Category Archives: Real estate

Unsung Hero #3

If you’re a Westporter, you probably know Mike Calise.

The 1958 Staples High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran runs the longtime and very successful Settlers & Traders real estate firm. He’s a frequent attendee at town meetings, making sure nothing slips through our boards and commissions’ cracks.

Mike Calise with his sweetheart, Sally.

You can find him almost any day — in any weather — at Compo Beach. That’s where he hangs out, by himself or with his extended family. He keeps a loving eye on it too.

Mike and his grandkids. Cookouts on the beach are a family tradition. The food often comes from Calise’s deli — the market his family established in the 1930s,.

Mike has a great back story. While still at Staples, he boxed in the New York Golden Gloves tournament.

While stationed at Camp Lejeune, he bought a 9-passenger Pontiac Safari station wagon. Each weekend he ran a North Carolina to New York transport service ($15 each way; 658 miles in 11 hours).

His mother Louise — of Calise’s market fame — packed a large bag of delicious meatball and eggplant sandwiches for every trip back.

Mike Calise, Staples Class of 1958.

As a Marine from 1958 to ’63, he was assigned to Force Recon — an elite group that was always first on shore. They trained with daily long distance runs and swims.

Mike started an Arnold bread truck route in 1963. He founded Settlers & Traders in 1967. In 2008, he received a Historic Preservation Award for the restoration of  his office building at 215 Post Road West. This year, his real estate firm celebrates 50 years.

For all his life — going back to his family’s stores on Post Road West and East — he’s been an important part of life here. He’s a longtime member of the Republican Town Committee; a former delegate to the state Republican convention, and served on the RTM and Architectural Review Board.

Mike loves nature, gardening and canoeing. No morning at the beach is complete without his “Compo Gumbo.”

He loves Compo so much, he’s got it on his license plate:

Mike cherishes his family: his longtime sweetheart Sally; his 5 children (Catherine, Sandra, Maria, Bettina and Frank), and 7 grandkids (Francesca, Trent, CJ, Reed, Charlotte, Cameron and Caleigh).

They love him right back.

As does the rest of Westport — the town he’s loved for over 70 years.

Mike Calise, in a familiar pose.

[OPINION] Saugatuck Resident Thanks P&Z For Tesla Response

Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission heard public comment on a text amendment to allow an electric car service center — and possibly a dealership — on Saugatuck Avenue.

Most of the public was not in favor of the plan. The P&Z heard concerns loud and clear. They’ll revisit the proposal on July 6.

Opponents of the plan — which involves Tesla — took heart from the meeting. Saugatuck resident and “06880” reader Marilyn Harding writes:

Last night the residents of Saugatuck did a brilliant job — through strategies that encompassed fact-based data, tell-tale photographs and their passion of purpose— that saved Saugatuck from a future of more traffic chaos, more misuse of land, and more reckless change to a historic community. Their presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission fully demonstrates how local communities can work together successfully to preserve the town of Westport.

20 Saugatuck Avenue — the site where Tesla hoped to build a service facility.

The P & Z deserves bunches of kudos for their sound judgment in steering an electric car company away from the already overcrowded streets of Saugatuck, but did embrace the innovative brand.

P &Z members extended welcoming invitations to Tesla, alerting them to locations on the Post Road where the required commercial zoning is permitted for car dealers.

The P & Z took yet another step forward, acknowledging the value of their predecessors’ work when town regulations were written and designed to safeguard Westport’s authenticity as a historic New England town.

Congratulations to the Saugatuck residents, members of the P & Z, and to the wonderful, creative Westporters who have gone before us!

Famed Studio Falls Tomorrow

Last month, “06880” told the tale of Bernie Fuchs’ studio. It — and the entire Old Hill neighborhood home that once belonged to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductee — was slated for demolition.

The studio was originally built by another famed artist, R. G. Harris.

Today, a bulldozer in place.

The famed studio is on the 2nd floor, upper right.

Tomorrow, one more link to Westport’s artists’ colony heritage will be lost.

Pardon His Westport

After graduating from Staples High School in 1988, Chris Pardon headed to Marquette University.

“It was good to get out of the Northeast,” he says of the Milwaukee school. “I saw a part of the country and met people I wouldn’t have if I stayed in the area.”

But as a journalism and broadcast communications major, most work was on the coasts. His first job was as an NBC page — so he moved back home.

