Special Needs Housing Planned For Riverside Avenue

One of the Westport’s greatest needs — supportive housing for people with special needs — is moving through the regulatory pipeline.

136 Riverside Avenue is a 12-room 1880 Colonial Victorian just north of Saugatuck Elementary School. Owned by the town, it’s used now by the Board of Education.

A few years ago it was considered for special needs housing. That opportunity has come around again.

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm — has been exploring possibilities for “off-site affordable housing” for developments like 41 Richmondville Avenue and The Residence at Westport for several years.

That’s the process by which approval is granted for new market-rate housing at one location. In exchange, builders create affordable housing units elsewhere in town.

136 Riverside Avenue.

Redniss has met with parents of special needs individuals and Westport’s Commission on People with Disabilities to determine the best design. Based in part on a Darien model, he realized that if individual units include a private bath, kitchenette (to help with independent living) and deed-restricted lease, they count toward the town’s moratorium points (granted for showing that a municipality is actively building affordable housing).

The current plan would convert 136 Riverside to 5 apartments. Four would be for people with special needs; one would be rented to a staff member, who also would qualify under regulations for affordable housing.

Abilis — the 70-year-old nonprofit serving over 800 people with special needs — sees this as an excellent opportunity. They’ve been collaborating with the 41 Richmondville Avenue developers to make this a reality. Redniss has met with neighbors, and continues to address concerns.

The proposal — which includes remodeling that respects the original architecture, and enhanced landscaping — is going through the 8-24 (municipal improvement) and special permitting process. It’s on the agenda for the Architectural Review Board’s March 23 meeting.

If approved, 136 Riverside heads to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Finance and RTM, for lease oversight.

8 responses to “Special Needs Housing Planned For Riverside Avenue

  1. I love to see historic buildings repurposed – and this is an excellent purpose. Btw, it can’t be a colonial and also have a 1880 build date. I hope the parties involved really will respect the original (victorian) architecture.

  2. What a nice win-win. A house gets saved too. Thanks for the good news Dan.

  3. John D McCarthy

    Sounds like a great use for the building. Can someone explain how this would count against a private developer’s “off-site affordable housing” obligation. Is the developer going to buy the building from the town?

    • John D McCarthy

      Ah, they would lease the building from the town……”If approved, 136 Riverside heads to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Finance and RTM, for lease oversight.”

  4. Eleanor Solovay


  5. Peter Gambaccini

    I’m pretty sure I lived in this house one summer, with Playhouse people (I’d worked there the year before). Pernell Roberts came over one night and cooked dinner for us.

  6. Elizabeth Thibault

    Wasn’t this project associated with David Waldman at one point? Did that sale fall through? It was a good idea before, and it’s still a good idea now.
    I hope that whomever is setting this up also keeps an eye on the housing changes being proposed in Hartford, to ensure that it wouldn’t suddenly not count for the moratorium.