Tag Archives: Greenfield Partners

1 Wilton Road

1 Wilton Road — the little building huddled beneath the massive Wright Street office complex, at the traffic-choked intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue — has a long history.

Built in 1830 — before Westport was even incorporated, when horses watered at a nearby trough — it’s a reminder of days gone by. Originally a home, it’s been in recent years a liquor store and yarn shop.

1 Wilton Road, circa 1975. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Now it’s home to Vita Design Group. The modern design firm’s projects include the Geiger development across from Greens Farms Elementary School, and the new glass house on Compo Beach Road near the Minute Man monument.

Alert Westporters recently noticed scaffolding around the 1 Wilton Road site. Some wonder whether it’s coming down.

Nope.

Lucien Vita said his company spent its first years roaming around Westport. After starting in his home, Vita Design Group moved to several locations, including Main Street.

As a small business, they saw the 1 Wilton Road spot — with plenty of traffic (and everyone stuck at the light) — as a marketing opportunity. They bought the property 4 years ago and planned a renovation, showing off what they do best.

Permits took a while. Just before renovation was to begin, David Waldman and Greenfield Partners approached Vita with a plan.

Together they own the former Save the Children property, across the street down Wilton Road. They planned a retail/residential complex there. To mitigate traffic concerns, they wanted to purchase 1 Wilton Road. They’d reconstruct that building on the Save the Children site; in return, they’d give the 1 Wilton Road land to the town, for a much-needed turning lane onto Post Road West.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new office building (center) and condos (right) on the former Save the Children property, as seen from Parker Harding Plaza. The Post Road bridge and National Hall are on left.

It took 2 1/2 years, but finally the Planning and Zoning Commission said no.

Though Vita was paying carrying costs each month for the property, they still wanted to help the town. They had a new idea: rebuild the office further back on the land. They’d keep its historical identity, yet still provide room for drivers to turn.

However, it could take 2 years to work out funding. And if that came through, a town or state body could deny permission for the plan.

It’s not feasible for Vita to wait. So — as the scaffolding shows — they’ve begun to renovate 1 Wilton Road for their new home. Plans include rebuilding the 1-story portion with a steeper roof, and putting new siding and details on the 2-story wing, integrating its historical features with a slightly modern touch.

Scaffolding at 1 Wilton Road. The building is dwarfed by the Wright Street office complex. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

The inside will be gutted. Its original post-and-beam structure has been covered up. That will be exposed again, in a nod to its nearly 200-year-old past.

“We want to make the building solid, and bring it into the 21st century,” Lucien Vita says. “We want to help it live another 100 years.”

That’s still not the end of the story. Vita says that even after renovation, he’s open to moving the building back — so long as that’s a practical, cost-effective solution.

Dream about that the next time you’re stuck at that interminable light.

Madison/Mott Makes Its Move

The ping pong table was key.

When Luke Scott and Kristen Briner were designing the new office for Madison/Mott — the very cool, very hip marketing/design firm that moved this month from SoNo to Saugatuck — they knew they needed many things.

Blazing fast and always dependable internet connections.

Plenty of space, lots of light, room for all their funky furniture.

And definitely, a ping pong table.

Luke Scott, Kristen Briner and the famous ping pong table.

That table — one of the first things you see when you walk in off Ketchum Street — symbolizes Madison/Mott.

The name combines classic Madison Avenue creativity with East Village punk. The young staff is fluent in mobile and social media, but also experts in branding and print. And the new office combines the hip feel of Silicon Valley with the pulsing excitement of the Saugatuck renaissance.

Moving back to Westport — Madison/Mott was founded here in 1999 as “Dogsname” by Kristen, Luke, and Luke’s late father John Scott — is satisfying, Luke says.

(Full disclosure: I’ve known Luke since the late 1980s, when I coached him in soccer. He’s now a great friend, and also a collaborator: Madison/Mott created StaplesSoccer.com, which has been called [ahem] “the best high school sports website in the country.”)

But the story is even better than just great-business-returns-home. Luke grew up a quarter mile from his current office. He worked at Peter’s Bridge Market, washed dishes at Mario’s, and skipped school to take boats out on the river.

Saugatuck lost its edge in the intervening years. Peter’s closed, the hot restaurants were in Fairfield (and SoNo), and there was no reason for young people — like the Madison/Mott crew — to come here.

Now there is. Luke, Kristen and the rest of their creative staff form the vanguard of new small businesses that are revitalizing that section of town. They walk to restaurants — and from the train station. They can’t believe there’s a kayak rental shop around the corner.

The new office is conducive to great work. In 13 years the firm has gone from hand-coding HTML (“poorly,” Luke admits)  and hand-submitting sites to Yahoo (“they were the Number One search engine”), to being an award-winning hybrid shop with a diverse portfolio.

Madison/Mott's home page design for Bahlsen.

HobNob Wines is a client, and Bahlsen (European biscuits and chocolates). So are Yale West Apartments and Greenfield Partners (real estate investors).

Yet Madison/Mott has not forgotten its roots. Gault has been a client for over 10 years. WishList has been too. Soon, the firm will roll out Westport Arts Center’s redesigned site.

“It’s such an exciting and challenging time,” Luke says, referring both to his industry’s increasing emphasis on mobile platforms and social media, and his company’s return to its Westport roots.

Working with Gault, Luke and Kristen knew that the Phase II redevelopment of Saugatuck would be a tipping point. “We felt energy, creativity and inspiration,” Luke says. “Saugatuck was getting the life and love it needed.”

He and Kristen toured a dark, boxy building — former home to GE research, then Mecklermedia. The floor was cement, and wires hung from the ceiling. But Kristen envisioned what it could be.

Now her vision is a reality. (Another plus: Parking is so much better than SoNo.)

“There’s a real community feeling here,” Kristen says. “Everyone has welcomed us in.”

Kristen Briner and Luke Scott, on a gorgeous spring day.

On their very first day in Saugatuck, an architect walked in the door. She’d seen the Madison/Mott blog, which invited people to say hello. “She literally stopped in,” Kristen laughs.

They chatted. There may be collaboration ahead. There’s definitely a new friendship.

“We love being part of this excitement,” Luke says. “There’s so much energy and youth around. Bright, motivated, artistic, intelligent people are making changes here for all the right reasons. We dig it!”

And now, when he feels the urge to go out on the river, he doesn’t have to skip school.

He can just skip out of work.