Then it was on to Turner Broadcasting, where he’s been ever since. He now works on the business side, with CNN.

Pardon’s career and personal lives followed a path familiar to many Staples grads. He lived on the Upper East Side, got married, had a kid, and landed in Brooklyn.

Though his son was in a “decent” public school, it was crowded. A year and a half ago Pardon and his wife Ria decided the time was right to move to the ‘burbs.

Chris and Ria Pardon, with their son.

Her family is from Scarsdale. Pardon’s parents still live here, in the same house they raised him in. So he and Ria started looking in Westchester and Fairfield Counties.

They spent a lot of time searching for the right spot. But Westchester property taxes were “staggering.” And, Pardon says, “there are places like Chappaqua, with great schools. But there’s nothing to do there.”

In Connecticut, they did everything they could to avoid Westport — mainly because of the long commute.

But the homes they saw in Greenwich did not appeal to them. In Darien, everything affordable and likable was next to 95 or Metro-North. New Canaan — well, it’s not on the water.

It took some convincing for his wife to agree to look at the town where Pardon’s brother Doug had just bought a house, and where his parents live too.

A couple of open houses opened her eyes. And, Pardon says, “We were surprised how much further our money went in Westport.”

He knew about “great music and arts in the schools. Compo blows other Fairfield County beaches away.” But, he admits, “If I didn’t know what I was getting into, I wouldn’t want to be this far out.”

Two days before Christmas, they moved into the Old Hill neighborhood.

One surprise was the 4-year wait list for a train station parking permit. Fortunately, the shuttle bus travels along Pardon’s new street.

The Westport transit bus is a great — and unexpected — Westport perk for Doug Pardon.

“The realtor told us, but I didn’t realize how important that is,” he says.

“I thought I’d just pay $5 a day for parking. But I take the bus every day. We didn’t have to buy a 2nd car. That’s the greatest thing ever.”

He uses the app to see where the bus is in the morning. In the afternoon, it drops him off in front of his house.

Some things have changed — there’s a “new” high school, and Bedford Square “is amazing” in place of the old Y — but Pardon settled quickly into his old/new home town.

His wife took their son to a Coleytown Middle School play. “They were blown away!” he says. She has gone to school breakfasts, and met other parents.

Pardon is also surprised by the number of people he recognizes. Far more than he realized have stayed around — or, like he, returned.

“I feel like a bit of a townie,” he says. “I know there are new restaurants, and I look forward to going. But so far we’ve only been to the Duck and Dunville’s — the towniest places around.”

BREAKING NEWS: Judge Dismisses Application For Wilton Road Housing Complex

The Town of Westport has won a major land-use victory.

The Wilton Road/North Kings Highway intersection will not be the site of an enormous new housing complex.

Judge Marshall Berger of Hartford District Superior Court has dismissed an appeal by Garden Homes of a unanimous decision by the Planning & Zoning Commission. In February 2016, the board denied an application by the Stamford-based developer to build a 6-story, 48-unit apartment complex on one of the busiest, most environmentally sensitive corners of Westport.

The judge’s decision noted grave concerns about safety, and damage to wetlands adjacent to the 1.16-acre parcel.

122 Wilton Road — site of Garden Homes’ proposed 6-story, 48-unit apartment building — sits at the corner of Kings Highway North. The property abuts the Taylortown Salt Marsh.

Garden Homes sought approval using an 8-30g application. That Connecticut statute allows developers to override local zoning regulations if less than 10% of a town’s housing stock is “affordable” (according to state formulas).

However, yesterday Judge Berger noted that fire and environmental concerns referenced as substantial public interests clearly outweighed the need for affordable housing.

In addition, the judge criticized Garden Homes’ tactic of rushing their application through the approval process, refusing to grant the P&Z and other town officials sufficient time. The developer also failed to provide alternate plans or additional information.

For full details on the case, click here.

The Taylortown Salt Marsh, next to the proposed apartment complex on Wilton Road.

 

First Citizens Of Westport

One man revitalized downtown Westport with a building project. The other revitalizes lives, providing homeless people with buildings to sleep in.

Both men — David Waldman and Jeff Wieser — will be honored as “First Citizens.” The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce presents the awards on Tuesday, June 13, at a dinner at the Boathouse restaurant.

Waldman is principal of David Adam Realty. Under his leadership, Bedford Square — the former Westport YMCA — has been transformed into a lively retail/restaurant/residential complex.

