Letter: Bedford Square a win/win
At a joint meeting of Westport's Historic District Commission and Architectural Review Board on Jan. 29, the HDC voted unanimously in support of the final design for the proposed project of Bedford Square Associates for the Y buildings ot the Post Road and Church Lane.
The ARB previously had voted to recommend that the project proceed as designed.
This project results from the purchase of the downtown Y buildings and the subsequent purchase of the adjacent Gunn property at Church Lane and Elm Street. The design encompasses and substantially preserves the Y's existing Bedford Building and the former fire house, replaces the Y's undistinguished Weeks Pavilion, relocates the lovely Queen Anne house on the Gunn property, creates three attractive structures on the Gunn property and provides for underground parking and a number of positive changes to the street scape.
While Centerbrook Architects and Planners designed the project, the design reflects a number of important and positive suggestions resulting from the hard work of members of the ARB and the HDC.
I am excited by the final design. The historic buildings are preserved, and the new buildings reflect an effective integration of the old and new, as well as a sensitivity to issues so relevant to most of us -- size, height, detail, pedestrian movement and visual artistry. The fact that Bedford Square Associates will not demolish the Gunn house but rather relocate it is noteworthy. As envisioned, placing the house there reduces parking by 13 spaces, with the land to be either leased or deeded to the house's owner. Ownership of the house must be worked out since the town should not own the house and certainly not in its present unrenovated state. Most likely a public-bid process will be used so that the costs of renovation and the benfits of ownership are fairly addressed. In no instance will Westport incur an expense. Rather, Westport will benefit from the resulting increased real estate taxes and additional amounts to be negotiated for the town land.
The entire project, from the transformation of the former Y to the creation of new retail, office and residential space will be a win/win for all. The project is deserving of our support. The efforts of David Waldman and his skilled team, especially Centerbrook Architects and Planners, as well as the ARB and the HDC should be lauded. he project surely will be profitable for Bedford Square Associates. It will also improve the finances of Westport. However, most important of all, it will be truly lovely.