Tag Archives: Westport Health Care Center

New Life For Old Nursing Home?

It’s a jarring sight.

On one side of Post Road West, heading toward town, sits the classic-looking Kings Highway Elementary School.

A few yards away — on the other side of Burr Road — looms an industrial-type building, showing its age.

The current name is nondescript: Westport Rehabilitation Complex. So was the previous one: Westport Health Care Center. Many Westporters still call it “Mediplex.”

Connecticut Rehabilitation Complex. In the background: Kings Highway Elementary School.

It looks like a stereotypical “nursing” or “old age home.” Sure, those are outdated terms.

But so is the structure.

Next Monday (June 27, 7 p.m., Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing on a text amendment that would substantially change the look of the building.

And adapt its use to more modern “senior care.”

Rick Redniss — principal at Redniss & Mead, a surveying, civil engineering and planning firm, who has been involved in Westport projects like the renovation of Richmondville Mill and the conversion of 136 Riverside Avenue to housing for adults with special needs — hopes to expand the current standards for nursing homes to include a new medical facility specializing in Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairment care.

The new proposal would gut renovate the interior, and redo the façade and roof, but essentially maintain the current footprint. Additional square footage would be added to the top 2 floors, to accommodate the new use.

The existing 120 beds would be reduced by almost half, to 68 units. Redniss notes that memory care — a growing segment of eldercare — requires a less intense use of staff than a skilled nursing home, too.

The property would be modernized and enhanced, with better landscaping and protections for nearby residents.

This is not the first time a new use has been proposed for the old site.

During the past few years, the landlord has submitted applications or pre-application requests to either change the use to a luxury hotel, or demolish the existing structure and construct a new assisted living facility.

Both proposals faced obstacles, and were withdrawn.

Connecticut Rehabilitation Complex;s Burr Street entrance. 

The timing now is important. Westport Rehabilitation has an option to extend their lease, and continue to operate as they have been. An agreement in place would allow this new project to proceed.

Redniss says that feedback from town departments and engineers — as well as a pre-application meeting with P&Z — has been included in this current plan.

And, he adds, the height and feel of the renovation will complement the elementary school directly across the street.

(The June 27 public hearing will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. at westportct.gov,  Optimum Channel 79 and Frontier Channel 6020. Comments may be sent prior to the meeting to PandZ@westportct.gov. Interested parties may offer live testimony via Zoom.)

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Breaking News: Lincoln Street Rezoning Application Withdrawn

As noted in the “Comments” section of this morning’s “06880” story on the proposed application to rezone part of Lincoln Road, for a Westport Health Care Center parking lot:

Laurence Bradley, AICP
Planning & Zoning Director
Town of Westport

The rezoning application at 14 and 20 Lincoln Street has been withdrawn.

Lincoln Street will continue to look like this — at least for a while.

Lincoln Street Lot

After 2 months, the strike at the Westport Health Care Center continues. The chants and noise-making have died down, but dozens of nursing home caregivers still protest what they call unfair labor practices at the Burr Road facility.

Meanwhile, the nursing home’s owner — New Jersey-based HealthBridge/Care One — is gearing up for another battle. This Thursday (September 6, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the Planning & Zoning Commission holds a public hearing. Item 1 on the agenda is an application to rezone 2 properties on Lincoln Street — off Post Road West, parallel to Burr Road — from “Zone A Residential” to “Restricted Office Retail District.”

Healthbridge hopes to buy and tear down the 2 homes, and replace them with a 26-car parking lot. Neighbors fear it will be “lit and used around the clock, 7 days a week.”

Nearly 2 dozen residents of the area oppose the application. A few neighbors favor it.

Lincoln Street today.

Last month — with both houses listed on the town’s Historic Resources Inventory — the Historic District Commission heard testimony and received letters from neighbors. A majority opposed the zoning change. The commission then voted unanimously to oppose the request for a change. Their memo cited “a serious intrusion, and irreparable damage to the existing residential character of this distinctive historic neighborhood.”

The 2 homes are multi-family, moderate-incoming housing. Including a cottage, 6 housing units would be lost.

Opponents of the application cite a Connecticut Historical Commission description from 1988:

Lincoln Street is the only known, turn-of-the-century speculative development on the west side of the river, and it is very important because it is a complete, intact, period streetscape.

Lincoln Street, around the turn of the 20th century.

(Lincoln Street) retains its early-20th century character, and should be preserved as a record of the residential development.

Lincoln Street may not be paradise. But it’s handsome, and home to many longtime Westporters.

Will Healthbridge demolish those homes, pave them, and put up a parking lot?

Striking Noise

The striking nursing home workers at Westport Health Care Center want to be heard.

Their neighbors on Burr Road wish they wouldn’t take things so literally.

Westport Health Care Center picketers. Sorry, no audio.

A resident wrote “06880”:

It’s one thing to picket. But from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. for the past 10 days — with boom boxes, whistles and constant chanting — it’s getting a bit much for the neighbors. Not to mention the elderly residents in the home.

Why aren’t they picketing at the home of the CEO?

We have sympathy for what the workers are going through regarding their contracts, etc. But it is wearing very thin.

