It’s a jarring sight.
On one side of Post Road West, heading toward town, sits the classic-looking Kings Highway Elementary School.
A few yards away — on the other side of Burr Road — looms an industrial-type building, showing its age.
The current name is nondescript: Westport Rehabilitation Complex. So was the previous one: Westport Health Care Center. Many Westporters still call it “Mediplex.”
It looks like a stereotypical “nursing” or “old age home.” Sure, those are outdated terms.
But so is the structure.
Next Monday (June 27, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing on a text amendment that would substantially change the look of the building.
And adapt its use to more modern “senior care.”
Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm, who has been involved in Westport projects like the renovation of Richmondville Mill and the conversion of 136 Riverside Avenue to housing for adults with special needs — hopes to expand the current standards for nursing homes to include a new medical facility specializing in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairment care.
The new proposal would gut renovate the interior, and redo the façade and roof, but essentially maintain the current footprint. Additional square footage would be added to the top 2 floors, to accommodate the new use.
The existing 120 beds would be reduced by almost half, to 68 units. Redniss notes that memory care — a growing segment of eldercare — requires a less intense use of staff than a skilled nursing home, too.
The property would be modernized and enhanced, with better landscaping and protections for nearby residents.
This is not the first time a new use has been proposed for the old site.
During the past few years, the landlord has submitted applications or pre-application requests to either change the use to a luxury hotel, or demolish the existing structure and construct a new assisted living facility.
Both proposals faced obstacles, and were withdrawn.
The timing now is important. Westport Rehabilitation has an option to extend their lease, and continue to operate as they have been. An agreement in place would allow this new project to proceed.
Redniss says that feedback from town departments and engineers — as well as a pre-application meeting with P&Z — has been included in this current plan.
And, he adds, the height and feel of the renovation will complement the elementary school directly across the street.
(The June 27 public hearing will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. at westportct.gov, Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent prior to the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov. Interested parties may offer live testimony via Zoom.)
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I’m old enough to remember it by its original name: Westport Manor. My grandmother spent her final days there way back in 1974.