For 20 years, Picture This owner Wendy Nylen enjoyed a good relationship with her landlord.
Her art gallery and custom framing shop was in Village Center, aka “the strip mall with Dunkin’ Donuts opposite Fresh Market.”
Six years ago, her lease ran out. Since then, she rented on a month-to-month basis.
Last year, Equity One bought the shopping center. They offered Wendy a new lease — almost exactly double what she’d been paying. They would not negotiate.
Wendy moved out (to the former Great Cakes, just down the road). She paid Equity One the rent and property taxes, up to her move date.
Picture This in its new location, the former Great Cakes. (Photo/Billy Scalzi)
The owners now claim she owes $576.73, for some maintenance charges — not damage to the space — and for removing the sign. Wendy says that neither were her responsibility while Kowalsky owned the building.
She told Equity One exactly that, and noted that she had no lease with them.
Wendy was rewarded with a letter from a law firm threatening to sue her business — and “enter litigation against the principals on a personal basis should the corporate judgment appear uncollectible.”
“They may be counting on the fact that hiring a lawyer to defend myself would cost me more than the amount they claim,” Wendy notes. “I find this bullying and despicable. What do you think?”
Hey, don’t ask me. Ask the readers of “06880.” I’m sure they’ve got opinions!
Is this the sign everybody was in an uproar about when it was removed? It was leaning against a tree today on the corner of South Compo and the Post Road.
Yes! It is!
As “06880” reported nearly 2 years ago, the “paint palette” sign — a fixture at Compo Acres Shopping Center since it was built in the 1950s — disappeared when Equity One bought the property.
Another alert reader — Suzanne Sherman Propp — tracked down the man responsible for the center: Northeast regional manager Glenn Wilson. He sent a curt reply: “We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.”
Now, however — without fanfare — it’s back. It’s almost exactly where it sat, for decades. And — judging from the undated photo below — it’s almost certainly the original sign:
Score one for Equity One.
Now, if they can bring back Silver’s, Carousel Toy Store, Franklin Simon and the luncheonette…
The handsome sycamore that sits just inside Compo Acres Shopping Center — right near the Post Road/South Compo entrances — has been the subject of “06880” stories before.
In December, owner Equity One declared the tree to be a “defining aspect” of the property. Representative Michael Lai said that Equity One “takes its stewardship seriously.”
Just how seriously has come into question recently.
The ongoing renovation project — very ongoing — has entered its sidewalk phase. Concerned Westporters wonder if the sycamore — which has already survived a construction-related “mulch volcano” (a potentially tree-killing layer was mounded against the trunk), and bark damage (a woman attached an advertising sign for a fitness center) — can withstand all the cement that will soon be poured around its base.
Equity One has been pilloried for its excavation work behind Compo Acres Shopping Center. More trees than allowed by permit were demolished to create a level parking lot. The result: more asphalt, and less privacy for neighbors.
But around the corner, the owner is working to save one tree.
Equity One representative Michael Lai told “06880” reader and town activist Morley Boyd that the company considers a massive sycamore — located near the confusing entrances/exit on South Compo and the Post Road — to be a “defining aspect” of the property. Lai said that Equity One takes its stewardship seriously.
Wendy Crowther’s before-and-after photos show the “mulch volcano” (left), and a close-up of the mulch pulled back (right).
Boyd and others were concerned about a “mulch volcano”: the tree-killing layer that was mounded against the trunk, above the natural flare at its base. It arose because untrained landscapers did not realize the tree could suffocate to death.
Equity One hired Bartlett Tree Experts to complete a thorough treatment protocol for the sycamore. It includes feeding, and careful removal of the mulch volcano. Work began over the holiday weekend.
So all is well — except for some bark damage:
Turns out that Lai saw a woman install an advertising sign for a fitness center on the southern face of the tree. He asked her to leave. He did not know it, but damage had already been done.
A portion of bark spawled off. More came down over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, Lai did not get a look at the name of the business.
Fortunately, the bark should mend in time.
Now, if Equity One could only restore the iconic “paint palette” that stood for decades next to the sycamore. It’s been missing for more than a year.