Adding to the cacophony: motorists who honk in support of the strikers — causing them to raise the decibel level even higher.

“Police have been called several times,” the writer says. “But there is no noise ordinance for picketing — only construction.”

A neighbor’s call to the first selectman 4 days ago, the writer says, has not been returned.

Mediplex And Post Road West

Today, “06880” turns its gaze on a small stretch of land near King’s Highway Elementary School.

Owners of the facility everyone calls Mediplex — officially (and generically) the Westport Health Care Center — want to demolish 2 homes on Lincoln Street, and replace them with a 26-car parking lot.

The houses are something rare in Westport: apartments.

Some neighbors are opposed. They worry about lighting, dumpsters, plowing — and the look of the neighborhood.

They also note that when Mediplex was built — and for much of its existence –owners said that as an assisted living facility, they didn’t need much parking.

The houses are in an area deemed residential, but near a commercial zone. Mediplex would like the zoning changed.

Uh oh.

Westport Health Care Center’s Burr Road entrance. The parking lot would be behind it, on Lincoln Street.

We (Heart) For The Heart

If you were near the cannons at Westport’s 4th 1st of July fireworks — or clicked a link on “06880” — you were entertained by For the Heart, Westport’s fresh-faced, energetic and mega-talented teenage singing group.

But as great as they sound, their back story is even more inspiring.

Six years ago, Bedford 7th grader Caley Beretta was enjoying Music Theater of Connecticut.  She’d made new friends from throughout Fairfield County.  “We wanted an excuse to get together and sing,” she recalls.  On a whim, they called Westport Health Care Center (formerly Mediplex), and offered to perform.

They sang songs from their favorite musicals, like “Wicked” and “Rent.”

“They loved it, but we had no idea ‘Sound of Music’ would be better,” Caley laughs.

For the Heart -- 2011 version. (Photo by Kerry Long)

They had such a good time — and the feedback was so great — that Caley and her friends googled more assisted living facilities in the area.  They created a song list, borrowed sheet music from MTC, rehearsed in her basement — and before long For the Heart “was legit,” Caley says.

First Night 2006 was their 1st non-elderly show.  The crowd loved them — especially 9-year-old additions Melissa Beretta and Cara McNiff, who sang “Matchmaker.”

For the Heart kept singing.  In 2009 Chris McNiff and a few others went to college.  Caley followed the next year.  Before leaving, she brought in new members.

The newcomers suggested Jake Landau as music director.  Caley calls the rising Staples junior “incredibly talented and dedicated.  He wowed us.”

The 12 members — including Stapleites Amanda Horowitz, Tyler Jent, August Laska, Grace McDavid-Seidner, Michelle Pauker, Emily Ressler and Clay Singer, plus Fairfield Ludlowe’s Steve Autore and Fairfield Warde’s Johnny Shea — form what Caley calls “For the Heart 2.0.”

Like a proud parent, she calls the current group “much more polished.” And, she says, “we now do the right songs for each audience.”

They’ve also amped up their performing schedule.

Right before Christmas, they made a memorable visit to the Westport Health Care Center.

They caroled room to room.  It was an intensely personal experience, at an extremely vulnerable time for the elderly men and women.

Their smiles — and the reactions they get at all their shows — are what keep the For the Heart kids gonig.

A Christmas appearance.

After one performance, a woman told the teenagers that, long ago, she’d been an opera singer.  When the group sang “Anything Goes,” a man said he once directed the show.

(As with all performers, they can’t always please everyone.  One person was very offended that they didn’t know “Go Tell it on the Mountain” at Christmastime.)

One of For the Heart’s most memorable gigs was at a Bridgeport after-school program.  The children sang along with Disney songs — and when the teenagers came off the stage to join them in the audience, the youngsters went wild.

This year, the group hopes to sing for new audiences.  Children’s hospitals are high on their list.

Working around active teenagers’ schedules is not easy.  But — despite commitments to their theater and choral groups, schoolwork, SAT courses and the bajillion other things kids today do — the members make For the Heart a high priority.

They sing 15 to 18 selections each show — and they learn new songs for every performance.  The fireworks marked their 40th concert.

So how much money does For the Heart make?

Not a penny.

Every show is free.

In fact, they pay to perform.  Sheet music purchases are a collective effort.

They carpool, to save gas.  They borrow music stands.  And, they note, both MTC and Staples Players director David Roth have been very helpful.

They’ve talked about a fundraising concert at Toquet Hall.  But, Caley says, “what’s great is that this is not about money.  It’s to do a show, and make people smile.”

“It’s all about the joy,” Amanda says.  “It’s just fun.  It makes me happy.”

Grace is gratified by the audience’s smiles.  “It’s so great when they sing along, and then ask us to come back.”

“It’s so great to talk to some of the elderly audiences,” Melissa adds.  “We hear their memories, and they tell us about when they performed or went to the theater.”

Caley knows that many of her talented performers will go on to accomplish great things, in a variety of venues.

But, she says, “it’s nice to get applause on a high school stage, or sing in a big concert, and 2 weeks later get up with your friends, and perform in jeans in some cafeteria.”

Those performances truly come From the Heart.

(Click below for a few of For the Heart’s greatest hits from the recent Compo Beach fireworks show.)