Tag Archives: Elm Street

Wired!

Yesterday, “06880” posted Jennifer Johnson’s gorgeous photo of Bedford Square.

Sitting outside SoNo bakery, an alert “06880” reader noticed how lovely Seabury Center — across from the new construction — looked in the afternoon light.

She snapped this photo:

seabury-center

Gazing down Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she shot another:

christ-holy-trinity-church

But as she peered closer, she saw what she believes is a new utility pole.

Suddenly, she wondered: Will this lovely scene soon become a jumble of overhead power and cable lines?

She looked back toward Elm Street, and saw this cluttered mess:

elm-street

Last summer, she thought that all the work on Church Lane meant that utility wires would be buried underground.

Now she’s unsure.

And very, very worried.

Villa Del Sol Sequel: Land Swap Still Alive

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 looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

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, Here’s an 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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

You Can’t Get There From Here

Elm Street was partially closed today, as part of the ongoing Bedford Square construction project.

Traffic was detoured into the Christ & Holy Trinity Church parking lot.

Elm Street

That made sense — except the only way out of there is Elm Street.

There’s an entrance to the lot on Myrtle Avenue. But it’s clearly marked one-way. You can’t use it to exit the lot.

So perplexed — and none-too-happy — drivers circled through the parking lot, exited back to the open section of Elm Street, and turned onto Main Street.

The same way they’d come.

More Changes On Elm Street

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.

Elm Street walkway

It must have taken the graffiti “artists” a while do that — in a very visible spot.