Baron’s South “Arts Campus” Returns To P&Z

In May, the Westport Arts Center and a group of arts advocates presented a pre-application to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The goal was to create an “arts campus” at the Baron’s South property. The 3-prong proposal included these ideas:

  1. The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows — the main building that served as the home for Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff (“The Baron”) — retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
  2. The WAC would lease and restore the  Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
  3. They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.

The P&Z was not thrilled with the plan. They called the plan too intense for the “light use” for which the 32-acre property is zoned.

Many Westporters, on the other hand, thought it was great. “06880” was flooded with positive comments.

Golden Shadows: the centerpiece of the Westport Arts Center Baron’s South plan.
(Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The whole idea of a pre-app meeting is to get a sense of the P&Z’s mood. The WAC and arts advocates listened to the commissioners.

Tomorrow (Thursday, July 6, 7 p.m., Town Hall) they’ll present a formal proposal. They’ve reworked the use of the artists’ residences, and other concepts.

They also hope to show that the work they’ll do on-site will help the public enjoy all the open space surrounding the arts campus.

The meeting is open to the public.

24 responses to “Baron’s South “Arts Campus” Returns To P&Z

  1. Jamie Klein

    It would be wonderful if the outdoor space included a sculpture garden!

  2. John Knofla

    What a wonderful idea!! Wishing the WAC great success!!

  3. Wilhelmina de Haas

    This is a total Win-Win for everyone. How could you possibly say “no”? Westport has a proud history of always being committed to the arts. Let’s keep that lineage going!

    • Wilhelmina de Haas

      🙂

      • Wilhelmina de Haas

        I forgot to say – how often (if you think about it) does any opportunity like this present itself? Never! Please support the arts!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Sharon Horowitz

    I agree. Thank you for coming up with this creative solution and for persevering. It could become another Crown Jewel of Westport.

  5. Even without recognizing how little this property is used now, the vision of an arts center walking distance from downtown is a stunningly good idea.

    A town arts center/park will become a unique asset with maximum community benefit, and will serve as a needed counterpoint (insurance?) to the downtown’s community-sapping focus on retail (which Amazon is derailing anyway).

    Remember the town planner’s proposal to commandeer Jessup Green for an arts center? This is a much better idea. (I think they probably would have suggested it if they didn’t also had a financial interest in a nursing home at Baron’s South?).

    Library – Levitt – Sr. Center – “Art Park” is a community planners dream. This will rank up there in vision with the purchase of Longshore. – Chris Woods

  6. Jamie Walsh

    Hope the P&Z can get behind this proposal. Much better use than the proposed senior housing proposal that would not have benefited many Westporters,

  7. Susan Iseman

    If the “P&Z is not thrilled” with this idea, what other plan would they be in favor of? It’s sitting vacant, and needs some love!

  8. property has been sitting there without any benefit to the community for a long time. This sounds like a good idea. If there was a master plan that discussed how to utilize the rest of the space for our future enjoyment — be it undisturbed nature trails, a par course, another playground, camping grounds or more buildings or something else — it would make sense to figure out an ultimate plan. 32 acres is a decent amount of space.

  9. Don Bergmann

    The WAC effort, spearheaded by Helen Garten and Jim Marpe for the Town, is excellent, since it reflects an outcome that preserves 68 and 70 Compo Rd. So., preserves the interior of Golden Shadows for public access for art displays and melds nicely with the upper portion of Baron’s South. The P&Z rightly wants to make sure that the effort is not too grandiose since, to their credit, the present P&Z is fully committed to preserving and protecting open space. Our Parks & Rec. Dept will be presenting in a month or two its plans for trails and other modest undertakings to Baron’s South. Those plans can be expected to be tasteful and low key. That effort will also tie into the Senior Center Enhancement expansion so that, not too long from now, Westport can expect to have a walk able Baron’s South, with entrances from Imperial Ave., and Compo Rd. So. and a pedestrian only entrance from the Post Rd. The Senior Center will continue as the lower anchor and a rejuvenated Golden Shadows will become the upper anchor.

    Don Bergmann

  10. Mark Mathias

    I am very glad to see this space be used for a good purpose instead of continuing to fall into disrepair.
    I hope that the Planning & Zoning Commission takes this interest and allows other interested parties to participate in the discussion and long-term use. There are many other Town organizations, both government and non-government, that may be able to participate in this use of and improvement in this Town resource.
    To only consider one application without a public Request for Proposals or ability for others to participate would be the equivalent of sole sourcing which is neither necessary nor in the best interests of the Town in this instance.
    Given the many creative minds in our community, I hope the P&Z welcomes and encourages public discussions of how this space could be best used, including sufficient time (certainly no decision this summer) for interested organizations to be a part of the future of Baron’s South.

    • Morley Boyd

      Hi Mark, you should know that among the many, many public, private and government organizations that have been approached by the Town over the past 20 years, the Westport Public Schools were offered Golden Shadows. That offer was politely declined.

  11. John Dodig

    Great idea! What an exciting and creative use of the property. I enthusiastically support the proposal.

  12. Kiri Woods

    Let this go the way of the Lone Compo Palm Tree- The community voices an overwhelming YES! fab idea!

  13. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Can’t think of a better use!

  14. Lynn Untermeyer Miller

    Such a great idea. A wonderful win-win for Westport!

  15. great idea…Let’s just make sure that the Town receives proper rental consideration to help keep our taxes in bay.

  16. I look forward to hearing more about this proposal at P&Z tonight. At first blush, it seems like a really exciting use of these otherwise unused structures, and a great way to enhance Westport’s historic role as an artistic haven. I hope the commission will give the idea proper consideration.

  17. Stacy Prince

    I’ll be at Congressman Himes’s’ Town Hall meeting tonight, not the P&Z, but love this idea.

  18. Perfect use for the building. AT LAST!

  19. Jimmy Izzo

    I would like to hear more about this proposal. There are a lot of variables that need to be discussed. Such as changing what is already been zoned “open space” and the issue of adding parking to a property already zoned open space. I will reserve further comment until hearing what is proposed.

  20. Jesse Harte

    I would like to hear more what Louis Mall spoke about concerning WAC and Greens Farms School in 1998. What exactly happened then? How many people know what the issue was/is.

  21. Arlene Donahue

    As a former elected land use commissioner, ( and vice chair of the Baron’s South Committee. which turned down the YMCA’S bid to use the property), I have some concerns about this proposal. Doesn’t the Art Center host artists from all over to display their works for the purpose of SALE? Does the center charge a commission for such? Does it collect rent from the studios? If so, isn’t it a commercial enterprise (non-profit or not)? How is it different from any other shop selling its wares? I hope the P&Z addresses these questions before renting out our park.