Category Archives: Real estate

New Construction At Old Mill

Neighbors and beach lovers have watched warily, as a new home rises on the site of the old Positano — and before that — Cafe de la Plage restaurants.

It’s not yet finished.

But the house at 233 Hillspoint Road has just come on the market.

Artists’ rendering of the house going up at 233 Hillspoint Road.

The 4,200-square foot residence — on a 5,663-square foot lot — will includes 4 bedrooms, and 4 1/2 bathrooms.

The listing price: $7.5 million.

(Hat tip: Dave Dellinger)

Newest Menu Item: Valet Parking

Bartaco, OKO and the newly opened Meatball Shop are 3 very different restaurants.

But they share 2 things: popularity and parking.

The Mexican, Japanese and Italian-American spots are packed, for lunch and dinner. The National Hall and nearby parking lots are often full — especially during the day, when spots are reserved for employees of nearby offices.

There’s a parking deck across the street. But for various reasons — some people don’t like driving up the narrow ramp; crossing Wilton Road can be dicey; others may not even know it’s there — that option is underutilized.

The other day, representatives of the 3 restaurants sat together. Instantly, they agreed on a solution: valet parking.

The old Vigilant Firehouse on Wilton Road is now OKO restaurant. The Meatball Shop is behind is on the right; Bartaco is behind on the left. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Working together — and with the blessing of the new owner of the entire complex — they hired We Park, a Wilton-based firm.

Just as quickly, the service began. Valet parking is available 7 days a week, for lunch and dinner.

You don’t have to tell the valet what restaurant you’re going to. In fact, you don’t have to eat at all. The service is there if you just want to stroll along the boardwalk, admiring the river and lights.

A beautiful boardwalk connects OKO, The Meatball Shop and Bartaco. (Photo by Anne Hardy)

“We’re all in this together,” says Brian Lewis, owner of OKO. “We want everyone who comes here to feel our hospitality. We all have the same goals: to take care of our guests. Whatever brings people here is good for all of us.”

He says that — like the other owners — he appreciates (and dines at) the nearby restaurants.

The owners appreciate too the receptiveness of the new National Hall owners. They’ve already repainted the lines in the parking lot, and added directional signs.

Coming soon: More signs for the valet service.

Though probably not in Spanish, Japanese or Italian.

Street Spotlight: Woods Grove Road

Some Westporters live on the water. Others live in the woods, or close to town.

But only residents of Woods Grove Road enjoy the Saugatuck River on two sides — with Coffee An’ just beyond.

Plus, of course, an easy stroll downtown.

Woods Grove is off Canal Street, on the right just past the parking lot for the old 323 restaurant, heading west toward Kings Highway.

Woods Grove Road is close to downtown. I’s bordered by 2 branches of the Saugatuck River.

AJ Izzo — owner of the old Crossroads Ace Hardware, another great close-by attraction (now replaced by an excellent liquor store) — says that when he grew up on nearby Richmondville Avenue, the area was woods, and a dirt road. Most houses were built in the 1940s and ’50s.

Ken Bernhard — who moved there from around the corner — calls Woods Grove “a charming respite.”

It’s a dead-end, so there’s little traffic. But it’s a long, winding road, so there are plenty of families. Kids play in the street. Neighbors chat.

Woods Grove Road is well named.

A “watering hole” features a dock and rope swing. “There’s nothing more pleasant than the sound of kids laughing and splashing,” he says.

The main branch of the river is great for canoeing and kayaking. Every morning, Ken says, a neighbor on the Wilton Road side paddles — with his German shepherd — to the dam and back. Everyone waves.

The neighborliness extends to Aquarion. The water utility owns land across the river. A while back, the pumping station made a distracting, growling sound. Ken offered to buy equipment to deaden the noise.

Nope, Aquarion said. They did it themselves.

A Woods Grove back yard.

Ken calls Woods Grove “delightful. The houses are not big, and the lots are not too large. Everything is the perfect size — just as much as we need.”

Besides Coffee An’ and the Merritt Country Store, residents can walk or bike to the library and Levitt. The Y — and Merritt Parkways exits 41 and 42 — are around the corner.

Yet one of the most interesting features of Woods Grove Road is one that neighbors barely mention.

