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.
This morning’s “06880,” on the travails of Villa Del Sol during the construction phase of Bedford Square, noted that “a proposed land swap — exchanging the restaurant and adjacent parking lot for a parcel across the street — has been scuttled.”
However, despite reports in local media, that land swap is still very much alive.
Second Selectman Avi Kaner said this afternoon that the town has continued negotiations with David Waldman, developer of Bedford Square. That retail/residential project — on the site of the former YMCA — stretches along Church Street, with an entrance on Elm Street.
Kaner says the town and Waldman are close to an agreement on a deal. Details are unavailable. However, the original plan would have traded 36 Elm Street — the site of Villa del Sol — for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman hoped to build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green, with small retail stores and 4 apartments.
Under the original plan the town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery.
A view of the original land swap looking south. Villa del Sol is the building outlined in yellow at the top. Brooks Corner shopping center is at bottom center. A new building would be built in the outlined lower yellow section.
Kaner presented a status report at a Board of Finance executive session last week, and solicited negotiating advice.
Based on that discussion, he says, it is likely that the Elm Street/Baldwin lot land exchange will be discussed and voted on in an open public session, at the finance board’s April meeting.
Any decision would be subject to approval by other town bodies. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already given the swap a positive 8-24 review.
In this artist’s rendering, the new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left. Across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.
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.
While Westporters were admiring the Kemper-Gunn House’s new location in the Baldwin parking lot — where all sides of the structure are visible, after years in the Y’s shadow — a different “renovation” took place across the street.
Here’s a shot of the walkway, and the side of the building between Elm Street and Main Street.
It must have taken the graffiti “artists” a while do that — in a very visible spot.
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