Tag Archives: Bedford Square

Pic Of The Day #6

Bedford Square courtyard. (Photo copyright Katherine Bruan)

Maker Faire Makes Its Mark

You can’t keep a good geek down.

Chilly temperatures and a light rain did not deter thousands of folks from descending on the Westport Library, Jesup Green and Bedford Square, for today’s 6th annual Maker Faire.

Every type of STEM creation was represented: robots, 3-D designs, flight simulators, submersibles and more.

The arts were there too: violinists, jewelry makers, sculptors…

And of course local organizations: the Y, Wakeman Town Farm and Rotary Club were among those showing their commitment to creativity and community.

In 6 short years, the Maker Faire has become one of the biggest events of the Westport year. Now all we need is some young guy or girl who can control the weather.

Which I’m sure we’ll see next spring.

Hand-made robots were a huge hit.

Christopher Crowe’s creations drew a crowd.

What better spot to hang out in than the Westport Library’s permanent Maker Space?

State Senators Toni Boucher (front) and Tony Hwang (right) joined 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (left) and Westport Library trustee Iain Bruce at the Maker Faire.

A father gives a hands-on wind tunnel demonstration to his daughter.

Westporter Charlie Wolgast — a professional pilot — checks out a flight simulator in Bedford Square.

Beware!

Old Post Office Offers New Design

For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.

Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.

Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.

This time, they’re doing it right.

Design Within Reach — a new store in the old post office.

The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.

The Bay Street side of Design Within Reach. New entrances lead up from the sidewalk.

It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.

Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.

His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).

Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.

Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.

John Edelman (center), Design Within Reach’s CEO. He’s flanked by Matt Mandell (left, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce executive director) and Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.

The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.

Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.

Dozens of pendant lights hang above the center staircase.

The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.

The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.

Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.

He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.

But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.

And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.

There’s plenty of room on the lower level to show off bedding, and more.

Bedford Square Is Complete. Another Intriguing Project May Come Next.

Since it opened 2 weeks ago, Bedford Square has become Westport’s newest destination. Folks flock there to shop, eat, and hang out in the courtyard.

David Waldman’s project — which took many years to conceive and sell to town boards, and another 2 years to construct — seems like the end of a long process.

But it may be only the beginning.

Numerous sources say that the Westport-based developer is under contract to buy both Sconset Square and 155 Post Road East. They’re contiguous properties: Sconset is the small shopping center off Myrtle Avenue with stores like Bungalow and Le Penguin restaurant, while 155 Post Road is the cement building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office). Eyeglasses.com is a current tenant; it used to house the Tack Room and Christian Science reading room.

155 Post Road East is a tired-looking building across from Design Within Reach (the old post office).

With Bedford Square, Waldman re-imagined the way we use Elm Street/Church Lane/Main Street. If he acquires those nearby properties — and, rumor has it, the Westport Pizzeria building too — he could redesign that section of downtown as well.

And tie it together with Bedford Square, which is much closer physically to Sconset Square than most of us now realize.

Sconset Square has been in Westport for years. Originally called Sherwood Square, it was the site of the original Sport Mart.

Word on the downtown street is that Waldman could reorient Sconset Square, opening up the backs of those stores to anyone using a redesigned walkway from the Post Road to Church Lane.

Removing the Westport Pizzeria building could create a pedestrian walkway to Church Lane — and enable merchants to utilize the backs of their stores, as well as the fronts.

He could also consolidate several of the parking lots on Church Lane — like the one behind SoNo Baking (soon to be Aux Delices) — making them more accessible and practical.

Right now there’s a hodgepodge of small parking areas off Church Lane, and behind Sconset Square. It’s tough to walk there from the Post Road.

Other rumors are flying, including the possibility of the Westport Arts Center and/or Westport Film Initiative moving into 155 Post Road East. That could give those organizations great visibility — and bring more people downtown.

The synergy between arts, retail, restaurants (and the new Bedford Square rental units) sounds exciting.

Of course, Bedford Square did not happen overnight.

It took many long nights of meetings.

Followed by 2 years of construction.

Westporters have so far voted with their feet. They’ve poured into Bedford Square.

There are sure to be many votes ahead for this next phase of downtown development.

Meet M.EAT

When Saugatuck Center opened a few years ago, Saugatuck (now Fleishers) Craft Butchery helped deliver the buzz.

Now — as Bedford Square attempts to draw folks downtown — it’s adding its own field-to-table butcher shop.

M.EAT Organic Beef & Provisions opens this spring. The “old-school meat market with new school fundamentals” offers high-quality beef and lamb from Uruguay, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

In addition to hand butchering, M.EAT will feature a “burger bar,” where customers can choose their own grind of meat types and fat content, accompanying organic cheeses and produce, as well as seasoning products, and cooking and equipment aids.

M.EAT will also carry domestic organic meat and chicken, with ingredients from local farmers and artisans.

It’s expected to open in late May.

The Story Beneath Bedford Square

The glass-half-full crowd loves Bedford Square: Its retro-yet-fresh look. Its new tenants, including retail, restaurants and residential. Its re-imagining of the entire downtown.

The glass-half-empty folks moan: But there’s no parking!

Wrong. There’s plenty of parking. There’s the Baldwin lot, Taylor Place and Parker Harding.