A non-profit enterprise — the Westport School of Music — is located in a house halfway down the road. Established in 1938, it’s got a great reputation.

The Westport School of Music looks like any other home.

Students come and go quietly. There’s a little more traffic because of it than normal, but Woods Grove residents hardly notice. They’re happy to be near such a well-regarded, artistic enterprise.

Life on Woods Grove Road is good. Between the beautiful river and delicious donuts, who can complain?

A Bridge To Somewhere

The other evening, KMS Partners threw a fundraiser for Food Rescue US.

Food trucks and a band filled the site of the former Save the Children building, on Wilton Road. Next to the real estate firm’s new headquarters, it’s the future site of an architecturally intriguing 12-unit condo complex.

As I sat next to the Saugatuck River — the sun setting, and downtown beckoning just across the way — I thought, “It’s so close. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk there?”

Parker Harding Plaza, from the west bank of the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Dan Woog)

I could have used the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, of course. But the Post Road span is not pedestrian friendly. And it deposits you at the dicey, traffic-filled intersection with Parker Harding Plaza.

Once upon a time, there was discussion of fora pedestrian-only bridge. It was part of David Waldman’s plan to develop that Save the Children site.

Working with Roger Ferris + Partners architects, he wanted to move the house — at that point, a former yarn shop — at Wilton Road/Post Road West — to the Save the Children property. That would provide room for a turning lane at one of the state’s worst intersections.

As part of the plan, Waldman offered $100,000 toward the engineering and design of a pedestrian-only pontoon bridge.

The town rejected the idea. The developer reworked certain aspects of his design. The office portion has now been built. The condos are next.

But the landing area on the Wilton Road side is still available. A bridge could still be built, providing relaxing access from another point between the river’s west bank, and downtown. It could connect to Gorham Island, or perhaps the walkway near Rye Ridge Deli.

The walkway near Rye Ridge Deli could be one end of a pedestrian bridge across the Saugatuck River.

It’s not a novel concept. The Westport Arts Center once proposed a bridge from its then-headquarters on Riverside Avenue, to the library and Levitt Pavilion on the other side.

There are great spots to eat and shop on both sides of the river. But Westporters and visitors tend to think of them as 2 separate places.

A pedestrian bridge between Wilton Road and Parker Harding would probably cost $500,000 to $1 million.

Is the idea worth pursuing? If not, what’s another way to tie the energy and attractions of the quickly growing west bank to the close-but-sometimes-seems-so-far “downtown”?

What do you think? Click “Comments” below. We want your thoughts!

Prime Real Estate Listing Offers A Piece Of The Pie

The commercial real estate listing sent shock waves through Westport.

“Exceptional 2,516 square foot downtown property now available for sale!” it read. “New to market, for sale at only $1,425,000.

“Significant potential for many other retail oriented uses. Long-term first floor commercial tenant and second floor, income-producing apartment. Call to inquire now before it’s too late!”

The address is 143 Post Road East.

But you know it better as Westport Pizzeria.

143 Post Road East, Westport.

The beloved institution — which celebrated its 50th anniversary last October — moved from Main Street to the former S&M/Joe’s Pizza location in 2014.

Founder and owner Mel Mioli had bought the Post Road location a couple of years earlier. It was a fortuitous hedge against a non-renewal notice from his Main Street landlord.

But don’t worry.

Mioli says he’s just testing the market. And even if he sells, he’s keeping the pizzeria.

Grazie!

(Interested in the property? Call Tommy Febbraio at 203-247-3516, or email Tommy@CBCFG.com. Hat tip: Sal Liccione.)

Morningside Drive South Housing Issue Is Settled

One of Westport’s most controversial housing issues has apparently been settled.

With far less fanfare than it originally generated.

An email from Green’s Farms United says that last month, the developer and town negotiated a settlement about 20-26 Morningside Drive South. The property — directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School, formerly owned by artists Walter and Naiad Einsel — was the site of a proposed 8-30g (affordable housing regulation) development.

The previously proposed development at 26 South Morningside Drive.

Green’s Farms United representatives — including an attorney, engineer and “GFU intervenors” — were then invited to meet with the town attorney and other officials to review the proposal. The GFU group provided input regarding the engineering and conservation easement landscape elements prior to the final agreement.

