a movie theater is outdated.
The state of the art Prospector Theater in Ridgefield is a great example of a not for profit movie theater, adjacent to their library. They provide employment to adults with disabilities- you will never feel more welcome at a movie theater until you walk through their doors. Westport needs this- not everyone wants to watch movies at home or patronize the “big box’ venues.
I am all in favor of this plan so long as retail is affordable for local businesses. Westport does not need any more chains downtown.
Maybe there is a way to grandfather the small businesses so we don’t lose any more. I love the idea of a movie theater. As long as Westport Pizza doesn’t get pushed out I say go for it!
David Waldman and his “people” have and are doing a number of good things that benefit Downtown Westport, as well as his investors.. He is working closely with the Downtown Master Plan Committee, chaired with great competence by Melissa Kane and Dewey Loselle. Many good things are coming together, including the recently established Village District. Let’s keep the momentum going, but always focus on Town character, building scale, density issues and aesthetics.
As a recent Nobel prize winner once said, “the times they are a changin”
David Waldman has shown vision, sensitivity to community concerns and the ability to get the job done.
What harm can come from having a hometown cinema? It’s a no-brainer.
LOVE IT! Our town deserves to have a great movie theater back in the midst. It’s a wonderful family destination, a place for kids to go that keeps them off of 95 and close to home. David Waldman has shown great sensitivity to the needs and desires of the town residents. He’s earned my trust.
Regarding those that wish to pause or refrain on additional development, there is no doubt that retail is in decline. Restaurants and event-based areas are the new anchors for thriving destinations. We need to embrace these concepts in order to keep this town viable and exciting.
A movie theater? Great! Seems Waldman is good for Westport. He has my support.
As some have [tried] to point out, the privately-run single or two screen movie theater you all seem to remember from the 1990s, 1980s or prior, which we ALL agree would be great for the downtown area (a theater drawing a full house of patrons for a 7:00 or 9:00 show) is NOT a viable business in 2017; in fact it hasn’t been for quite some time, unless the cost of operating the movie theater space is very low or substantially municipally-supported.
Last time I checked, while David Waldman certainly builds nice things, this means he builds commercial spaces that require healthy cash flow to support the rent (take the space on Church Lane just vacated by Sono Baking, and everything else that tried to make it work, for example).
So I am waiting for the details of this movie theater component in BSquare2, because it will require support – that support might come in a variety of forms (you do for me and I do for you, outright municipal ownership or partnership, etc., etc.)
I’mhappy to find at least onrp person bravr enough to say that she isn’t thrilled by Bedford Square. Neither am I. It think a town should grow organically and not spring full- grown from the brow of one man and his organization. Westport is getting just too glitzy and planned. I mourn the placement of the house, the name of which I can’t think of right now. It looks as though it hurts after being plopped down on the Earth unceremoniously.