Downtown Westport redevelopment project up for P&Z action
Updated 5:34 pm, Monday, March 21, 2011
Having already secured approvals from the Historic District Commission and Architectural Review Board for a project that includes, among other features a historic building that almost fell to the wrecking ball, a courtyard, outdoor dining and a pathway that links Post Road and Church Lane, Waldman will appear in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday seeking special permit and site plan approval. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.
If all goes well, "We can start to lift the house (the Sherwood Mansion) on April 1," Waldman said.
The historic mansion is one of three buildings that make up the project. The others are 101-107 Post Road. A restaurant is planned for the early-1800s era Federal-style building. The nearby three-story buildings, separated by a courtyard, will be leased by a single retailer, according to Waldman, providing the business with 11,600 square feet of space. One building's third floor is on Church Lane because of the property's topography, but the proposed change to two floors will allow for 20-foot ceilings on the first floor.
As far as the mansion, the restaurant tenant will have the opportunity to do outdoor dining along Church Lane.
The mansion, according to Waldman, is being moved six feet closer to Church Lane. "We're going to lift the house, put in the new foundation and then put it back down and finish the exterior renovation and interior," he said. "Hopefully by then we will be working with the new restaurant so we can begin our work together, making the job easier and more efficient."
As for the other structures, "We are currently doing interior non-structural demo and again, I am hopeful I will be working with the future retailer and building on their behalf, in which case we will start that part of the job in June."
Waldman said four restaurateurs have expressed interest in the Sherwood Mansion site, some of whom already have established restaurants in the Fairfield County area.
"They like the downtown location and they're interested in the history of the house, and the physical structure is really a beautiful structure," Waldman said. "They like the idea of outdoor dining right on the street."
It just so happens that Waldman is also an owner of the Westport Weston Family Y property at Post Road and Church Lane. When the Y eventually relocates, that downtown anchor will become a mixed-use development of retail/restaurant/residential, which Waldman said will serve only to help the new businesses at the project on the other side of Church Lane.
"There's a lot of opportunity,' said Waldman. "Right now it (the project) is down a side street, but eventually, with the renovation of the Y, it will be in the middle of what I believe will be the most significant redevelopment of a project in the downtown area."
Initially, the Sherwood Mansion was to be demolished, but after revised plans called for it to be preserved, Waldman feels it will be the distinctive centerpiece of the redevelopment.
Frederick Hoag, the project architect, said the approval process -- going through the various town boards --has proven to be a good example of how "you can work with the different boards and come up with a better solution."
Hoag said it's gratifying part of something that will affect downtown "in such a positive way."