Category Archives: Real estate

On The Meeting Docket — And Off

In November, Westport’s Parks & Recreation Commission unanimously approved construction of a new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach — the no-lifeguard, cookout grill, alcohol-permitted section beloved by picnickers and sunset-watchers.

The walkway will be similar to the one installed 2 years ago, from the pavilion near Joey’s to the cannons. Made of cement, it features wooden railings open to access every 2 cars.

It will connect to the current walkway at the cannons. It continues to the cut-through road near the kayak launch, then joins the gravel marina walkway via a crosswalk.

The current roadway would shift slightly north, to accommodate the new walkway. Several parking spots would be lost.

Plans for the new walkway and bathrooms at South Beach. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The bathroom — to be built on an unpaved area just south of the pickleball courts — will include an outdoor shower and water fountain. The exterior is white with blue trim, and brick accents.

The projected cost for the walkway is $429,643. The bathroom cost is $257,473.

This Thursday (February 15, 7 p.m., Town Hall), the Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss the proposal. The meeting is open to the public.

One meeting that will not be held is the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee. Their study — funded by a $450,000 state grant — was to be presented at a public session this Monday.

According to RTM member Matthew Mandell, “changes requested from the last meeting were so broad that there was no way to get a new draft in time.”

It’s unclear, Mandell adds, whether the public meeting will be rescheduled — or if there will be public comment at all.

He does not even know if the committee will vote to accept the report — which includes parking decks, new housing units, new retail and office play, but did not include a traffic study.

The state has extended the deadline for the TOD report to be filed. It’s now due in late March.

Phil Levieff Is In The TecKnow

Phil Levieff takes his hands off his Tesla’s steering wheel. The self-driving car zooms up Sturges Highway. It avoids an oncoming vehicle. It does not crash into a mailbox on my (passenger) side.

We arrive safely at Levieff’s house. We get out in the driveway. The garage door opens. The car drives itself inside, and parks.

Phil Levieff

We walk around the back. Levieff talks into the air. The back door unlocks. We stroll inside. He commands the lights to go on. Instantly, they do.

Of course, there’s only so much that technology can do. Levieff has to light the logs in his fireplace himself.

But that’s about it. Levieff is an early adopter. His car and home are as cutting-edge as 2018 gets.

The house includes 177 connected devices, operating in 24 zones. His voice controls lights, locks, thermostats, TVs, music, security cameras, alarms, blinds, fans, garage doors, solar storage and irrigation.

But Levieff’s home is not just a one-off. His business —  TecKnow — works with leading tech companies to “build the home infrastructure of the future.” It’s an attic-to-basement, indoor-and-out service that customizes and integrates the best home automation technology for individual homeowners.

They design, install and program your “smart home ecosystem.”

And — this is key — they teach you how to use it.

Nearly everything in Phil Levieff’s living room — in fact, the entire house, inside and out — is interconnected, and voice-activated.

Think about how many features of your smartphone you don’t use — either because you have no idea they exist, or you can’t figure them out.

Now multiply that by an entire house: TVs, music, kitchen, HVAC. You may not understand it all.

But Levieff does.

A Tesla battery in the basement runs Phil Levieff’s entire house.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate has been a tech geek since his days  building the first networked gaming PCs. He spent 23 years working for Automatic Data Processing (ADP), leading sales, marketing and strategy teams.

Now he’s struck out on his own. All he has is an Apple Watch, Apple TV remote, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and a Dick Tracy-like, intriguingly technologically advanced home on the Westport-Fairfield border, where he lives and utters voice commands with his wife and 2 kids.

Well, okay. He’s also got a great logo. It suggests the power of a voice, a Wifi geofence and the sun to efficiently run a home.

And Levieff has clients, both for new construction and retrofits. He’s turned Robin Tauck’s new Old Mill home into a smart marvel. He’s working with other homeowners in the area, and Massachusetts. Oh, yeah: Ralph Lauren too.

Levieff has spent the past few months offering demos to builders, architects, brokers, developers and skilled workers.

“A lot of people have tried and failed in smart home technology,” he says.

He is adamant he won’t be one of those.

After all, when it comes to home ecosystems, Phil Levieff has the “tech know.”

TecKnow ties together every element of a smart house.

Pics Of The Day #293

The famous pink house across from Elvira’s, on Old Mill Beach … (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

… and around the corner on Compo Cove, there’s this house … (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

… and this. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Pic Of The Day #291

This Belden Place house, on the Saugatuck River, has been saved from the wrecking ball. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Ann Taylor And Allen Edmonds Leaving Main Street. Tumbleweeds Next?

Yesterday, Nike handed over the keys to their Main Street store landlord.

This summer, Ann Taylor and Allen Edmonds follow.

That will leave 3 empty stores out of 4 in a row — smack in the middle of downtown.

Skip Lane — retail director for Cushman & Wakefield, the leasing brokers — minces no words.

“It’s a scary time for retail,” the Westport native and Staples High School graduate says. “Nobody knows where this will end.”

Nike has vacated 5,600 square feet of space. Ann Taylor leases 4,000 square feet; Allen Edmonds, 2,000.

The Nike store on Main Street is now closed.

That will be dwarfed when the GGP Mall opens off I-95 Exit 15 in Norwalk. It’s huge — and, Lane says, the only enclosed mall under construction in the entire country.

“It can kill street retail,” he predicts. “Rents will be lower, and foot traffic will be higher.”

Rents for stores like Nike are now in the $130 per square foot range, Lane says. Recent deals, he notes, are around $80 to $90.

