The opening of Harvest restaurant — in the former Mario’s space — has brought renewed attention to Railroad Place.
It’s also reminded people of the long-rumored Railroad Place project — a redevelopment plan for a larger area that shares the name of the small but significant street on the westbound side of the railroad station.
With Saugatuck Center completed and thriving — Riverside Avenue is now a hot spot filled with new restaurants, a butcher shop, gourmet food store, sweet shop, paddle rental store, 27 apartments and more — Westporters have waited for the next phase.
It’s unrelated — who’s-who-wise — to the Gault family’s Saugatuck Center work. But it’s been rumored for years, as a natural next step.
Negotiations have proceeded, in fits and starts, since 2011. In 2012, LandTech — the highly regarded engineering and planning firm headquartered on Riverside Avenue — drew up an RFP for the families who have owned the property for nearly 100 years, to seek developers.
It involved all the land bordered by Railroad Place, Charles Street and Riverside Avenue, as well as the private parking lot adjacent to Luciano Park.
All the land, that is, except the Mario’s/Harvest building, and the grim, out-of-character office building at 21 Charles Street. They have their own owners. All the rest of the property in the plan is owned by 2 families.
An aerial view of the proposed Railroad Place development. Charles Street (including the office building) is at left; the train tracks run diagonally across the top. Luciano Park is at the bottom. Click on or hover over to enlarge.
LandTech’s proposal — in collaboration with Westport architect Peter Wormser — envisions an entirely new look for the 3-acre space.
Steps next to Harvest will lead to a bluestone plaza, similar to the one between the Whelk and Saugatuck Sweets that draws musicians, sunbathers and people-watchers.
A view from the westbound train platform across Railroad Place.
Surrounding the plaza will be a mix of retail stores and apartments. There’s room for a small movie theater and boutique hotel.
A closeup of the rendering above. Mario’s is, of course, now Harvest restaurant.
Nearby, planners envision an enclosed, year-round green market.
Two levels of underground parking would accommodate 480 cars.
It’s not a done deal, of course. The 4-story development would need a zone change, to embrace Transit-Oriented Development (programs to link transportation centers with surrounding neighborhoods). The floor area ration would require a text amendment.
The view across Riverside Avenue, from Tutti’s. The buildings in the artist’s rendering would replace the current cleaners and adjacent buildings. The Charles Street office building is on the far right.
The project has moved very slowly, in part because of land valuation questions. No developer has yet signed on.
But Railroad Place — the property — is an unpolished gem, waiting to shine. Bordered by existing businesses and a train station — with a major highway nearby — it’s ripe for development.
Stores and shops in the proposed Railroad Place development.
Exciting plans have been available for several years. They’ve been shopped around, creating excitement among everyone who’s seen them.
The 2 families that own most of Railroad Place have not yet agreed on the next steps. When — that is, if — they do, the future of one of Westport’s most intriguing, often-underutilized sections of town could be very, very cool.
Compo Beach is a true “neighborhood.” Many homes on Soundview and its side streets have been in the same family for decades.
One of the those old, familiar houses was 8 Danbury Avenue. Teri Klein grew up in the magical cottage — and so did her children and grandchildren. They held weddings and parties there, ran on the beach, and admired the spectacular views.
8 Danbury Avenue.
Unfortunately, the house sat level with the ground. Hurricane Sandy damaged it beyond repair.
Today it was demolished.
(Photos by Betsy Phillips)
But this is not a typical Westport tear-down-a-small-old-house-and-throw-up-a-huge-new-one story.
Two couples living nearby — Dan Kahn and Betsy Phillips, and Peter Wormser and Liz Milwe — bought the house from Teri. Peter — a very talented architect and artist — incorporated much of the quaint and magical details of the old home into a new design.
The next 8 Danbury Avenue house will be built on a higher foundation than the previous one — new FEMA and local regulations have made sure of that. But there will still be a rocking-chair front porch, a similar look, the same Low Country southern charm.
The new home will be something increasingly rare in Westport: a new but familiar house.
James Wormser and Kate Ostreicher dated at Staples. They graduated from college a year ago. Now they run an art gallery — Lot F — out of their Boston loft.
Yesterday, the Boston Globe ran a long story on their work getting “edgy, street-inspired artists noticed.”
The article called the loft’s monthly party “a must.”
Kate Ostreicher and James Wormser
James — an Emerson College grad — is described as “an unlikely orchestrator, the anti-curator…. (His) object is to sell art, of course, but he calls his approach ‘laid-back.’ He doesn’t speak in terms of aesthetics or visual styles, but favors words like ‘sick’ and ‘insane’ to describe the work he displays.
“Much of it is street-art inspired. Some of the artists are best known by their graffiti tags, others have MFAs. In Wormser’s vernacular, as long as they ‘kill it,’ they have Lot F cred.”
The Globe said that James “is pedaling [sic] a sensibility, the idea that collecting art is as accessible and viable as collecting limited-edition sneakers or skateboards — if not exactly the same thing.
“While works have sold for several thousand dollars, $400 to $500 is the average price. And barely a year since its launch last September, the Lot F ethos extends far beyond the walls of his loft.”
James works with bars, restaurants and stores all over Boston to promote and display his artists, the Globe says.
Through Karmaloop, an online streetwear site, he has sold his artists’ work to customers in Italy, Australia and Korea.
Yesterday's Boston Globe story.
Karl Baehr, one of James’ professors at Emerson College, calls him “serious…. He’s not above getting out there and doing it. You can sit around and dream up dreams all day long. Entrepreneurs have to make things happen.’’
James comes by his creativity naturally. His mother — Westport native Liz Milwe — is a noted choreographer. His father — Peter Wormser — is an architect who designed New York’s Vietnam Veterans.
Just as his parents influenced him, James Wormser is now nurturing a new generation of artists.
“I have someone constantly looking out for opportunities for me,’’ praises neo-graffiti artist Todd Robertson. “I can focus on what I’m doing artistically now that I have James to help me out in a business sense. He’s built a home we all live in.’’
Right there in a funky — and very popular — Boston loft.
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