There’s never a good time for a commercial property owner to do a major renovation.
But there is a worst time: the holiday shopping season.
Steve Silver has lived or worked here his entire life. He and his sister Sue have a combined 70 years’ experience with Silver of Westport, the store their father founded in 1951. It’s the oldest continually operating store in town.
Their lease in Compo Acres Shopping Center has 16 years to go. Since April, though, they’ve been looking for someone to join them, or take over their luggage and gifts store. Nearing retirement, they want fresh ideas (and legs).
April is when construction began on the center. Steve says their landlord — Equity One — “seems to be doing everything possible to make our business fail.”
The company — which owns 2 other shopping centers in town — has simultaneously blasted and reshaped the back hill into level parking spaces; installed new sidewalks and curbs around the building, and gutted 2 stores for new tenants.
The front of Compo Acres Shopping Center…
The results will be nice, but timing is everything. Compo Acres has been a mess for 7 months. And Equity One plans to continue work straight through Christmas.
The Silvers — and several other tenants — asked for a break from November 1 through December 25. That’s the period when most businesses make most of their money. The landlord said no.
“We all love what we do here,” Steve says. “Our staff has stayed with us for over 15 years. Endless numbers of young people pass through here every Christmas, helping us. Many of them come back to visit, and remember their experience.”
Silver of Westport has supported nearly every charity that knocks on their door. That’s what locally owned businesses do. Steve himself was a 33-year United Way volunteer, and chaired 2 preschools.
“I always hear about mom-and-pop businesses failing,” Steve says. “I want people to know that it is landlords you have to look at — well, at least Equity One. And if nothing happens here, Equity One — which has already forced out businesses at Fresh Market center — needs to know how much Westporters care about their hometown.”
…and the rear.
In 1963, Silver’s burned to the ground. Townspeople, fellow merchants — and a caring landlord — helped Steve and Sue’s father get back on his feet.
Silver’s asks area shoppers to help them and their retail neighbors out this holiday season. Ignore the parking mess. Ignore the scaffolding that makes it seem like the shopping center is closed.
Instead, help support the many local businesses that make Westport what it is.
And, if you’d like, contact Equity One to ask for a holiday season without hassles. Project coordinator is Michael Lai (email@example.com); leasing agent is Eliot Fierberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), and COO is Michael Makinen (email@example.com).
Both Chipotle and SoulCycle are coming to Compo Acres Shopping Center.
In fact — according to Equity One’s site plan — they’re already there.
As shown below, SoulCycle is located next to Patriot National Bank, at the west end of the shopping center (furthest away from Trader Joe’s). Chipotle is 2 doors away.
Equity One has become a big player on Westport’s commercial real estate scene.
The firm — which owns 135 properties, primarily in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and South Florida, and whose mission is to “develop, redevelop and invest in ‘A’ quality retail properties in the most desirable and productive urban markets in the United States” — already owns the Fresh Market shopping center, and the one across the Post Road (think Dunkin’ Donuts).
As “06880” reported yesterday, 4 of the 6 easternmost storefronts in the Fresh Market center are vacant. Nearby Patio.com recently moved, too.
Sources say that Equity One hopes to demolish the old Patio.com and the closed stores, and erect a new building.
Sources add that Equity One also has its eye on the Terrain property.
Now if they can only do something about that long-abandoned Westport House of Pancakes…
If you’re holding your breath waiting for the return of the Compo Acres paint palette — first reported in Wednesday’s “06880” — you can exhale.
Alert “06880” reader Suzanne Sherman Propp tracked down the property owner (Equity One in New York City), and the man responsible for the Westport shopping center property (Glenn Wilson, Northeast Regional Manager).
Hi! My name is Suzanne Sherman Propp and I’ve lived in Westport since 1966. I’ve always been a huge fan of the light blue Compo Acres Sign in the shape of a paint palette that was leaning up against the tree at the corner of the Post Road and Compo Road North. Can you tell me what happened to it?
His one-sentence reply:
We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.
Equity One’s tagline is “improving retail real estate in urban communities.”
Suburban communities — not so much.
The Compo Acres paint palette is gone…
…but we do have this huge granite slab not far away.
We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.
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