Right now, there are 20 or so vacancies in downtown Westport. Lane worries the number will climb.

“I’m a cheerleader for the town,” he says. “But a few more hits, and it will be tumbleweeds down there.”

He offers a partial solution: “Stop using Amazon. Support your retailers. Shop local!”

In 1962 — and long after — Main Street was a vibrant shopping destination. Many stores were locally owned.

Another Turn For 1 & 33?

The town missed a chance to move the little building at 1 Wilton Road — the former yarn shop at the Post Road West corner. A land swap with David Waldman’s Save the Children development project diagonally across the street could have enabled a turning lane, helping alleviate some of the traffic at what’s been called the state’s worst intersection.

But now there’s a demolition sign posted on the southwest corner. That’s the Westport Aquarium building, at 2 Riverside Avenue.

2 Riverside Avenue

It’s probably making way for a new structure — one that would (of course) draw more traffic.

Maybe though, there’s still a way to make this a turning lane — or at least somehow reconfigure that traffic-choked intersection.

Hey — a guy can dream, right?

Daybreak Hearing Postponed; New Application Submitted

The Planning & Zoning Commission’s public hearing scheduled for this Thursday (January 18) has been postponed.

The application for 500 Main Street — the Daybreak property — has been withdrawn. That application included 5 two-family dwellings, and 2 one-family homes, with at least 60% age-restricted units.

A new application — by the same Mel Barr, Barr Associates, LLC — has been received. This one includes the same number and size of dwellings, but is for 100% age-restricted units.

The new public hearing date is Thursday, February 1.

Front and rear views of an attached duplex planned for the Daybreak property.

P&Z Wants You! (To Help Bring Notices Into The Modern Age)

The other day, “06880” highlighted an issue that frustrates many Westporters: the limited ways to find out things like proposals for new developments, zoning changes, and upcoming agendas for regulatory boards.

The P&Z is on it.

A new Planning and Zoning Commission communications subcommittee met last week. On the agenda: how to modernize and improve public notice of P&Z matters.

Some neighbors were surprised to learn of a development proposal for the former Daybreak Nursery property.

Several intriguing ideas were discussed in the areas of site plans, special permits, variances, subdivisions and map adjustments. Among them:

To address the complaint that residents don’t open mailed legal notices because they look like junk mail or solicitations:

  • Notices will be delivered in a brightly colored envelope with a return address showing the Westport Planning & Zoning Department. A separate line on the bottom right of the envelope will note “This notice could impact your property rights or property values”
  • The town will purchase envelopes. Applicants will purchase these from P&Z for a fee, to ensure consistency in delivery of all notices.
  • The mailed notice radius will be expanded beyond the current 250- foot radius of the subject property.

To address the complaint that a single printed notice in the Norwalk Hour is insufficient, and a dated method for notice delivery:

  • All legal notices to be posted on the Town of Westport’s website at the same time as printed in the Hour, preferably under the headline “Planning & Zoning Notices.” P&Z agendas will be posted 1 week prior to the scheduled meeting.
  • A new “Westport Planning & Zoning Notices” Facebook page will be created, including links to the legal notices posted on the town website. No commenting or messaging will be permitted.
  • A physical sign (similar to a demolition notice sign) will be posted on the subject property, as proposed by the Coalition for Westport.

NOTE: These proposals do not relate to text amendments, which will be discussed at the next meeting.

That meeting is next Wednesday (January 17, Town Hall, 7:30 p.m.). They’ll join the RTM’s Planning and Zoning subcommittee to review those ideas, discuss public feedback, and begin improving the process for public notice of text amendments.

And … before that meeting, the P&Z subcommittee is asking — very publicly — for feedback.

Comments posted to “06880” will be added to the public record. You can also email pandz@westportct.gov — and of course attend the meeting, and speak.

“We welcome any and all feedback,” the subcommittee says.

“Our goal is to ensure that all residents can easily inform themselves of P&Z matters affecting their neighborhood and community.”

(Click here to see the full minutes of the P&Z subcommittee meeting. How’s that for openness?!)

Pic Of The Day #269

36 Elm Street was demolished yesterday. The building — most recently Villa del Sol — housed many previous businesses, including for a number of years Werner’s restaurant. It’s owned by David Waldman, who will build a retail/residential complex across the street behind Lux Bond & Green, in exchange for expanded parking next to Bedford Square. (Photo/Jen Berniker)

Coalition: Let’s Notice P&Z Proposals

The North Avenue water tanks. The Daybreak property. The excavation behind Compo Acres Shopping Center.

All 3 proposals — and many others — were legally noticed by Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

But not many Westporters read the teeny-tiny, buried-in-the-back legals in newspapers like the Norwalk Hour.

Or subscribe to email notifications from the town.

Or open the letters that get sent to the nearest neighbors.

Some neighbors were surprised by excavation work done in 2014 behind Compo Acres Shopping Center.

The P&Z knows this is an issue. They’re exploring additional ways to spread the word about upcoming applications.

The Coalition for Westport hopes to push them along.

The ad hoc, town development-focused group has filed a proposed text amendment with the P&Z. It would require posting a physical sign on any property subject to upcoming debate. It would be similar to the signs erected by restaurant owners when they request a liquor permit.

The P&Z will discuss the Coalition’s idea on February 1, at Town Hall.

You’re reading about it here because it’s not yet law. Also, because you don’t read the Hour. 

Plus, there’s no property on which to put a sign about it.