Category Archives: Downtown

Wired!

Yesterday, “06880” posted Jennifer Johnson’s gorgeous photo of Bedford Square.

Sitting outside SoNo bakery, an alert “06880” reader noticed how lovely Seabury Center — across from the new construction — looked in the afternoon light.

She snapped this photo:

seabury-center

Gazing down Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she shot another:

christ-holy-trinity-church

But as she peered closer, she saw what she believes is a new utility pole.

Suddenly, she wondered: Will this lovely scene soon become a jumble of overhead power and cable lines?

She looked back toward Elm Street, and saw this cluttered mess:

elm-street

Last summer, she thought that all the work on Church Lane meant that utility wires would be buried underground.

Now she’s unsure.

And very, very worried.

15 Belden Place: Little Red House Saved!

In early December, “06880” broke the story about the proposed demolition of #7 and #15 Belden Place — the tiny, seldom-noticed piece of Main Street property just past Avery Place, opposite Veterans Green and Town Hall.

Not many people cared about the 1st building. But boy, did they howl about the 2nd.

#15 is listed in the Westport Historic District Commission inventory. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River (with quite a view!). Readers flooded the comments section of that story — and one with 3 other photos — decrying the proposal.

15 Belden Place (Westport Historic Resources Inventory, courtesy of Wendy Crowther)

15 Belden Place (Westport Historic Resources Inventory, courtesy of Wendy Crowther)

We haven’t heard much about Belden Place since then. But today alert “06880” reader — and preservation activist — Morley Boyd writes:

Here’s a testament to the 06880 community and its passion for all things Westport.

At a Historic District Commission hearing Tuesday night — just in time for Valentine’s Day — representatives for the new owner of the iconic red house by the Saugatuck River revealed plans to fully restore the beloved local landmark.

“06880” readers were quite vocal when plans to demolish the iconic early 20th century dwelling surfaced late last year. Westporter Peter Nisenson — the property’s contract purchaser, and principal of Westport-based PEN Building Company — took those concerns to heart. He said, “We heard the public and we took  its advice. In many ways this is now a much more interesting project.”

A 2000 view of 15 Belden Place, taken from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Andrea Fine)

A 2000 view of 15 Belden Place, taken from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Andrea Fine)

On the same property, as part of its plan for retail and residential development, PEN intends to also save the large antique building that fronts Main Street which once housed Nappa Sales.

PEN officials noted the uniquely picturesque setting of 15 Belden Place, a building they refer to even on their official site plan as “The Red House.” Provided they can secure the needed zoning variances, the modest structure will remain in its original setting — though slightly raised to prevent further flood damage.

PEN intends to then make repairs as needed to return the house to residential use — but with an eye to preserving its vintage appearance. While the windows will be replaced in kind, the location of the original openings will be kept as they were.

Although the structure will also receive new systems, one thing about Westport’s most famous little house that Pen representatives will  not change: the color.

Robert Storm, the project’s architect, stated: “We peeled off a chip of the red paint. We’re going to match it.”

15 Belden Place, as seen from the parking lot off Main Street.

15 Belden Place, as seen from the parking lot off Main Street.

Bedford Square Takes Shape …

… and it looks like it’s been here forever!

Thanks to WestportNow and photographer Jennifer Johnson for this great photo!

bedford-square-february-17

Give A Little Le Rouge Love: The Sequel

On Sunday, “06880” gave a shout-out to Aarti Khosla. The owner of Le Rouge — the fantastic downtown artisan chocolate shop — is offering handmade hearts for just $5 each. She wants folks to give them to people who have made a difference in someone’s life. “Give a Little Love,” she calls her campaign.

Yesterday, there were lines out the door. Today, countless customers handed out untold numbers of chocolate hearts. What a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Aarti welcomes photos of the recipients. She’ll display them on a “Wall of Love” in her cafe.

You’ll want to see it. But here’s a sneak peek:

give-a-little-love-skye-trader-joes

That’s Doris Ghitelman, bestowing her random act of kindness on Shy, one of Trader Joe’s superb employees.

“She always greets me with a smile, and inspires me with her generous spirit and drive,” Doris says. “Today I let her know how much I appreciate her.”

Doris adds: “When she’s not working at Trader Joe’s, Shy is an immigration law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.”

Aarti’s campaign runs all through February. So there’s plenty of time for all of us to join Doris and Shy, and “give a little love.”

Sidewalk Snow: The Sequel

On Thursday, we got a foot of snow.

Yesterday, “06880” posted a photo of a sidewalk that had not yet been shoveled.

Within a couple of hours, it was.

Then came today’s snow.

Once again it was shoveled. But when the Post Road was plowed, snow was heaped back on the sidewalk.

And snow it goes…

The section of Post Road sidewalk that was cleared, cleared again, then partly covered by plowed snow. (Photo/Adrian Little)

The section of Post Road sidewalk that was cleared, cleared again, then partly covered by plowed snow. (Photo/Adrian Little)

Give A Little Le Rouge Love

Westport is a community with a heart. Many merchants go out of their way to help worthy causes, large and small.

Aarti Khosla takes that idea one step further.

Literally.

For years, the owner of Le Rouge — the fantastic downtown artisan chocolate shop — has  brought a little love into her devoted customers’ lives.

