Study seeks silver lining in new use for Golden Shadows mansion
Updated 5:55 am, Thursday, April 14, 2016
WESTPORT — To explore new uses for the Golden Shadows mansion on the town-owned Baron’s South property, the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday unanimously approved a $16,000 feasibility study.
The town purchased the 23-acre estate of the late Baron Langer von Langerdorff, located between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue, in 1999. Since the purchase, apart from a place to store library books, the Baron’s vacant home has gone largely unused. The building, however, is listed on Westport’s Historic Resources Inventory and is being considered for a local historic designation.
Under the agreement, the town will pay Achilles Architects no more than $16,000 for the study to determine how the 4,250-square-foots structure can be preserved, externally and internally. Achilles was selected from three applicants interviewed for the job, according to Selectman Helen Garten, who is leading the effort to review the mansion’s historic viability and possible re-use.
Garten said Achilles was selected not just because of his experience working with historic structures, but also his "understanding and appreciation that Golden Shadows is part of a broader piece of property and his willingness to work with other people who are working on other aspects of that property."
The study, slated to take eight to 10 weeks, aims to identify and examine the condition of the property; determine future needs for the building, conceptual designs, timeline and cost estimates, and prepare a final review and public presentations with recommendations to town officials.
"Regardless of historic status or anything else, we do need to figure out practical, possible ways to make use of this building, and I think this is reasonably cost-effective and I think it will inform a lot of us about what are the possibilities, the realistic possibilities," First Selectman Jim Marpe said.
Although the study takes an initial step toward outline possible uses of property that has been dormant for the better part of two decades, Don Bergmann asked the board if the public would have access to the interior.
"This is a beautiful building inside. My guess is most of the uses that could flow from this may not produce that outcome and I think that’s a legitimate issue to be considered," Bergmann said.
Other members of the public voiced support for the effort.
"I think it’s a responsible first step and I strongly support it," said Morley Boyd. "I like what’s developing here."
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