More Room At The Westport Inn

The Westport Inn has always been a weird part of Westport.

Built as a motel in the early 1960s to serve travelers on nearby I-95, it morphed into a slightly more upscale place — though hardly an “inn” — in recent years.

It was a place for guests to go when we didn’t want them in our homes, and where high school reunion-goers stayed. But there we never thought about the ballroom for banquets. We did not patronize its succession of restaurants, which opened and closed in dizzying fashion. It was in Westport, but it was never really of it.

If a longtime Westporter has his way, all that may change.

Jim Randel has practiced law here for 40 years. He’s also president of Rand Real Estate Services, which invests in underutilized properties in Connecticut and Florida.

His initial venture was the abandoned Factory Store by the East Norwalk train station. He turned it into the Factory Outlet Center, the first such urban development in the US. Rand real estate has done 40 or so projects since.

The 117-room Westport Inn is one of those properties.

Its most recent owner was Bridgewater. When Randel asked the hedge fund’s facilities manager if they’d sell, the answer was yes. The deal closed last November.

He’s now the lead partner in WI Associates. The other investors are also Westport residents. They were not sure what they’d do with the 3.8-acre property. But it’s a great location, and they knew they could be both creative and constructive with it.

After conversations with hospitality and housing experts, and neighbors, they had an idea. It’s not yet complete. But the outline is intriguing.

Working with the Greenwich Hospitality Group — owners of the Delamar hotels in Southport and Greenwich, and operators now of the Inn at Longshore and La Plage restaurant — they plan to take down the original, front building.

The 42 rooms in the rear building — built 25 or so years ago — would be upgraded. The ballroom would become a restaurant and conference areas. There would be outdoor seating and gardens. But 1 1/2 acres behind — a dedicated conservation area — would not be touched.

In addition, 16 to 18 units would be built, nearest the Willows Pediatric building. They would be unlike anything in Fairfield County: “condo-tels,” or condos with access to all hotel services, including concierge, housekeeping, room service, security, and the pool and fitness center.

At 1,700 to 1,900 square feet, Randel says they would appeal to empty nesters, Florida snowbirds, and people their older parents living nearby, among others.

To help meet Connecticut’s 8-30g housing regulation, the developers are targeting 20% of the condo units as “affordable.” They’ll do that by building 3 or 4 of them off-site. They’re looking at several potential options.

All of this is subject to zoning approval.

It’s also not a slam dunk economically. As Randel notes, COVID has rocked the hotel industry. But, he says, “if we provide quality hospitality, housing and a restaurant — at prices comparable to the Delamar, which has been successful even during the pandemic — we are very optimistic.”

The next step, says engineer Rick Redniss, is filing a text change application with Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, and conversations with neighbors.

 

14 responses to “More Room At The Westport Inn

  1. I’m not an expert on this, but to the extent we still need to build affordable housing to follow 8-30g this seems like the kind of location you would want to build it. It’s on the bus route, near Stop and Shop and a parcel where denser housing would be more consistent with current use. Seems strange to agree to actually have less affordable housing on the property and move it elsewhere to meet the regulations.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      As I recall, back in 2014 the owner of the Westport Inn proposed to convert the property into a 200 unit apartment building using 8-30g to get around Westport’s restrictive zoning. While negotiations probably would have scaled that back as it has subsequently done with other developments, in full “keep the riff-raff out of town” mode, Westport facilitated the sale to a more friendly developer.

      Since Westport is now has an 8-30g moratorium, at least for now the developer can’t force anything down the town’s throat. On the other hand, this a less dense usage than what could otherwise be built there. But you are correct, this would be a more obvious place than, say, Old Hill for affordable housing that seemingly inevitably will have to be built.

      It seems at some level, if Westporters are looking to actually do something about “affordable housing” and “equity” beyond just putting up signs in yards or going to a rally or two, they would be encouraging the town to more aggressively address the issue, with this location presenting an interesting opportunity. Even the anti “riff-raff” crowd might want to think about supporting controlled development if for no other reason than to preclude some future complete state override of single family zoning that could result in a multi-family dwelling being built next door to them.

  2. Any sense of what that “condotels” would cost? Very interesting idea.

    • David J. Loffredo

      The ones at the Delamar in Southport sell very quickly for usually around $1M. It’s a great idea for that space, I’m sure they’ll be gone quickly.

  3. Hope they consider some “on site” affordable housing. It would be a great location. I hope they also consider “pool memberships.” I’d go for it.

    • Peter Gambaccini

      My parents rented a “cabana” at the pool 55 years ago. For them, It was preferable to Compo and I didn’t disagree..

  4. Very interesting price history. It sold for as much as $13m a few years ago. The new owners got it for $5m. Town’s last appraisal puts it in the $5 range. So Bridgewater took quite a hit.

  5. I presume on site affordable housing will be a given.
    The idea is not to shove the affordable housing off somewhere else. Can you imagine what precedent that would set.
    And as Clark and gina mentioned it’s a perfect spot to put affordable housing.
    Maybe 10 units of affordable housing instead of 3 or 4.
    Fabulous location for it too.. bus route, schools, and access to groceries. If they are looking for a more concentrated number of units than would ever be allowed they should have to also match that with extra affordable housing units..
    may we all remember the only difference between affordable housing units and non is that they are priced at a fair market value and not at some overinflated gouge price.
    These developers should be thrilled to have them.
    Ciara

  6. I missed your comment Joshua.
    Yes quite the hit if we are in full knowledge of the facts.
    I’m not sure how that kind of acreage on the post road would ever be valued at only 5 million.. when a single family house on 1 acre off long lots can be worth 5million.
    It would seem we are in fact not privy to all the facts here. Possibly a complicated transaction involving cash or partnership ? But did someone buy it for 13m and sell it for 5m. I think absolutely not

    • you can look at the sales history online. it sold for $12.35m and was just recorded at $5m. before the $12m it was sold for over $13m. the question is why is it only appraised at $5m if its really worth more (is it)? is the town missing out on some tax revenue? or were the earlier prices paid overvaluing it. you are right we don’t know what happened but the sale prices are clear and its also clear that along the way someone made out like a bandit and/or lost $$$.

  7. A hidden gem was the Treehouse Comedy Club in a basement room. No long drive to Bridgeport or New Haven to have a laugh.
    Impossible now-a-days as they’d pack you in like sardines.

  8. I think one problem with the “Affordable Housing” dilemma is the massive buildings being proposed. The units built on the former trailer park site are attractive, and I never heard any objection to them. It’s obvious that the developers are trying to maximize their profits while throwing a few crumbs to the less fortunate.

  9. I sincerely hope well-off Westporters realize that Affordable Housing is owned by the likes of healthcare workers other than doctors, teachers, social workers, childcare providers, librarians, etc–people who are usually well-educated (often very well educated) who work in moderately paid jobs and cannot afford housing prices in many US locations. They more often than not comprise the backbone of their community. They simply have to live where they must but cannot afford the exorbitant housing prices. No riff-raff among these hard workers.

  10. CAROLANNE CURRY

    Did the developers have a pre-conversation with the P and Z Chair to get away with the “off-site” affordable housing move. Not right, not right, not right. This subverts the intention of 8-30g. And the developers know this as well as they know their own name!
    I

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