Interest high in Westport Old Town Hall property
Published 10:47 am, Wednesday, May 5, 2010
An iconic structure in downtown Westport has changed hands and is generating considerable interest from prospective tenants.
Initial plans call for the second and third floor of the 8,700-square-foot structure to be occupied by Sofer & Haroun LLP, an intellectual property law firm relocating from New York City. In addition to owning Westport-based SIR Development LLC, Robert Haroun is one of the founding partners of Sofer & Haroun LLP, a law firm that provides a full range of
services concerning patents, trademarks, designs, copyright, trade secrets and other aspects of intellectual property, in all areas of science and technology.
Haroun was unavailable for comment.
Franco Fellah, senior vice president with the HK Group, which is the leasing agent for the property, has been fielding calls from parties interested in the remaining space on the first floor and the lower level, as well as the drive thru.
"We're very excited about this property," he said. "It's a very high profile building that has different possible uses."
Located in the Center Business District, permitted uses in the zone include office and retail. And those are exactly the type of businesses that have been contacting Fellah. He has already been in discussions with national retailers and a bank.
"We've had a great deal of interest in it," Fellah said.
In his view, one of the major selling points of the property is parking. The site has approximately 35 spaces and has deeded rights to 17 on the adjacent, town-owned parking lot. "It's one of the few properties downtown that has its own parking, which is like a goldmine because nobody has parking downtown," Fellah said.
Yet the oft-quoted real estate mantra is key here, too -- location, location, location. Situated on an elevated parcel that adds an air of authority to the already impressive historic stone structure, the address is within walking distance to Main Street in one of the most sought after markets in the country.
Fellah said, "It's kind of like the natural extension of Main Street."
Other attributes that tenants may find appealing are the high ceilings and the chance to operate in a space that holds special meaning to the community. Westport's Old Town Hall was originally built in 1908 and served the town until 1983, when the municipality moved its offices to 100 Myrtle Ave.
Who exactly the new tenants are isn't as much a concern for Bob LeRose, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He said the important thing is that the new tenants help increase foot traffic to downtown.
"I'm a firm believer that having some more offices downtown is a good thing," LeRose said, because it brings people to the area -- hopefully, he added, to spend money in the many shops in town.
Retail on the first floor would also be a welcome addition, he said. "That's all good."
The sale comes on the heels of a first quarter report from Cushman & Wakefield that found that market fundamentals indicate the possibility of improvevement throughout the remainder of 2010.
"The Fairfield County market showed some surprising resilience in the first quarter," said Jim Fagan, senior managing director and head of Cushman & Wakefield's Fairfield and Westchester County regions. "With capital back chasing product, albeit at significantly lower thresholds, and leasing velocity increasing against a cross current of increasing vacancy, I think we'll look back and determine that the market bottomed out in late 2009/early 2010. For the foreseeable future, tenants that are taking advantage of the real estate market will continue to have the upper hand, but we think that this will lessen over time."