Two downtown restaurant applications served up for P&Z review

Photo of Paul Schott

Ahead of a May 31 site plan review for new corporate offices at National Hall, the Planning and Zoning Commission has set a May 17 public hearing on proposals for two new restaurants adjacent to the downtown landmark on the west bank of the Saugatuck River.

The applicants include the owners of the Fairfield Middle Eastern restaurant Safita, who are seeking to open a new Middle Eastern-themed restaurant in an approximately 2,000-square-foot space at 6 Wilton Road. The property was once used as a firehouse and previously housed a Poggenpohl kitchen store on its first floor. Its first-floor storefront, however, has been empty for more than a year.

"It's going to have a more modern feel to it," said Kheder Hassoun, who co-owns Safita with his mother. "We're going to expand the menu a little bit. The firehouse is a cool spot, and we look forward to being part of the revitalization of the area."

The new restaurant at 6 Wilton Road will have about 50 seats, including a 12-seat bar, and also include an outdoor patio, Hassoun added.

Safita opened at 2217 Post Road East in Fairfield in October 2010. The establishment is named after Safita, a city in northwestern Syria that is the original home of Hassoun's family.

Another firm, Weston-based Katlin LLC, is also scheduled to present a site plan for a new restaurant at the P&Z's May 17 hearing .

Katlin's dining establishment, Moja Restaurant & Bar, would open in a vacant first-floor space at 12 Wilton Road, a building that stands adjacent to National Hall and overlooks the Saugatuck River. Moja's menu would offer Japanese cuisine and "elements of South America flavors to make a very tasty, healthy and distinctive fare that will resonate with kids, teens and adults young and old," according to Katlin's site plan application. The restaurant would also put an "emphasis on special tea service, especially in the afternoons," the application adds.

The prospective restaurants at 6 and 12 Wilton Road tie into a broad redevelopment project on the west side of downtown Westport planned by Greenfield Partners, the Norwalk-based commercial real estate firm that owns National Hall, as well as 6 and 12 Wilton Road. Greenfield representatives are scheduled May 31 to present a site plan for a new office center at National Hall that would serve as Greenfield's new headquarters.

Greenfield received P&Z approval in October 2011 of a text amendment it proposed that allows expanded office use at National Hall. It also secured P&Z backing in February to add a third level onto a parking deck it owns on Wilton Road.

Built in 1870, National Hall has served a variety of uses. Its most recent occupant, the Inn at National Hall, was a boutique hotel that operated 17 years until its closing in March 2010. The building has stood vacant since then.

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