On May 23, GFU says, the settlement was approved by a judge. The 8-30g application was withdrawn the same day. (Click here for the full document.)

The Einsels’ house at 26 Morningside Drive South.

Key points from the settlement include:

  • The studio will be moved from 20 Morningside Drive South to the same lot as the historic home, which will remain where it currently is. Both buildings will be renovated, sold as one lot and considered the “new” historic district. GFU says the newly created historic district has greater legal protections under the settlement stipulation than the previous Einsel Historic District.
  • 26 Morningside Drive South will be subdivided into 3 lots. One is the Historic Home Studio; the 2 additional lots will have new homes.
  • The 2 center driveways will be next to each other in the location of the current driveway. They will be designed to look like one, giving the appearance of only 3 driveways on the property.
  • The 20 Morningside Drive South lot will have 1 new home.
  • The “Doll House” barn/shed located in the wetlands area will be removed.
  • Extensive planting will be done, with particular focus on the riparian buffer/wetlands areas abutting Muddy Brook
  • The developer is legally bound to adhere to the terms of the settlement stipulation, which will be enforced by the town and the court should any variance occur.

Green’s Farms United thanked supporters for their help during the long process.

Minimalist Poolhouse Packs Maximum Punch

Beachside Avenue’s most famous sculpture — Claes Oldenburg’s 19-foot, 10,000-pound typewriter eraser — is gone. Its new home is the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Nearby, a new project looks like a new sculpture.

It’s not. It’s a poolhouse.

And you’re not even supposed to really see it.

This month Architecture Digest explores the structure, on the sloping lawn of Andrew Bentley and Fiona Garland’s home.

A broad view of the poolhouse. (Photo/Paul Rivera for Architectural Digest)

Designed by Roger Ferris, and “magnificently minimalist in form,” the poolhouse is built underneath “a verdant berm….Save for the skylight that runs the length of its green roof, the building is hardly visible as you approach it.”

But it certainly is something.

“Elegant concrete walls bookend a 75-foot long pool (and) a generous living-dining room with a Grayson Perry tapestry….While the northern side of the floor plan, tucked into the earth, contains the kitchen, bath, and changing areas, the south-facing window wall offers breathtaking views of the Long Island Sound.”

The pool is framed by window walls, Douglas fir paneling, and a tapestry by Grayson Perry. (Photo/Paul Rivera for Architectural Digest)

It seems like an amazing poolhouse. Andrew and Fiona have great taste; Roger Ferris does inspired work, and Becky Goss of The Flat consulted on the furnishings.

Now I really want to see their mudroom!

Septic Systems, 8-30g, And A New Westport Hotel

There’s a new 8-30g application coming down the pike Post Road.

From all indications though, this one will face smooth sailing.

On Thursday (June 6, 7 p.m., Town Hall), an entity called 1480 PRE Associates goes before the Planning & Zoning Commission. They’ll ask for a special permit and site plan approval to build 32 housing units at 148o Post Road East.

They’ll be 1- and 2-bedrooms. Thirty percent will be affordable housing, as defined by Connecticut’s 8-30g statute.

The property — between the Rio Bravo/Julian’s Pizza strip mall, and a gas station — is a throwback to the days before the Post Road was greened and cleaned. Roger’s was there for decades; before that, it was Bob’s Welding.

There’s a little bit of music history too: Donna Summer shot an early music video there.

Roger’s Septic Tanks. The flowers in the foreground belonged to the gas station next door.

Several years ago, a private agreement was reached between the owner of the commercial site and homeowners on Cottage Lane — which runs behind — stipulating that no housing could be built on the property. The agreement did not involve the town.

However, word on the street Post Road is that homeowners have been consulted, and are on board with this project.

Something will eventually go in there. Sounds like neighbors are happier to have residents nearby, rather than another retail or office complex.

Less far along the P&Z pipeline — but perhaps more intriguing — is a pre-application that will also be heard on Thursday.

The agenda item reads:

To discuss amending the RORD #1 to allow Hotel Use for future redevelopment of 1 Burr Rd from Westport Rehabilitation Complex to “The Westport Hotel,” presented by Leonard M. Braman.

Will the Mediplex nursing home on Post Road West — next to Kings Highway Elementary School — be transformed into a hotel?

Stay tuned.