Now — in honor of Valentine’s Day — she’s launching a “Give a Little Love” campaign. The idea is for all of us to share love, during these trying times.

Stop in at her store (190 Main Street, just below the old Sally’s Place) any time, starting today. Pick up a hand-painted chocolate heart for $5 (a great price!). Her only request is that you share these hearts with unsuspecting folks in our community: a school custodian. Your favorite Trader Joe’s checkout clerk. The gas station guy who fills your tires and refuses money. A stranger at the Senior Center.

These are the hand-painted chocolates that Aarti hopes we'll pass along.

The hand-painted chocolate hearts that Aarti hopes we’ll pass along.

These random acts of kindness are “our way of showing we’re a loving community,” Aarti says.

She should know. As a 1st-generation immigrant, she understands firsthand the importance of feeling welcomed.

As a business owner, she considers giving back to the community a privilege.

And as a citizen, she recognizes the value our individual differences bring to our towns. After living around the world, this is her home.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Aarti Khosla, in her red-and-black-themed chocolate shop.

Aarti hopes you’ll take a photo of the moment you “Give a Little Love.” Then email it to lerouge.aarti@gmail.com. She’ll mount those photos as a “Wall of Love” in her cafe, celebrating our broad and loving community.

“Too often, our differences appear insurmountable,” she explains.  “This year, these differences will become our strengths.”

Aarti has other heart-felt plans. She’ll give dozens of Le Rouge chocolate hearts to organizations in Westport, Weston, Norwalk, Bridgeport and surrounding communities. It’s one more way to show that “love matters.”

In the coming weeks, Aarti will open early on weekends. She invites anyone to come and actually make chocolate hearts with her, to give out.

Finally, Aarti will donate 10 percent from the sale of items in this “Give a Little Love” campaign to charity. She’ll honor a different organization each month. Aarti is in this for the long haul.

Which causes will benefit? Aarti wants you to choose. Just click “Comments” below to nominate your favorite. Or stop in to the store, and tell her personally.

February is the shortest month of the year. Thanks to Aarti Khosla, this year it will be the most loving too.

Another piece of Le Rouge love.

Another piece of Le Rouge love.

Post Road Protest: 2017-Style

In the 1960s and ’70s, it was the Vietnam War.

Then it was nuclear disarmament. Later, Iraq and Afghanistan.

These days, it’s Trump’s immigration policy.

This morning, protesters were out in force on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

You know — the one named for the Westport woman who spent her life working with the UN, trying to bring the world closer together.

(Photo/Sarah Green)

(Photo/Sarah Green)

 

Downtown Aerial View: The Sequel

Yesterday’s “Friday Flashback” featured an aerial view of Westport, circa 1965. Readers remarked on long-lost icons like the Victorian house on Gorham Island, and long-lamented additions like the Wright Street building.

In case you missed it, here it is:

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

And now — if you’d like to compare — here’s what downtown looks like today.

downtown-westport-aerial-view-2016

Alert reader Glenn Payne sent along this Google Earth view.

You can tell it’s recent, because Bedford Square is under construction, and the Kemper-Gunn house has already been moved from Church Lane to Elm Street.

Click on or hover over both images to enlarge. They get bigger — just like downtown did.

Friday Flashback #27

As Bedford Square nears completion — and an Elm Street/Baldwin parking lot land swap is back in the news — it’s a great time for a bird’s-eye view of downtown Westport, 1965-style.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

It’s tough to see the old Y (new Bedford Square), or any part of Elm Street, thanks to the trees. But this photo — by R.P. Lentini, courtesy of alert “06880” reader Matt Murray — intrigues me for several reasons. Among them:

  • The old Victorian house still stood on Gorham Island
  • The Wright Street building was a decade in the future
  • The building between Christ & Holy Trinity Church, and what is now Seabury Center.

What stands out for you? Click “Comments” below.

Villa Del Sol Sequel: Land Swap Still Alive

This morning’s “06880,” on the travails of Villa Del Sol during the construction phase of Bedford Square, noted that “a proposed land swap — exchanging the restaurant and adjacent parking lot for a parcel across the street — has been scuttled.”

However, despite reports in local media, that land swap is still very much alive.

Second Selectman Avi Kaner said this afternoon that the town has continued negotiations with David Waldman, developer of Bedford Square. That retail/residential project — on the site of the former YMCA — stretches along Church Street, with an entrance on Elm Street.

Kaner says the town and Waldman are close to an agreement on a deal. Details are unavailable. However, the original plan would have traded 36 Elm Street — the site of Villa del Sol — for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman hoped to build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green, with small retail stores and 4 apartments.

Under the original plan the town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery.

A view looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

A view of the original land swap looking south. Villa del Sol is the building outlined in yellow at the top. Brooks Corner shopping center is at bottom center. A new building would be built in the outlined lower yellow section.

Kaner presented a status report at a Board of Finance executive session last week, and solicited negotiating advice.

Based on that discussion, he says, it is likely that the Elm Street/Baldwin lot land exchange will be discussed and voted on in an open public session, at the finance board’s April meeting.

Any decision would be subject to approval by other town bodies. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already given the swap a positive 8-24 review.

In this artist's rendering, Here’s an artist’s rendering. The new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left; across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

In this artist’s rendering, the new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left. Across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.