A local Mexican restaurant chain has signed a lease to open on the west side of downtown Westport, as redevelopment moves ahead at the riverfront landmark National Hall.

Bar Taco plans to open an approximately 100-seat establishment at 20 Wilton Road on the west bank of the Saugatuck River in the town center, according to Mark Coe, principal of Coe Management, the firm that manages 20 Wilton Road, National Hall and several neighboring buildings on the west bank of the Saugatuck River. Bar Taco also has restaurants in Stamford, West Hartford and Port Chester, N.Y.

"If you look at this space and its position on the waterfront and its views of downtown and conversely the view from downtown looking over here, we think it's going to add a lot of vitality and life to this site," Coe said.

Coe also heads Coe Consulting, the project-management firm for the National Hall complex. Both Coe Management and Coe Consulting have upper-floor offices at 6 Wilton Road

Bar Taco plans to open its Wilton Road outlet in the second quarter of 2013, pending site plan approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission, according to Coe.

Peter Coppola hair salon formerly occupied 20 Wilton Road before relocating in 2010 to Post Road East.

Twenty Wilton Road belongs to a group of buildings on the west bank of the Saugatuck River owned by the Norwalk-based commercial real estate firm Greenfield Partners. National Hall, a red-brick Italianate building at 2-8 Post Road West, anchors the complex. In June, Greenfield Partners secured approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to redevelop National Hall into an office center, which will serve as the new Greenfield corporate headquarters. National Hall is scheduled to open for office use by Labor Day 2013, according to Coe.

In the meantime, the interior of National Hall, the former site of a boutique hotel, is undergoing a major renovation. Its existing inside partitions and finishes have been removed, ahead of its office fit-out, which is scheduled to start this month.

"We've got a lot of infrastructure work to put in place, meaning all the bones of the structural frame and the interior components of the building, before we start doing any finishes or interior construction," Coe said. "That's what happens first and then the build-out starts."

National Hall has been vacant since the Inn at National Hall closed in March 2010. Many downtown merchants and town officials hope the redevelopment of the property will spur a broader revitalization of the west side of downtown Westport, which has been wracked by a series of restaurant and retail closings and long-term vacancies in recent years. But the area's prospects have noticeably improved during the last year with new arrivals such as Art's Delicatessen, the Bella Bridesmaid shop and the Italian restaurant Arezzo. All three are housed in Riverside Corners, a building that straddles the intersection of Post Road West and Riverside Avenue.

In addition to Bar Taco, two other restaurants are also set to open in the National Hall complex.

Moja, a restaurant featuring Japanese and South American cuisine, is scheduled to debut by the end of this month at 12 Wilton Road, a building that overlooks the Saugatuck River. At 6 Wilton Road, the owners of the Fairfield Middle Eastern restaurant Safita plan to open a restaurant on the building's first floor.

Redevelopment of National Hall will also include the construction of a glass-facade addition and a new public plaza next to the downtown landmark.

Yards away from the National Hall complex on the other side of Wilton Road, construction is slated to start this month on a third-level addition to a parking structure that serves Greenfield's west-side buildings. The expansion will increase the parking facility's capacity from 97 to 133. Construction of the third-level will likely finish in the first quarter of 2013, according to Coe.

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