Charged with making the final decision on plans for the most significant downtown development project in decades, Planning and Zoning Commission members on Tuesday morning headed to the site of the Westport Weston Family Y and neighboring properties where the multi-use complex known as Bedford Square will be built -- if the P&Z grants approval.
The P&Z is secheduled to take up the Bedford Square application when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in Town Hall.
Four of the commission's seven members, accompanied on the official field trip by P&Z Director Laurence Bradley, applicants David Waldman and Karen Johnson of the Bedford Square consortium, toured the property, which encompases at the Family Y on Post Road East, as well as the neighboring lot on Church Lane.
The proposal, which has already been approved by several other town boards, calls for retail, residential, restaurant and office use in the new development, anchored by a large public plaza. The complex would incorporate and renovate the Y's Bedford building and a former firehouse as part of the project, while the Weeks Pavilion, the newer Y building, will be torn down. The Family Y is currently building a new headquarters on its Mahackeno property in northern Westport, which it plans to complete next year.
The Bedford Square development will also include four new buildings at 35 Church Lane. The two existing buildings there will be removed, including the 1890 Queen Anne-style "Gunn" house, which the consortium has offered to preserve by moving it across Elm Street to a plot in the town's Baldwin parking lot. That plan, however, has yet to be approved by the town.
In addition to 60,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space, the proposed development will include 26 one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as two stories of underground parking.
Markers are already in place to outline the footprint of the four proposed buildings on Church Lane, which will require widening the sidewalk and road.
"Is there going to be any green?" asked Commissioner Jack Whittle. "You're losing a lot of green."
"There's going to be urban landscaping," Waldman said.
Johnson pointed out that the new structure proposed for the site of the Weeks Pavilion will not technically be higher, but will constitute four stories.
"It's going to feel like a two-story building when you're at street level," she said, "but then it steps back."
Waldman explained that Church Lane will be "reconfigured to have more of a right angle" where it meets the Post Road, which he said will increase traffic visibility.
"The sidewalks are going to come out to here," he said, standing about 12 feet into the street in front of the entrance to the original Y building.
He also pointed out that the sidewalk will extend farther out as it bends from the Post Road onto Main Street.
The stone staircase into the building from the east side of Main Street, currently boarded up, will be put back into use, according to plans. The section of sidewalk to its right, where there is currently a bench, will be dug out allowing for an underground entryway from the corner.
The small brick covering on the left of the staircase, which houses an entrance into the basement, will be removed.
"We should be done, in my mind, in 18 months, but it's a two-year project," Waldman said, if the P&Z grants its approval.