Tag Archives: Baldwin Parking Lot

Elm Street Update

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.

Name That Lot!

You may have heard the name Sigrid Schultz.

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.

Sigrid Schultz

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.

Pete Wassell

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)

 

“Oh? So That’s What That Arrow Means? My Bad!”

At first glance, this Entitled Parking photo doesn’t look too bad. Just one car straddling a parking spot line, and another plopped in what clearly is not a parking space.

(Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

But look closer. That’s not a fat parking line that the Acura is parked over. It’s a directional arrow, pointing one way into the lot behind Serena & Lily, in the Baldwin lot on Elm Street.

And that Volvo is also smack over another arrow, pointing the way out.

In other words, these 2 Very Important People completely block entry and exit into the lot. In order to get out or in, drivers had to go all the way to the back, near the fence, then circle around.

Of course, there were several empty spots nearby.

But at least the weather was nice. So these 2 guys (or gals) could enjoy the very brief walk to wherever they urgently needed to go.

NOT The Pic Of The Day

Within the past few days, 3 different “06880” readers have sent me nearly similar photos of the same scene:

I didn’t post anything, because

  • It’s kind of a gross picture, and
  • I couldn’t think of a clever headline or caption, and
  • A certain segment of readers think I “always” look on the negative side of things.

But the 3rd time’s the charm.

In “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie once warbled — I’m paraphrasing here — “If 3 people do it, it’s an organization!

Then he said something like: “And if 50 people do it, it’s a movement!”

Time to see some movement in the Baldwin parking lot.

We Have A Very High Bar For Entitled Parking Photos. This Person Surpassed It.

Alert “06880” reader — and downtown employee — Susan Shuldman parked in the Baldwin lot today.

When she returned to her car, she saw this:

Her car is the dark blue one in the center, parked in the yellow spot, facing a similarly legally parked silver vehicle.

And there — 4 inches from Susan’s rear bumper — is another car.

Smack in the middle of the parking lot.

Susan called the police. When the officer arrived, he noticed that the illegally parked car was unlocked. The keys were in the console.

The cop moved the car into a vacant spot. Susan — finally — was on her way.

So this was not somebody who dashed into Serena & Lily to pick up a quick bedroom set or whatever. He (or she) was there for quite a while.

“I guess the driver thought they were being considerate by leaving the keys!” Susan says magnanimously.

I would add something here.

But there are no words.

Downtown “Golden Triangle”: Final Piece Of Puzzle May Be Solved

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. The entrance intrudes onto the sidewalk.

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.

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.

Moving Day: Part 2

It took a couple of hours, but the Kemper-Gunn House finally made it across Elm Street.

Gunn 8 - JPV

The Kemper-Gunn House in mid-move…

...and, for the 1st time in 125 years, a vacant spot on the corner of Elm Street and Church Lane. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

…and, for the 1st time in 125 years, a vacant spot on the corner of Elm Street and Church Lane. (Photos/JP Vellotti)

A small part of a porch overhang was removed to clear a parking lot light pole. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

A small part of a porch overhang was removed to clear a parking lot light pole. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The Kemper-Gunn house in (almost) its final location. In this view up Elm Street, it almost looks like it's been there forever.

The Kemper-Gunn house in (almost) its final location. In this view up Elm Street, it almost looks like it’s been there forever. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

At not quite 9:30 a.m., the day's work -- moving a house -- was done. In coming days, the house will be settled into its new foundation. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

At not quite 9:30 a.m., the day’s work — moving a house — was done. In coming days, the house will be settled into its new foundation. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

How Do You Move A House? Very Slowly. And Carefully.

Today is moving day in downtown Westport.

The Kemper-Gunn House is being relocated across Elm Street, from its perch on the corner of Church Lane to the Baldwin parking lot.

Curious Westporters gathered at dawn to watch the landscape-changing event. JP Vellotti was there too, snapping special photos for “06880.”

Here’s his 1st set. More will follow, when the dust — and the house — settle into their new “home,” later this morning.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it's ready to be relocated.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it’s ready to be relocated.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, and moving company representatives pause for a photo.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, developer David Waldman and an associate pause for a photo.

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

The Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

Everyone Lift! Kemper-Gunn House Move Set For Tuesday

It’s not the Saugatuck Congregational Church move. But it should be pretty cool anyway.

In 1950, the church — sanctuary, bell tower, hymnals and all — was moved from its longtime location near Baron’s South (the site today of a gas station) across the Post Road (then called State Street) to its current spot on the corner of Myrtle Avenue (where it now looks like it’s been all along).

How do you move a church? In 1950, this way.

How do you move a church? In 1950, this way.

The move — accomplished thanks to a series of logs — took 10 hours. Life Magazine spotlighted the event. (It was a slow news week.)

This Tuesday (starting at 6:30 a.m.), the much smaller Kemper-Gunn House makes a much shorter trip. The 1890-era building will be wheeled — or in some other way conveyed — across Elm Street. Its new home is the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it settles in at the Baldwin parking lot.

Lost in the mists of history is what those mid-20th-century Westporters did while watching the church make its verrrry slooooow trip down Route 1.

But we do know what will happen Tuesday. Java — the 1-year-old coffee shop across Church Lane from Kemper-Gunn —  will hand out free coffee and baked goods (courtesy of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce).

Pray for good weather.

Kemper-Gunn House Moves One Step Closer To Move

Historic Church Lane is nearing its new look.

Earlier today, a notice was posted in the Baldwin parking lot. It announces a hearing next Wednesday (August 13, 8:30 a.m., Town Hall Room 309) regarding a .13-acre lease in the lot. The board of selectmen will be asked to approve a lease, to accommodate the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House from across Elm Street.

That vacated property will then become part of the retail/residential development that replaces the soon-to-be-vacated Westport Family Y.

The Baldwin parking lot lease, which has already been approved by the Board of Finance and Planning & Zoning Commission, awaits final Board of Selectmen action.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

The meeting announcement sign, in the Baldwin parking lot.

According to 3rd Selectman Helen Garten — a member of the Kemper-Gunn Advisory Group — “the lease creates a unique public-private partnership that not only will ensure the preservation of a historic downtown structure, but also will return the building to productive commercial use as a home for small, independent businesses.”

Major components of the plan include rental of the Baldwin lot land by the town to DC Kemper-Gunn LLC for 50 years, with renewal options up to 98 years.

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC will own the house and pay for all site work, relocation expenses, renovation and ongoing maintenance and repairs. The town will incur no operating expenses.

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

An old door and lock, in the Kemper-Gunn house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

DC Kemper-Gunn LLC has agreed to preserve any original exterior features of the house that are in good condition, or replace them with original materials.  Garten hopes that some interior architectural features can be reused or donated to the Westport Historical Society.

The plan calls for refitting the interior for commercial use. The lease requires all tenants to be small, independent, preferably locally owned businesses — no chain stores. Garten says, “Our aim is to add to the diversity and vibrancy of our downtown business offerings.”

The town will receive taxes on the building and improvements, as well as rent and — eventually — a share of net profits generated by the commercial rental operation.

“Since we are receiving no income now, this is a net gain to the town financially,” Garten notes. “But the real reward for Westport is how this venture will help restore a sense of place to our downtown.”

The actual relocation is tentatively set for November. A giant Elm Street block party may accompany the move.

An artist's rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.

An artist’s rendering of the Kemper-Gunn House, after it is moved to the Baldwin parking lot.