Westport Rehabilitation Complex’s Burr Street entrance.

Pre-Applications Available For Affordable Westport Housing

Earlier today, the town sent out a terse email. Headlined “Local Housing Authorities Are Now Accepting Pre-Applications for Affordable Housing,” it read:

Preliminary applications will be accepted beginning on 06/03/2019 AND END with a postmark date of 06/28/2019. Pre-applications received after the end date as postmarked will be automatically rejected.

Please click on the following link for income-eligibility requirements and a download of the pre-applications: https://millennium-realty.com

It sounded a bit cryptic. Pre-applications for what affordable housing, exactly?

And who is Millennium Realty?

I clicked the link.

The Millennium Group — headquartered in New Britain — has a handsome website. At the top are photos of 4 beautiful residences. Two are homes that would not look out of place in Westport; 2 are gleaming new apartment buildings.

Turns out Millennium Realty (aka The Millennium Group) manages a wide array of properties — including 4 affordable housing facilities in Westport. They are:

  • Canal Park (50 units; elderly; studio and 1-bedroom)
  • Hales Court (78 units; 1, 2, 3 and 4-bedroom)
  • Hidden Brook (39 units; 1, 2 and 3-bedroom)
  • Sasco Creek (33 units; 2 and 3-bedroom).

That’s 200 units of affordable housing.

Canal Park offers affordable housing for seniors, near downtown.

But why “pre-applications”?

Turns out they occasionally open up wait lists, to fill when vacancies occur. “Pre-applications” are used to screen for initial program eligibility.

So for anyone interested in being screened for a possible eventual spot on a wait list for affordable Westport housing: Click on the link above. You can also pick up a copy at the Westport Housing Authority (5 Canal Street), or call 203-227-4672.

Hales Court also offers affordable housing in Westport.

Local Zoning Makes National News

ProPublica — the non-profit investigative news outlet — has published an in-depth look at the interrelated issues of affordable housing and zoning laws in Connecticut.

Much of the piece — produced in collaboration with the Connecticut Mirror, and headlined “How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing” — focuses on Westport.

It does not paint a pretty picture.

The story begins with the example of the new houses being built on the former Daybreak property, near Merritt Parkway Exit 42:

A dirt field overgrown with weeds is the incongruous entrance to one of America’s wealthiest towns, a short walk to a Rodeo Drive-like stretch replete with upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co.

But this sad patch of land is also the physical manifestation of a broader turf war over what type of housing — and ultimately what type of people — to allow within Westport’s borders.

After a lengthy description of the zoning battles that followed — without mentioning traffic and related issues — the piece notes:

Welcome to Connecticut, a state with more separate — and unequal — housing than nearly everywhere else in the country.

This separation is by design.

In fact, the Daybreak project was never about affordable housing. It was planned as 55-and-over housing.

Construction fence at the Daybreak development.

It talks about Westport’s “affordable housing” stock (as defined by state regulation 8-30g), without mentioning that the statute does not include dwellings built before 1990.

In Westport — where gated residences overlook the Long Island Sound and voters solidly backed Democrats in the most recent state and presidential elections — private developers have been allowed to open just 65 affordable housing units over the last three decades. Public housing rentals operated by the local housing authority have also grown at a snail’s pace, with 71 new units opening in this charming small town of 10,400 homes.

The story implies several times that racism is a factor in local housing decisions.

“I think the vestiges of our racial past are far from over,” said former Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who left office in early 2019 after eight years and regularly butted heads with General Assembly members who wanted local officials to have even more authority over housing decisions. For minority residents striving for safe and affordable housing, the state has “denied the opportunity that we allowed white middle-class aspirants to access,” Malloy said.

It includes quotes from Planning & Zoning commissioners and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — though not always with context.

There are descriptions of zoning battles over developments like 1177 Post Road East (which is already built and occupied) and the Hiawatha Lane project (which has been battled over for years).

An artist’s rendering of the 4-story rental property at 1177 Post Road East.

Particularly striking: A photo of the Community Gardens, next to Long Lots Elementary School. The caption implies that the town bought the land and turned it into gardens simply to prevent construction of “multifamily housing for low-income residents in (that) heavily residential single-family section of Westport.”

There’s much more. It’s a long piece — and it will get people talking.

Click here to read the entire story.