1 Wilton Road — the little building huddled beneath the massive Wright Street office complex, at the traffic-choked intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue — has a long history.
Built in 1830 — before Westport was even incorporated, when horses watered at a nearby trough — it’s a reminder of days gone by. Originally a home, it’s been in recent years a liquor store and yarn shop.
Now it’s home to Vita Design Group. The modern design firm’s projects include the Geiger development across from Greens Farms Elementary School, and the new glass house on Compo Beach Road near the Minute Man monument.
Alert Westporters recently noticed scaffolding around the 1 Wilton Road site. Some wonder whether it’s coming down.
Lucien Vita said his company spent its first years roaming around Westport. After starting in his home, Vita Design Group moved to several locations, including Main Street.
As a small business, they saw the 1 Wilton Road spot — with plenty of traffic (and everyone stuck at the light) — as a marketing opportunity. They bought the property 4 years ago and planned a renovation, showing off what they do best.
Permits took a while. Just before renovation was to begin, David Waldman and Greenfield Partners approached Vita with a plan.
Together they own the former Save the Children property, across the street down Wilton Road. They planned a retail/residential complex there. To mitigate traffic concerns, they wanted to purchase 1 Wilton Road. They’d reconstruct that building on the Save the Children site; in return, they’d give the 1 Wilton Road land to the town, for a much-needed turning lane onto Post Road West.
It took 2 1/2 years, but finally the Planning and Zoning Commission said no.
Though Vita was paying carrying costs each month for the property, they still wanted to help the town. They had a new idea: rebuild the office further back on the land. They’d keep its historical identity, yet still provide room for drivers to turn.
However, it could take 2 years to work out funding. And if that came through, a town or state body could deny permission for the plan.
It’s not feasible for Vita to wait. So — as the scaffolding shows — they’ve begun to renovate 1 Wilton Road for their new home. Plans include rebuilding the 1-story portion with a steeper roof, and putting new siding and details on the 2-story wing, integrating its historical features with a slightly modern touch.
The inside will be gutted. Its original post-and-beam structure has been covered up. That will be exposed again, in a nod to its nearly 200-year-old past.
“We want to make the building solid, and bring it into the 21st century,” Lucien Vita says. “We want to help it live another 100 years.”
That’s still not the end of the story. Vita says that even after renovation, he’s open to moving the building back — so long as that’s a practical, cost-effective solution.
Dream about that the next time you’re stuck at that interminable light.