Every Photo Challenge has a back story. I wish I knew the one behind last week’s.
Downtown, a block of Post Road stores between Myrtle Avenue and Anthropologie (the old YMCA) seems to cut off access to Church Lane, and with it the Spotted Horse restaurant and the shops and galleries of Bedford Square.
Unless, that is, you know the “secret” short cut. A narrow alley slices alongside Urban Outfitters, connecting the 2 streets.
What’s more, the passageway is enlivened by some cool art. Most Westporters don’t know it’s there. But Tom Ryan, Andrew Colabella, Michael Calise, Stacie Curran and Seth Braunstein all identified it through Molly Alger’s reminiscent-of-an-island-somewhere photo. (Click here to see.)
How did the alley get there? Was it planned, or an accident? Who created the art — and was it sponsored or guerrilla? If you know the back story to this hidden downtown gem, let us know!
ProTip: There’s another shortcut between the Post Road and Church Lane too, just east of the alley: the parking garage. You can’t drive through anymore, but you can still walk it.
This week’s Photo Challenge is not exactly a shortcut. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
Westport is all set to welcome 2 new businesses downtown.
Paper Source is a large store selling, well, paper (plus envelopes, labels and the like). Steven Alan — whose opening is delayed a few weeks — is a men’s and women’s clothier.
Both occupy the new building wedged into the former parking lot between Spruce — the old Town Hall — and Bank of America, just east of Restoration Hardware.
It is, I think, the 1st totally new construction (on an unused site) downtown since 180 Post Road East — Michele’s Pies, La Villa restaurant, etc.
With people (hopefully) streaming in to buy paper and clothes — and eat at the coming-soon restaurants in the old post office, and the basement of Spruce/the old Town Hall, plus crossing the street for Urban Outfitters — the news is good for this stretch of downtown.
But the new building wiped out dozens of parking spots. As Westporters chime in on the possible loss of spaces if the Gunn House is moved across Elm Street to the Baldwin lot, I’m wondering how and why the new construction at 100 Post Road East got a pass.
Here are some new renderings of Bedford Square — the retail/restaurant/ residential complex planned for the Church Lane area, once the Westport Y departs for Mahackeno.
Looking west, down Church Lane. The original Y building is at the far left in this drawing.
Looking east, up Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity. The Spotted Horse is on the right.
Church Lane again. This time Urban Outfitters is on the left.
A view from behind, of the renovations to the original YMCA Bedford Building.
A view of Church Lane, from the corner of Elm Street (on the right).
Looks like a lot of changes to downtown, right?
For a vastly different perspective, check out this aerial view of Westport, looking east. (Post Road West is at the bottom of the photo, leading to the Post Road bridge. The athletic fields on the lower right are between King’s Highway and Saugatuck Elementary Schools.)
Paul Schott of the Westport News called the 60,000-square foot mixed-use complex planned for the site of the current Westport Y “arguably the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”
There’s no “arguably” about it. This is The Big One. A true downtown game changer.
The proposed Bedford Square plan, looking northwest. The new buildings (shown) would replace the current YMCA Weeks Pavilion, and 35 Church Lane.
The development — announced Tuesday — would keep the original Bedford Y. The old Tudor building at the corner of the Post Road and Main Street has, since 1923, defined downtown.
But the Weeks Pavilion — the hideous 1978 addition that, in part because of its unwieldiness, has driven the Y to Mahackeno — would be torn down.
So would 35 Church Lane, an 1890 Queen Anne-style house. That will arouse a lot more sentiment than the lumpy, leaky Weeks Y.
The block — extending out to Elm Street — will be the site of a new “Bedford Square.” Retail, residential, restaurant and office space would ring a large public plaza. Public walkways will tie the entire area in with adjacent downtown areas.
The 30 residential units include 550-square foot studio apartments, on up to 1,800-square foot 2-bedroom homes.
Also planned: a 100-car underground parking garage.
A view of Church Lane, looking east. The current firehouse portion of the Y is at left; Patagonia is on the right.
Construction could start in the fall of 2014 — assuming (a big “if”) the new Y is ready then, and the lengthy town board review process goes smoothly.
Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months. That would be a chaotic time downtown.
But — judging from the initial rendering — Bedford Square could be a handsome, well-planned, creative and unifying addition to downtown.
Coming as it does while Lou Gagliano’s 2020 Committee is also working to make downtown more pedestrian friendly, the timing seems right.
We’ve seen what the addition of one restaurant (the Spotted Horse) and one retailer (Urban Outfitters) can do to Church Lane. Imagine what an integrated, block-long plan could accomplish.
The Bedford Square plan is definitely — not arguably — “the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”
Let’s hope it works out better than a previous, similarly touted project 60 years ago: Parker Harding Plaza.
Then again, it can’t turn out worse.
Part of the courtyard that would be ringed by new buildings on Church Lane and Elm Street.
Or the one that hunkered down on the Post Road for over 40 years.
Curran Cadillac‘s long awaited and finally frenzied makeover into Terrain culminated in a preview party Thursday night.
Yesterday, the public surged in.
There’s lots to see in the new Terrain.
I couldn’t make the party. But a friend who was there called it “Brooklyn/boho chic.” She described the indoor/outdoor organic restaurant’s menu as “understandable.”
Another alert “06880” reader sent this report:
The store smells like a cross between a garden center, Parfumerie Douglas and an aromatherapy apothecary. It’s sensory overload.
There’s a spa/skin/bath/beauty area in the back left. Housewares, linens, tablecloths, napkins and other decorating knickknacks are sprinkled throughout.
The garden center is pretty cool, with very stylish outdoor furniture and things you would see Mar Jennings (who was there) using on a photo shoot.
The coffee bar/restaurant is very pleasant, and priced equal to Starbucks.
The restaurant looks sleek but inviting.
I stopped by yesterday. My first impression was that the parking lot was striped for Mini Coopers, while people buying things like furniture and planters drive large vehicles and trucks.
But if the parking spots are small, Terrain’s interior is enormous. It’s like what airplane terminals would look like, if they were designed by people with a gift for aesthetics and an interest in comfort.
Because I am gardening-impaired — why do you think I live in a condo? — and have all the tableware and bath accessories I need, I did not walk out with truckfuls of stuff. That made me a minority of one.
There sure is a lot of “stuff” in the new Terrain.
Everyone else piled their vehicles full of new, boho, organic-smelling goods, then maneuvered out of their teeny-tiny parking spaces and back onto the Post Road, Crescent Road and, for all I know, the fire station parking lot.
Terrain is handsome. It’s green (in color and sensibility). It’s provided instant life to a stretch of the Post Road that for years seemed pretty grotty.
Terrain is owned by Urban Outfitters, which recently opened a Westport store on the Post Road (with an entrance on Church Lane). The company also owns Anthropologie, giving it 3 Westport locations on US 1.
They clearly believe in this town. And — judging by the bucks they’ve poured into both Terrain and Urban Outfitters — they clearly the believe consumers are buying again. At least, buying the certain style of clothes, furnishings, garden equipment, jewelry, beauty products and everything else they’re selling.
It’s hard to believe many other new businesses would create this type of buzz.
You can’t tell from this photo, but the gas lamps flickered today outside the Spotted Horse, the almost-ready-to-open restaurant in the Federal-style Sherwood House on Church Lane. The lamps lend a great touch to a loving restoration of the 1802 building in the heart of downtown.
Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters plans to open Thursday. One entrance is on the Post Road, next to Patagonia. A 2nd entrance is on Church Lane — next to the Spotted Horse.
Being able to walk through the store — as well as the new configuration of the parking lot and parking garage separating it from the new restaurant — will add a different dynamic to downtown. The sum of this redevelopment may be greater than its parts.
It doesn’t seem like that big a space. But it will take Urban Outfitters a year to redo the building. Occupancy is scheduled for April 2012.
Westport Patch — which first reported this story — says that casual clothier Urban Outfitters “caters to a younger crowd (teens and young adults)” than its Westport Anthropologie store, which it also owns.
Welcome to Westport, one more store that is apparently very cool and important, which I will never in a bajillion years set foot in.
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