Category Archives: Downtown

Pic Of The Day #183

Saugatuck River by the Levitt Pavilion (Photo/Jeb Backus)

Friday Flashback #61

Westporters have watched with interest as renovations begin on 1 Wilton Road.

That’s the quaint little building squatting underneath the massive Wright Street office project.

Today it’s one of the many frustrating reasons for back-ups at the Post Road West/Riverside Avenue intersection. Plans to move the building to create a turning lane have been rejected (perhaps to rise again, in the future).

Once upon a time, that section of town was less chaotic. Back in the day, a man could stroll down the middle of State Street — past a still-familiar streetscape that includes National Hall (now The ‘Port restaurant).

But I’m sure turn-of-the-20th-century Westporters found plenty to complain about.

Look at that mud! Those rocks, and the wagon ruts!

And I know some folks thought that watering trough didn’t need to be smack in the center of the road.

1 Wilton Road

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.

1 Wilton Road, circa 1975. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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.

Nope.

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.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new office building (center) and condos (right) on the former Save the Children property, as seen from Parker Harding Plaza. The Post Road bridge and National Hall are on left.

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.

Scaffolding at 1 Wilton Road. The building is dwarfed by the Wright Street office complex. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

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.

You Want Vermin With That Order?

It’s a regular “06880” feature. Not as frequent as bad/entitled/obnoxious parkers, but still annoyingly often.

The gross garbage dump in Parker Harding Plaza.

The most recent “06880” post was on June 14.

One of the 18 comments was from the Downtown Merchants Association:

The Westport DMA has developed a detailed plan for improving downtown maintenance, where a majority of the costs will be handled by businesses, with some contribution from the Town for public areas, including roads, public parking lots and public buildings. This is to include both summer and winter maintenance, as well as trash.

The Town portion is still under discussion, made more challenging in the current budget climate. However, a specific plan to vastly improve the trash situation and general appearance for Parker Harding is in an advanced stage of collaborative approval (which will include a consolidated and upgraded trash area) and hopefully will be accomplished this summer.

Well, summer has come and gone. This was the view an hour ago:

Oh — you want a closeup of whatever it is the arrow is pointing to?

Yep, that’s some form of vermin.

Just the thing to enjoy with your grande vanilla bean creme frappuccino.

Silent Vigil Wednesday Morning For Las Vegas

The Westport Weston Clergy Association will gather downtown tomorrow morning (Wednesday, October 4, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

The goal is to show solidarity with the people of Las Vegas following Sunday night’s attack.

The group will hold the banner currently on display outside the United Methodist Church. It quotes Maya Angelou: “Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it hasn’t solved one yet.”

All members of the community are invited to join in the silent prayer vigil, standing together against hate and violence.

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge is the site of Wednesday morning’s silent vigil.(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Green Marine

Falls seems like it’s finally here.

Last week though, temperatures soared into the 90s. And Staples High School students Abi Genser and Michael Lederer dropped in on downtown businesses whose wide-open doors spewed air conditioning onto the (large empty) sidewalks.

Excuses ranged from “the head office says it increases business” to “I’m not the owner. I don’t make those decisions.”

Abi and Michael were not impressed. They’re members of Westport’s new Earth Guardians group. Along with the Westport Green Task Force, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants Association, they encourage businesses to keep doors closed when the air conditioning — or heat — is on.

Of all the stores they visited — accompanied by Earth Guardians founder Carla Paiva and Green Task Force member Pippa Bell Ader — only one had its door closed.

Kudos to Marine Layer!

To be honest, I’d never heard of this store before Pippa emailed me.

But their closed door will make me more — not less — interested in checking it out.

Age Of Reason Reopens

In May, Age of Reason closed.

Fans of the unique toy store mourned. Founded in 1983, it became a Westport favorite for items hand-picked to deliver creative, developmental and educational encouragement and enjoyment.

With no sign — and no message on its answering machine — it seemed Age of Reason was one more victim of the Toys R Us/Amazon one-two punch.

But this is even better than Toy Story.

The shop was merely closed for 5 months. Now it’s reopened at 9 Post Road West — 4 doors down from its previous location. It’s between Winfield Deli and Stephen Kempson custom tailor.

Age of Reason has swapped spots with a bridal shop. The brides needed more space; the kids, a bit less.

Sounds “reason”able — and wonderful — to me!

Pic Of The Day #166

The alley by the old Bobby Q’s — now being renovated for Bedford Square. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Lee Lives!

The death of Lee Papageorge more than a year ago left a hole in the heart of downtown.

He’d closed Oscar’s — the deli he owned for more than 40 years — just a week earlier.

The end of Oscar’s meant more than the loss of a place with great pastrami and pickles. There was now no place on Main Street for a meal with friends — a spot where regulars always sat at the same table, and everyone (or at least the counter guys) knew your name.

Rye Ridge — the popular Stamford and Rye Brook kosher-style deli — signed a lease. It’s taken many months to renovate the site. But the good news is: They’re opening in a couple of weeks.

Rye Ridge renovations are nearly done.

The better news is: Some of Oscar’s old employees may be back.

And here’s the icing on the cake lox on the bagel: The owner of the new deli arranged with the Papageorge family to hang the iconic Oscar’s mural in the same spot it had been since 1982.

The Oscar’s mural — back at Rye Ridge Deli. (Photos/David Waldman)

Many regulars depicted on the wall are gone. So of course is Lee — the guy with the beard and red apron, all the way on the left.

Now he’s back, standing proudly with his friends and customers.

Rye Ridge’s reverence for the past is important. Here’s wishing them a run as long and successful as Oscar’s — and Lee’s.

Friday Flashback #59

Last week’s Friday Flashback featured the Tally Ho restaurant. Located near the intersection of the Post Road and Main Street, the popular American restaurant closed shortly after the 1950 photo was taken (click here to see).

In its place came West Lake: Westport’s 1st Chinese restaurant. At the time, that cuisine was considered exotic.

Last week’s photo showed the Saugatuck River lapping against the back of Tally Ho.

A few years later, the river was filled in. Parker Harding Plaza — quickly dubbed the Harder Parking lot — was created.

Here’s the rear entrance to West Lake. The brick building to the right housed the Westport Library (today, it’s Freshii and Starbucks).

As for the 3-story Main Street building whose back we see in this image: It’s still there.

But it’s hidden by new construction.