Construction continues on Elm Street. Check out this photo of the sidewalk in front of the new parking lot by Bedford Square, and the retail/residential building rising in a corner of the Baldwin parking lot.
But something’s missing.
Hmmmm… let’s see…..
Aha! There are no phone poles or utility wires!
They’ve been buried underground. It’s part of a larger downtown project to bury poles and wires.
Main Street (Photos/Chip Stephens)
Now, if we could only do that by the Minute Man ….
Downtown drivers and pedestrians wonder: What’s up with the sidewalk by the Elm Street construction project?
That’s the new building rising in the Baldwin parking lot, behind Brooks Corner. It’s part of a land swap, in which Villa del Sol was torn down, to create a larger, more manageable parking lot next to Bedford Square.
It will include stores (and perhaps a restaurant), with 4 apartments above.
Elm Street, looking toward Main Street …
Westporters worry about the narrow sidewalk.
David Waldman — developer of the new project — admits it does look close to the edge of the road.
However, he says, when work is done, “proper sidewalks” will be installed on both sides of Elm Street (similar to Main Street), all the way to Church Lane.
Entrances to buildings will be stepped in, providing additional space for pedestrians.
If a restaurant is a tenant, windows and doors would open up like a Nanawall, creating an inside/outside feel.
… and to Church Lane. (Photos/Jen Berniker)
Upon completion, power lines and poles will be removed, and brick sidewalks and street lights installed.
Waldman has been told the sidewalks should be finished by the end of summer or early fall. The project should be ready for occupancy by next spring.
A pioneering female war correspondent, broadcaster and author who risked her life to expose Nazi secrets to the world, she hid her Jewish heritage from the likes of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, whom she loathed but entertained in her Berlin home for the sole purpose of extracting information.
After Schultz and her mother fled Germany, they bought a house and barn at 35 Elm Street. When Sigrid died in 1980, the town demolished her home to expand the Baldwin parking lot.
This famous woman has remained largely unknown in her adopted hometown. But that may change soon, if a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee recommendation to name the new Elm Street parking lot — the one next to Bedford Square, created by the demolition of Villa del Sol directly opposite the Baldwin lot — is approved by the Board of Selectmen, acting as the town’s Traffic Authority.
Then again, it may not be named the Sigrid Schultz Parking Lot.
DPIC member Dewey Loselle suggested celebrating former Public Works head Steve Edwards. The longtime but low-key director nixed that idea.
Another suggestion was to honor the residents of 22 1/2 Main Street — the African American boardinghouse that went up in flames (probably arson) nearly 70 years ago. The location was adjacent to the new parking lot.
It might be tough coming up with an appropriate name — “22 1/2 Main Street lot” would be too confusing for the Elm Street address.
But that hasn’t hasn’t stopped one Westporter from taking a second look.
Chip Stephens grew up here. As a Planning & Zoning Commission member, he attends DPIC meetings. He wants to make sure the name of the new lot reflects town sentiment — not simply the will of one committee.
Perhaps, he says, the lot should be named after the Wassell brothers. Harry, Bud and Pete were all killed within 15 months of each other, during World War II.
Or, Stephens says, maybe there are other Westporters we should consider.
So let’s have a townwide discussion, right here on “06880.” Click “Comments” to offer suggestions, and debate the ideas.
Sure, it’s only a parking lot. But, as Stephens notes, “it will be there forever.”
FUN FACTS: So who is this Baldwin that the other Elm Street lot is named for? Herb Baldwin — a former first selectman.
And on the other side of Main Street, Parker Harding Plaza is named for co-sponsors Emerson Parker and Evan Harding. Fortunately — considering the state of that parking lot — everyone has forgotten those two.
36 Elm Street was demolished in January, to make room for a new parking lot next to Bedford Square. (Photo/Jen Berniker)
Like any developer, David Waldman has enjoyed watching his latest project take shape. Bedford Square will redefine downtown, tying together Church Lane, Elm Street and Main Street, while offering an exciting new mix of retail, office and residential space.
Yet for a long time Waldman felt frustrated. One small but key piece of property did not fit.
36 Elm Street — the site of Villa del Sol restaurant — interrupts the new streetscape Waldman is creating. It intrudes into the sidewalk. And the adjacent parking lot — near the back entrance to the old Y and the former Klein’s — is a poorly configured, hard-to-navigate, chaotic mess.
The owner of 36 Elm Street did not want to sell. The town of Westport owns the parking lot. It looked like Waldman would have to build, as best he could, around those existing properties.
36 Elm Street. Right now, it’s home to Villa del Sol restaurant.
But a solution may be at hand. If town officials agree to a land swap, everyone could benefit: Villa del Sol. Drivers. Pedestrians admiring the streetscape. Merchants. Apartment dwellers. And, of course, Waldman.
He is currently negotiating to buy 36 Elm Street. (Ironically, he once owned it. He and his father bought what was then Brasserie Saint Germain in 1993. Waldman sold it several years later.)
His plan is to swap the property for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot, across the street. Waldman would then build a 9,750-square-foot building behind Lux Bond & Green.
Villa del Sol would reopen there, alongside 3 small retail stores. Above them would be 4 apartments — 1 of them rented under state “affordable” guidelines.
The town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking. Waldman says that despite taking Baldwin spots for the new building, the town would net a gain of 2 parking spaces in the new lot.
This left side of this aerial view shows the current configuration of Elm Street. David Waldman’s proposal is on the right. (Click on or hover over to enlarge.)
If approved, Waldman says his plan will “really and truly complete the ‘Golden Triangle’ downtown.
“I really feel this is the last piece of the puzzle in downtown Westport. The proposed building will solidify the importance of Elm Street, and its connectivity to Main Street and Church Lane. It also improves pedestrian safety.”
In addition, Waldman says, “it provides beautiful sight lines for the Bedford project, and the new design for the back of 44 Main Street” (the Banana Republic building).
Frederick William Hoag — the architect collaborating with Waldman — is also working with the owners of 44 Main Street, and the Bobby Q’s building. Those projects will benefit from the new parking lot too, Waldman says.
Finally, he notes, the Elm Street land swap is in keeping with feedback about downtown development. One popular idea was for storefronts on the Baldwin property, adding retail while blocking the view of an ugly parking lot.
Town officials seem receptive to the plan, in its early stages. Now Waldman must finalize the contract for 36 Elm Street, and begin the land swap process with regulatory bodies.
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