Tag Archives: Simon Hallgarten

Regulation 32-18 Says: Don’t Demolish. Renovate!

It’s not easy to save historic structures in Westport.

Economics, legal restrictions, changing tastes — all make it much simpler to tear down old buildings, rather than save them.

The town desperately needs a regulation that encourages homeowners and builders to preserve, rehabilitate, restore, reconstruct and/or adapt historic proprties.

Well, shiver me timbers! There is one!

Zoning Regulation 32-18 covers “Historic Residential Structures.” Actually, it does far more. It encourages their preservation.

But you’d have to be someone — an architect, say — well versed in Westport’s zoning code to know it.

In the spring of 2020 Simon and Robbyn Hallgarten — who had already renovated (and substantially saved) a historic home near Longshore — bought property on North Avenue.

Simon and Robbyn Hallgarten’s main house, on North Avenue.

The land — between Staples High School and Cross Highway — included a Victorian home and carriage house. Both were built around 1886.

Several “experts” told Simon that if he wanted to do renovate the carriage house, it had to be moved to conform to property setbacks. Otherwise he’d have to leave it as is, or tear it down.

Fortunately, Simon kept asking. Finally he found an architect who said: “Look at Section 32-18.” (You can, too. Click here.) 

Simon and Robbyn saved the 130-year-old structure.

Under normal zoning — because the carriage house sits within the property’s setback — any modifications or change of use would not be permitted.

Under 32-18 though, the Hallgartens provided the town with a perpetual maintenance easement over the structure. In return, they converted the historic timber-framed building into a garage gym, spare bedroom, en suite bath and great 2nd floor office/den space.

The renovated carriage house.

Simon wonders “how many other historic buildings could be maintained if only owners and architects were aware that they could be significantly renovated, and even go through a change of use – subject only to an agreement to maintain the structure going forward.”

Well — in a slightly different form — here’s another 32-18 success story. Last April, I wrote about a 2-story, 1,230-square foot 1892 farmhouse on Turkey Hill South.

Rahul Ghai and his wife Priyanka Singh used the regulation — obtained by the prior owners — to restore the 127-year-old structure, and also build a large house nearby.

The project won a Connecticut Preservation Award — one of only 10 in the state.

The story said that 32-18 had already prevented 22 other historic structures from being demolished.

Of course, 22 (now 23) successful preservation projects is a drop in the bucket, compared to the number of houses being demolished annually.

So whether you’re a developer, architect, homeowner — or someone who lives near a historic structure — remember those numbers: 32-18.

When you hear of a successful renovation using that regulation, let me know.

Maybe one day there will be so many, it will no longer be news.

Food Rescue US Sinks Deep Westport Roots

If you’re like me, you’ve probably given little — if any — thought to the enormous amount of food that restaurants and grocery stores throw away every day.

If you’re like Simon Hallgarten and Stephanie Webster though, you have.

The Westporters — he’s a founding partner of Northview Hotel Group, she’s editor-in-chief of CTbites — are national board members of Food Rescue US.

The organization — known until this past January as Community Plates — fills a simple, important, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that mission: moving fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to families that desperately need it.

The national Food Rescue US group has a strong local presence. Under Hallgarten and Webster’s leadership, Westport has become a big town for food donors — and as “food rescuers.”

Whole Foods cannot possibly sell all its food. It’s a leader in offering its unused goods to people in need.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market are longtime donors. Many smaller stores and restaurants participate too.

Right now, 40 Westport volunteers transport food to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Many bring their children on food rescue missions. “It’s an important lesson for our kids who otherwise are sheltered from the harsher side of life, and the struggles that many families go through every day,” Hallgarten — who started his career as a chef — says.

Ziggy Hallgarten — Simon’s son, an All-State soccer goalkeeper and current lacrosse player at Staples — and his younger brother Ollie are food rescuers.

Ollie Hallgarten, with a vehicle full of donated (“rescued”) food.

“It’s an easy way to give back to a large community at once,” Ziggy says. “With an hour’s worth of driving, you can change the lives of so many.”

On his first run with his dad 2 years ago, Ziggy was shocked to see some of his favorite foods — perfectly edible — about to be thrown away.

They filled the back of their station wagon, and drove “pounds and pounds of food” from a New Canaan grocery store to a Stamford homeless shelter.

“The locations of my deliveries changed during the couple of years I’ve been a food rescuer,” Ziggy says. “But the priceless smiles of the recipients when I’ve driven up with boxes of food never ceases to amaze me.”

He brought friends on runs too, showing them the feasibility — and ease — of saving otherwise wasted food.

Though Food Rescue US is a volunteer driven (ho ho) operation, there are of course administrative and other costs. So this year’s fundraiser — “Food for All 2017: An Evening to End Hunger” — is very important.

Set for next Wednesday (April 26, 6:30 p.m., The Loading Dock in Stamford), it features over 15 tasting plates from top Fairfield County chefs, along with beer, wine and craft cocktails. Every $1 donated helps cover 20 rescued meals.

Westport sponsors for Wednesday’s fundraiser include Whole Foods, Moffly Media, and the Elizabeth and Joseph Massoud Family Foundation. Fleishers Craft Kitchen and Whole Foods are among the participating food vendors.

“Hunger is an issue that can be fixed,” Simon Hallgarten says. “Food Rescue US’ goal of ending hunger in not a crazy pipe dream. It’s a reality — if we reach critical mass in the next decade.”

In Westport — thanks to so many restaurants, stores and volunteers — we’re almost there.

(For more information on the April 26 “Food for All” fundraiser, including tickets, click here.)