Appetite for restaurants: Three cooked up at National Hall
Updated 5:01 pm, Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The west side of downtown Westport could soon be serving up a new menu of restaurants, if a zoning text amendment proposed by the owner of the downtown landmark, National Hall, is approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Greenfield Partners, a South Norwalk-based commercial estate firm that owns National Hall and several surrounding buildings, has secured three letters of intent to open new dining establishments on the west bank of the Saugatuck River, according to its land-use counsel William Fitzpatrick.
"Three restaurants is a good start," Fitzpatrick said. "You've got the boardwalk and the river. It'll be a nice place to be, particularly in the evening."
Safita, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Fairfield, would open a new establishment at 6 Wilton Road, which once served as a fire house. Bar Taco, a chain of Mexican restaurants, would open a new outlet at 20 Wilton Road, which formerly housed the Peter Coppola hair salon. The third restaurant in the National Hall complex would be sushi-themed and operate on the first floor of 12 Wilton Road, which overlooks the Saugatuck River.
Those restaurants' openings, however, are contingent upon the P&Z approving Text Amendment 638, a package of zoning changes introduced at a commission hearing last Thursday that would allow Greenfield to relocate its corporate headquarters from South Norwalk to National Hall. To facilitate this use, Greenfield's text amendment would lift a ban on office use on the first floor of National Hall. The amendment would also eliminate a cap that limits office use to 10 percent of the total gross floor area of all buildings in the Historic Design District where National Hall is located.
Greenfield's plans for the National Hall complex also include a three-story addition to the rear of an adjoining building at 8 Post Road West that could have office space on the upper floors and retail or restaurant use on the first floor.
The P&Z approved in December 2009 a similar text amendment for the Historic Design District that was proposed by Greenfield. That amendment was overturned a month later by the Representative Town Meeting. In March 2010, the boutique hotel, the Inn at National Hall, closed. Since then, the downtown landmark has stood vacant.
The P&Z will continue its review of Text Amendment 638 at a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Town Hall auditorium.