That’s just the latest achievement in Waldman’s 26-year commercial real estate career.

David Waldman proudly shows off the Flemish brick used in Bedford Square.

A near-native, he arrived here in town age 1. His father — a marketer — moved here because Westport was “the marketing capital of the world.” He built buildings to house his business. He sold the company, kept the buildings, and a real estate firm was born.

David attended Coleytown Elementary and Junior High. He graduated from St. Luke’s and Syracuse University, then returned to Westport in 1991 — just in time for a real estate downturn.

Waldman persevered. His initial project — renovating the Art’s Deli block on Post Road West, including apartments above — provided him with his first understanding of “process, politics and zoning.”

He and his wife Yvette — “the one who grounds me and gets me through life” — have 3 children: Rachel, Jacob and Ava. He calls them “my greatest accomplishments.”

Yet Bedford Square — created in conjunction with several partners — is not too shabby either. By developing adjacent Church Lane and Elm Street, Waldman has “tried to make positive change. We’re taking the town where the world is moving — a little more walkable and connected.”

David Waldman (center), at the opening of Bedford Square.

He calls himself “blessed to live, work and play in the same town. Sometimes that’s difficult. But it’s nice to see people enjoy our work.”

Now he’s turning his attention to nearby Sconset Square, and the former Save the Children site across the river.

“I’m only 47 years old,” Waldman notes. “It’s nice to have public recognition. But at the end of the day, the product on the ground is what I’m proudest of.”

Waldman’s fellow First Citizen honoree Wieser represents the non-profit sector. In 7 years as CEO and president of Homes With Home — Westport’s supportive housing umbrella — he has nearly doubled the number of beds, added new services, and engineered a merger with Project Return (the North Compo residence for teenage girls and young women).

Homes With Hope is believed to be one of only 4 such organizations in a town like Westport in the nation.

Jeff Wieser

This is Wieser’s 2nd career. A New York banker with stints in Australia and Hong Kong, he and his wife Pat moved here in 1985.

Their choice of Westport was happenstance — they just wanted a “commutable suburb” (a town-owned golf course and beaches were added attractions) — but it soon became home.

With 2 young children, the Wiesers quickly met lifelong friends.

Wieser served on the Homes With Hope board for 15 years. He had not thought of working there. But when founder Rev. Peter Powell retired, and several people asked Wieser to step up, he realized that after 30-plus years in banking, he was ready.

His wife said, “This is something you wanted to do all your life.”

She was right. “It’s been a wonderful change,” he says.

Wieser is proud that his organization has been supported so well — and so long — by town officials and private citizens.

Jeff Wieser (Homes With Hope CEO) and a lobster. The event was a “build a sand castle” fundraiser for Homes With Hope.

“Westport cares about our neediest neighbors,” he says. “Homes With Hope is a model for all suburban communities.”

Wieser hopes to keep it growing. “There’s still plenty to do,” he notes. “We’re getting chronic homelessness under control. The much bigger challenge now is affordable housing.”

Waldman and Wieser are not the only 2 Westporters to be honored by the Chamber of Commerce. “Young Entrepreneurs” Aishah Avdiu, Remy Glick, James O’Brien and Phoebe Spears — from Staples and Weston High Schools — will be feted too.

Westporter David Pogue — technology columnist/Emmy-winning TV personality/author/musician/New York Times, CBS News, Scientific American, Yahoo Tech and PBS star — is the keynote speaker.

We can’t all be First Citizens. But it’s clear — and the Chamber of Commerce recognizes — that Westport is blessed with far more than one.

(Tickets for the June 13 dinner are $80 each. Tables of 10 are also available. For more information, click here.)

Arts Campus On Baron’s South? P&Z Draws The Line.

The Westport Arts Center is a wonderful, vibrant place.

It’s also wholly inadequate.

Essentially one long room on Riverside Avenue — with a spectacular view of the Saugatuck River — it functions as a small studio and gallery. But it can host only one meeting, lecture, concert, class or exhibit at a time.

Given Westport’s long arts heritage — and the interest of so many Westporters, from senior citizens to kids, in art in all its forms — it’s no wonder the WAC has sought more suitable digs.

Last fall, town representatives approached the organization. Would the WAC be interested in preserving and using Golden Shadows — the main building on the southeast corner of 23-acre Baron’s South (named for the perfume developed by its previous owner, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff) — for exhibits and performances?