And — even closer — there’s a garage with up to 120 spaces. In fact, it’s so close it’s right underneath Bedford Square. The entrance is on Elm Street, next to Villa del Sol restaurant.

The entrance to the Bedford Square parking garage.

Some spots are reserved for residents and senior employees. But the rest are open to the public.

Right now there’s a valet system, with a drop-off on Church Lane near Amis Trattoria. A 2nd drop-off may be added on Elm Street.

Valet parking is still a work in progress. Developers and Anthropologie are figuring out the best way to use the garage.

But to all the nay-sayers: There are lots more parking spots than you realize.

Now find something else to bitch about.

PS: Meanwhile, Westporters who did not go to the beach this afternoon found a new spot to hang out: the Bedford Square plaza. Here’s the scene, a couple of hours ago:

Bedford Square: Sneak Preview

Guests of Anthropologie and Amis restaurant enjoyed a sneak preview tonight of the new Bedford Square.

I’m not in the market for a wedding gown — or most of the rest of what Anthropologie sells. But plenty of folks will be. Judging by the creative and stylish way they’ve repurposed the old YMCA, the 40,000-square foot store will do exactly what an anchor tenant should: draw plenty of shoppers to the entire complex.

And based on what I’ve seen and tasted of Amis, it too will be an instant hit. It takes full advantage of its Church Lane/Post Road/interior alley location — it is a true “trattoria.”

We’ve endured noise, dirt, dust and disruption for 2 years. Now the fun begins!

The 2nd floor of Anthropologie. If the view across the Post Road looks familiar, it should: For 30 years, this was the cardio fitness center for the YMCA.

Amis Trattoria. The windows actually open. As soon as the weather warms up, the downtown street scene will be rejuvenated.

Bedford Square developer David Waldman (center) and lifestyle guru Mar Jennings are interviewed for a TV special. They’re standing in one of the alleyways. Restoration Hardware is visible in the background.

A fountain is the centerpiece of Bedford Square’s courtyard. Shops and restaurants will occupy the first 2 floors; rental apartments are on the 3rd.

Amis Trattoria occupies what was once the firehouse, and later became part of the YMCA (left). Bedford Square also includes the former site of the Y’s Weeks Pavilion (right), off Church Lane. Seabury Center is in the background.

Introducing: Bedford Square!

Amis Trattoria has had a soft opening all week.

Anthropologie opens tomorrow.

After 2 years of construction — and right on schedule — Bedford Square has become a reality.

All along, alert “06880” reader Jennifer Johnson took photos.

Here are 3 views of the transformation, from YMCA to retail/restaurant/ residential complex.

And to think that it was only last century when the Y first talked about moving…

January 2012

March 2016

March 30, 2017 (Photos/Jennifer Johnson)

Sono Baking To Close; Aux Delices Moves In

Two years ago, SoNo Baking Company took over the downtown coffee shop space vacated by Java.

The popular mini-chain — with branches in Norwalk and Darien — drew 150 to 200 people a day, 300 on weekends. Customers came to eat and meet — despite the noise and dust of the Bedford Square construction project, diagonally across Church Lane.

But now — the moment the retail/restaurant/residential complex is opening — SoNo Baking is closing. Owner John Barricelli expects to sell his final coffees, pastries and salads by Easter.

Plenty to choose from at SoNo Baking Company.

Moving in is Aux Delices. They’ll keep their other Westport store next to Carvel. This will be the 5th location, with 2 in Greenwich and 1 in Darien. Aux Delices offers imported and local foods, freshly baked desserts and full-service catering.

“The rent was astronomical,” laments SoNo owner John Barricelli. “We couldn’t pay what we owed on coffee and cake. We fell behind, and it got to be a huge burden. I’ve never walked away from a bill in my life.

“If we were going in now, we might have had a chance. But the numbers didn’t add up.

“To make it there we needed alcohol, and to be open 24/7. For some reason, at 2 p.m. downtown gets very quiet. We had plenty of people in the morning, and until 2. But with the average check of $10 to $15 — you do the math.”

Barricelli calls SoNo’s closing “very sad.”

But he’s not giving up on Westport. He’s looking for another site near Southport — close to their previous location, near A&J’s Farm Stand.

And speaking of farmers: SoNo Baking was an original vendor at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

They’ll still be there this summer.

Friday Flashback #29

As Bedford Square nears completion, it’s shaping up as a handsome addition to downtown. David Waldman has taken the original lines of the Bedford Building — the Tudor YMCA, built in 1923 — and extended them along Church Lane, then up across Elm Street.

But Bedford Square has nothing on the grandeur of its namesake’s estate.

E.T. Bedford —  director of Standard Oil, and philanthropist of (among others) Bedford Junior High and Bedford Elementary School — lived on Beachside Avenue, next to Burying Hill Beach.

Here’s what his house looked like in 1920:

e-t-bedford-estate-beachside-avenue-1920

He wasn’t the only wealthy Beachside resident. This is a view of “Nirvana” — E.B. Sturges’ home (and personal dock) — in 1909:

nirvana-e-b-sturges-residence-beachside-avenue-1909

Yet the Bedford influence was hard to avoid. That’s his windmill in the distance, toward the right side of the photo.

(Hat tip: Ken Bernhard)