To everyone’s surprise, one unintended consequence of COVID-19 has been a sizzling local real estate market.
Tucked into that surprise: A luxury condominium project that was given up for dead has roared back to life.
Bankside’s 12 units will rise soon on Wilton Avenue, at the site of the now-demolished Save the Children building. The design takes advantage of the Saugatuck River location. There is only one residence per floor — and stunning views.
Artist’s rendering of the Bankside condos.
Bankside began in 2013. David Waldman — the developer of Bedford Square, and many other local projects — joined with Greenfield Partners (whose offices are in nearby National Hall) to buy the Save the Children site.
Waldman and Greenfield hired Roger Ferris + Partners — the architectural firm that designed many new buildings on the river’s west bank — to bring their vision of a spectacular new development to life. It included a new office building, and a land swap to create a right-turn lane at the notorious Wilton Road/Post Road West bottleneck.
The office building was built — and has already been sold. But the 7-year residential slog included the town’s denial of the land swap, and a drying up of the luxury condo market.
A year ago Waldman, Greenfield and their investors were ready to sell that building site at a loss.
Then coronavirus struck. Suddenly the suburbs seemed more attractive than cities. The housing market changed dramatically.
Waldman found a new partner. He sold the land to Eric O’Brien — owner of the innovative New Haven building firm Urbane — but stayed on as part of the development group.
Work begins soon on Ferris’ design. Unlike most condos, 10 of the 12 units will share only floors and ceilings — no walls. Windows will look out on the river and downtown on one side, woods and hills on another. Patios of up to 800 square feet front the water.
The condos feature outdoor living on the river.
Ten of the units are 2,500 square feet, including 2 bedrooms and a den. The other 2 units are 3,400 square feet, with 3 bedrooms. Prices range from $2.25 million to $4.25 million.
Completion is scheduled for spring of 2022. Click here for more details.
Beachside Avenue’s most famous sculpture — Claes Oldenburg’s 19-foot, 10,000-pound typewriter eraser — is gone. Its new home is the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Nearby, a new project looks like a new sculpture.
It’s not. It’s a poolhouse.
And you’re not even supposed to really see it.
This month Architecture Digest explores the structure, on the sloping lawn of Andrew Bentley and Fiona Garland’s home.
A broad view of the poolhouse. (Photo/Paul Rivera for Architectural Digest)
Designed by Roger Ferris, and “magnificently minimalist in form,” the poolhouse is built underneath “a verdant berm….Save for the skylight that runs the length of its green roof, the building is hardly visible as you approach it.”
But it certainly is something.
“Elegant concrete walls bookend a 75-foot long pool (and) a generous living-dining room with a Grayson Perry tapestry….While the northern side of the floor plan, tucked into the earth, contains the kitchen, bath, and changing areas, the south-facing window wall offers breathtaking views of the Long Island Sound.”
The pool is framed by window walls, Douglas fir paneling, and a tapestry by Grayson Perry. (Photo/Paul Rivera for Architectural Digest)
It seems like an amazing poolhouse. Andrew and Fiona have great taste; Roger Ferris does inspired work, and Becky Goss of The Flat consulted on the furnishings.
A crane towers over Main Street. The old Tudor YMCA is being gutted. Concrete is poured near Church Lane and Elm Street.
But even as Westporters await the completion of Bedford Square — David Waldman’s project that will redefine downtown — he’s moving forward on his next project.
Waldman is a partner in the development group that owns the former Save the Children site across the river. Right now, a 60,000-square foot building blocks views from Wilton Road. A few yards away, the brutal Post Road/Riverside Avenue intersection makes that west bank neighborhood a don’t-go-there-unless-you-have-to afterthought to downtown shoppers.
Waldman wants to change all that. He hopes to build an office building and 18 high-end condos on the 2.6-acre site.
He’ll extend the boardwalk from National Hall and Bartaco all the way to the end of his property. He’ll help the town and other interested parties build a pedestrian bridge, linking his development with Parker Harding Plaza or Gorham Island.
Plans for the new west bank project show the new office building and residential condos, extended boardwalk, pedestrian bridge, dedicated left-turn lane and more. (Click on or hover to enlarge)
Most importantly, he’ll move the charming, old (and very much in-the-way) needle shop house from 1 Wilton Road, to his new project. That will allow construction of a left-turn lane onto the Post Road, easing congestion at one of the worst intersections in the state.
Plans have not been presented formally. But discussions are beginning with important town bodies, like the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Waldman is very familiar with the property, and the land around it. Compass Commons — across the street from Save the Children — was developed by his father in 1982.
Though Waldman knows the Save the Children site is in a flood zone — and is well aware of the traffic woes — he’s excited by its potential. It’s one of the last remaining developable sites downtown. The native Westporter thrives on challenges like these.
The former Save the Children’s Wilton Road headquarters. The 60,000-square foot building now stands empty.
He and his partners worked for over a year on the concept. It includes residential units, because they’re called for in the downtown plan. Waldman knows there are many empty nesters in Westport looking to downsize, but stay here. Nationwide, older homeowners are relocating closer to downtown areas.
“I tried to hit all the buttons: what the town wants, how to incorporate visual access to the river, and get parking off the river,” Waldman says.
He notes that Save the Children at one point had 250 employees, but only 180 parking spaces. His plan will help add parking for restaurants like Bartaco and Vespa. Eight spots will be available for public access to the water.
His new buildings will be FEMA compliant. (Save the Children is not.)
Waldman is particularly excited by the opportunity to redesign the brutal Post Road/Wilton Road/Riverside Avenue intersection.
He has an option on the house that right now huddles underneath the Wright Street building. He hopes to give that land to the town.
Right now, this cute building at 1 Wilton Road inhibits traffic turning in 2 directions, or going straight.
The development’s architect — Roger Ferris + Partners — is coincidentally headquartered at 11 Wilton Road. They’d accommodate the redesign, ceding room for the new lane (and a nice pocket park.)
It won’t be easy — or cheap. Waldman estimates the cost of moving the house at $2.5 million. But he relocated Kemper Gunn from Bedford Square across Elm Street. He understands the value of both preservation and change.
He’d need a text amendment to increase the allowable height of his residential building to 48 feet. That would allow underground parking. According to Waldman, it would still be lower than the top of National Hall.
An artist’s rendering of the proposed new office building (right-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; Bartaco is in the middle.
In the early 1990s, the Tauck family breathed new life into that old building. A century earlier, National Hall was one of Westport’s central meeting places. After Fairfield Furniture’s long run, it stood abandoned and in danger of collapse. Today it’s beautiful, and functional.
The old Vigilant Firehouse is now home to Neat. Bartaco recently infused more new energy into that area.
David Waldman stands poised to do the same. With Save the Children gone, it’s time to Save the West Bank of the Saugatuck.
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