94-unit 'affordable' housing plan on Post Road East unveiled

WESTPORT — New owners of the commercial property at 1177 Post Road East, sold by the Kowalsky family in January for $6.8 million, plan to develop a 94-unit residential complex on the site, with 30 percent of the apartments designated “affordable” under state housing guidelines.

Plans for the project have been filed with the Planning and Zoning and the Conservation commissions, although no hearings on the proposal have been scheduled yet.

The project would be a mix of 88 studio and one-bedroom units, with six two-bedroom units, according to the plan.

The new owner is 1177 PRE Associates, LLC, co-managed by commercial real estate developers Phil Craft and Stephen Lawrence, according to an announcement about the project. Additional members of the development team include developer Arthur Hersh, lawyer Christopher Smith from Shipman & Goodwin, architect Patrick Rose from Rose-Tiso & Co., and engineer Ted Hart from Milone & MacBroom.

If approved, the adaptive re-use and redevelopment project will transform the existing two-story office structure, which encompasses approximately 42,000 square feet, with a four-story addition built over a parking area on the 1.96-acre parcel. The office building was constructed by the Kowalskys in 1980.

The developers say the project will have eco-friendly elements, with LEED certification as a goal.

The town, which has been embroiled by controversy over several affordable housing projects in recent years, “needs more affordable housing options for the people that make Westport work,” Craft said in the owners’ press release, such as public safety, school and municipal employees. He added that there is also a need for more “transitional housing options” for younger workers, recent graduates and older adults.

“These people use few town services but contribute immensely to the community as workers, volunteers, customers, patrons and, in many cases, future home buyers,” Craft’s statement says in support of the affordable housing units. “In a time when workers under 50 years old and retirees are leaving Connecticut in droves, we need communities like this to help keep these people in Westport.”

Lawrence said the development team feels its proposal can avoid controversy that engulfed earlier affordable housing applications in town because it is located on a major thoroughfare and in a commercial district, which is served by sewer lines, public utilities, nearby shopping outlets and bus routes. And because of the units’ relatively small size, they would be unlikely to attract families who would have a significant impact on local school enrollment, he indicated.

Fire and emergency vehicles would have driveway access on all four sides of the building, the developers said.