The Continuing Saga Of Terrain’s Sagging House

In 2011 — as part of its application process to open in town — Terrain agreed to preserve the small house at the corner of Crescent Road.

The Historic District Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission liked what they heard. The small, gray 1900-era building — one of the last examples of a single-family house on the Post Road — stood proudly across from the fire station.

In 2013, this was the condition of the house on Terrain’s Post Road property, at the corner of Crescent Road.

But parking is tight. So in 2013, Terrain tried to gain 8 spaces by knocking down the house. They put in requests to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Historic District Commission (which was involved because the structure was more than 50 years old).

Matthew Mandell was not pleased. The RTM District 1 representative made a video. In it he explained the back story of Terrain’s dealings with the town.

Also in the video, the HDC’s Randy Henkels noted their early support of Terrain, based on promises the store made. Town planning director Larry Bradley described his department’s role.

And RTM member Cathy Talmadge suggested a boycott of Terrain, if they pressed ahead with demolition plans.

They did not. The next day, the company withdrew its request. “0688o” reported, “Terrain is believed to be working with the Planning and Zoning Commission on a parking plan that would preserve the century-old structure.”

It still stands. But — as many Westporters have noticed — it’s looking a bit grotty.

One view of the Terrain house yesterday …

The P&Z is among those paying attention.

Part of the previous deal was that Terrain would not use the house for storage — that way, it would not count toward the number of parking spots needed.

Another part of the deal was that Terrain would maintain it in good condition.

… and another.

Well, it is being used for storage. In fact, the interior has been torn out to allow more space.

And it is most definitely not being maintained.

Storage inside the building.

On Wednesday, the P&Z promised enforcement action.

Will it come in time to save the rapidly deteriorating, yet still somewhat handsome, building?

As “06880” promised in 2013: stay tuned.

18 responses to “The Continuing Saga Of Terrain’s Sagging House

  1. Question: before Terrain opened, (when the building was a vacant car dealership) what was the status of historic house? And BTW I personally would not consider boycotting Terrain. We sure don’t need another business leaving town.

  2. Well, in a town where there’s a well attended meeting declaring “Westport Means Business”, would you expect any business to care about preserving the town’s history or, for that matter, keeping it’s word?

  3. Terrain has been an awesome addition. Their work rehabbing the Curran dealership dump…magnificent. To threaten a boycott…I hope that they never hear that. Innumerable historic and much more lovely houses are torn down all the time…to draw the line on this one…?

  4. Just to be clear, as the story notes, the video and proposed boycott was in 2013 — not 2020.

  5. I love TERRAIN,,, why not allow them to USE the house for storage, which I’m certain they desperately need and Terrain— please fix up the house!!
    Or maybe let them hold classes there? But don’t tear it down for 8 parking lot spaces/paved paradise and all…
    I think we can all do better!
    We cannot change the number historic Homes and mature trees we have (already) lost in the past around town, but going forward—
    Think Green, Terrain! You’re an Inspiration to us all!

  6. Thanks for bringing to our attention Dan! This is messed up and another example of a business thinking they can do whatever they’d like. If they agreed to preserve the house, have now ripped out the interior, using it for storage when no storage was allowed, and are letting it demise, they should be held accountable. If a boycott or protest needs to happen to make them adhere to their promises, so be it. I don’t know if it could’ve been made a part of the original agreement but they should have maybe been required to rent out the home to keep it an available residential unit or even a small retail/office. Perhaps now the town should make them activate their reserve parking and remove their nursery and greenhouse. This is no surprise because it was in their plans!

  7. Given the Town’s need for affordable housing, why not require Terrain to turn the house into affordable housing? Good for the Town, income for Terrain and the house is preserved.

  8. I like Peter’ Gold’s idea of deed restricted affordable housing. The saga of this site has had so many twists and turns, zoning wise, it’s been hard to keep it all in my head. Still, I love having Terrain in town and love that they have been successful. Let’s work with them to make this little house a success too.

    To that end, we have one of the most generous historic preservation incentive zoning regs in the state (Sec.32-18). Under a Special Permit, it offers relief from key zoning regulations for accessory historic structures like this one in order to see them repurposed and thus conserved. Unfortunately, the reg does not currently apply to structures that are commercially zoned. The HDC was supposed to amend the reg so that it could be used for commercial historic structures. It didn’t do that for whatever reason and I’m not certain it would necessarily help in this particular situation because I don’t know all the facts. Still, the HDC should make good on its commitment in my view.

  9. Bob Weingarten

    For the history buffs: In 1882 Patrick Dunnigan purchased 2 acres from George B. Gorham which included the land of the house. But he didn’t build a house, at that location, until 1895 when he constructed the house for Johanna Dunnigan, not sure of the relationship. The house remained in the Dunnigan family until 1921. The rest is history…

  10. Matthew Mandell

    Thanks Dan for bringing this back up.

    The house needs tending to, bottom line. The P&Z and HDC need to find a way to have the house used and not run afoul of the regs. Terrain is an outdoor/gardening shop, why not turn the exterior of the house into a show piece. “This is what you can do with our products.” The interior could be an employee lounge, or if need be storage, but an affordable unit would be good too.

    All the parties, Urban Outfitters (owners Terrain) Pz, hdc and rtm members should sit and brain storm, the answer is simple and only money and effort would be needed to make the house shine again.

  11. Arline Gertzoff

    Terrain is a great store.They can easily fix up the house and make it work for them / not a storage facility/or rent it out to people willing to maintain.
    A boycott is not the answer. I hope they will see the light and work with the Town.I knew people who once lived there and do not want to see it fall into further disrepair or torn down.

  12. Jennie G Pickering

    Terrain, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People are all owned by Urban Group- least they could do is try to help Westport look its best…

  13. Terrain is an inspiring place and valuable to our town, but we all have responsibilities.
    As a lifelong resident for 64 years, and an owner of two residential properties in Westport, I have to follow the rules and contingencies of being a property owner. Why shouldn’t a large wealthy corporation be responsible to do the same??
    Also, just because we have lost a large amount of historical buildings in this town, shouldn’t make it ok to continue to demolish more of them.

  14. David Borwick

    What are you gaining by having this house there? I guarantee you 90% of people don’t even look at it as they drive by. With the amount of stores closing up and leaving town why not let them add more parking spaces instead of leaving too? They’re a popular attraction that brings many people in, let’s work with them instead of giving them reason to leave

    • David,
      Not so much about the house as it is about the word given the town by the tenant/developer. Our zoning enforcement folks do not follow up on violations of promises given by developers/business owners.
      Another good case in point is the new house on Hillspoint Rd where Positanos used to be…a hudeous travesty in violation of set back regulations WITH WHICH THE APPROVED PLANS COMPLIED but which have been trashed by the addition of an ugly outside chimney and a balcony….I’ll bet the town looks the other way.

  15. Joan Tricarico

    They should maintain it and be allowed to use it for storage. It’s a beautiful house and should be preserved as a landmark building. Or they sublet it out to another business?

  16. I’ve always liked seeing this house along the post road, but I think it could be used for much better purposes. I like the idea one commenter had about classes being held in the house. I think it would also be a great showroom- maybe have local interior designers that work with Terrain to showcase their talents in various rooms of the house. It should not be allowed to rot away, especially if it had been agreed upon that it would be preserved.

  17. Peter Gold Brilliant idea! WE need to get “greater participation” from our chain stores and corporate landlords like Regency Partners.
    We need more affordable housing, one would think after all these “text amendments” given to these folks to allow more parking, screwing up parking lots ( Trader Joes, Now Fresh Market) these folks should participate in creating more affordable housing on THEIR land.