Golden Shadows. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town soon came back with a new question: Would the WAC like to take over the other 3 long-neglected buildings there too?

Meanwhile, a group of veteran, well-respected local artists and photographers — including Leonard Everett Fisher, Ann Chernow, Miggs Burroughs, Niki Ketchman and Larry Silver — had been meeting regularly to discuss their own idea.

These “deans” of the Westport arts scene wanted a dedicated museum-type space to preserve the town’s artistic legacy.

And at the same time, folks like Burroughs, Westport arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, RTM moderator Eileen Lavigne Flug and the Westport Historical  Society’s Bob Mitchell were seeking ways to involve the WAC more fully with other arts organizations in town.

The result was a public/private partnership to create a “community arts campus” at Baron’s South.

As presented last night by 3rd Selectman Helen Garten, at a Planning & Zoning Commission pre-application meeting, there would be 3 phases:

  1. The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows, retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
  2. The WAC would lease and restore the  Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
  3. They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.

The house next door to Golden Shadows. The plan would have leased it to artists.

“Leasing all 4 buildings to a single user is the best way to ensure minimal impact on the public open space and surrounding neighborhood,” Garten said.

“Instead of 4 separate buildings, each accessed by its own roadway and each with its own use, there will be a single integrated property.” It would function much as the baron’s estate did, decades ago.

However, P&Z members gave the arts campus plan a frosty reception last night. A pre-app meeting is intended to give applicants a sense of what the zoning board feels about a plan. Commissioners insisted that the concept is too intense for the “light use” zoning of Baron’s South. It’s zoned as “passive recreational open space.”

Arts advocates were unsure last night what their next step will be.

Back to the drawing board they go.

A view into Golden Shadows’ central parlor shows a chandelier and handsome circular staircase. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town currently owns 72 Compo Road South, on the eastern edge of Baron’s South. This was planned to be gallery space.

NIMBY Or Not?

An email — asking recipients to circulate a petition opposing the proposed Tesla service center and/or dealership on Saugatuck Avenue — is making its way around town.

Click here for background info, provided in the email’s link to a website called SaveSaugatuck.org.

20 Saugatuck Avenue — site of the proposed Tesla facility.

The email itself says:

If you don’t live in Saugatuck, you may not have heard – but Tesla has proposed to open a dealership/service center/charging station in the vacant space at 20 Saugatuck Ave – they are looking to change zoning to do so.

Reaching out to see if you’d be willing to sign and help gather some signatures from your neighbors/friends for a petition to help prevent Tesla from changing the zoning in a way that would allow them to open a dealership right in the middle of the neighborhood. The zoning board votes on the proposal May 18th – so we need as many signatures by then as possible.

Wouldn’t want to presume we all feel the same way about this but think it would be bad for the neighborhood to have a busy dealership creating traffic on Saugatuck Avenue, an already congested area. There is also concern around cars being test-driven on local streets like Sunrise and Treadwell, as we love how walkable the neighborhood is and feel like it’ll be a safety concern having people driving cars they’re unfamiliar with on our streets–especially ones that go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.

We’d love to have a Tesla dealership in town, just up on the Post Rd where the other dealers are, just not in Saugatuck.

Without taking a position one way or the other on Tesla’s Saugatuck proposal, here’s my question:

What do residents of Greens Farms — where potential Maserati owners test drive those vehicles, often going 0 to 60 in 3 seconds — think?

Taking a Maserati out for a test drive.

Comey Can’t Come Home Again

Though he now needs a new job, former FBI director James Comey won’t be returning to Westport.

The former general counsel for Bridgewater sold his 3.17-acre, 7-bedroom, Westway Road home in January. The price was $2,475,000.

6 Westway Road (Photo/MLS)

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

What Do You Think Of The Town’s Plan For Conservation And Development?

A draft of Westport’s new Plan of Conservation and Development is online.

It’s 140 pages long, and covers things like:

  • Community character
  • Open space
  • Coastline
  • Business and economic development
  • Residential development
  • Sustainability
  • Cars, pedestrians, bikes and other transit
  • Infrastructure
  • Future land use

The Planning and Zoning Commission will refine it. There will be a workshop in June, and a public hearing on its adoption in September.

Right now, the P&Z invites public comment. Click here for the document; then email myoung@westportct.gov, with “POCD” in the subject line.

But hurry! The deadline for comments is Thursday, May 11.