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Thursday, November 13, 2008

WestportNow Teardown of the Day: Hales Court

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The Westport Housing Authority has initiated an application process for permits to demolish 40 houses at Hales Court which will be replaced with 78 affordable housing structures. The house at 29 Hales Court typifies most of the existing houses which each are 744 to 761 square feet except for one house that is 1.014 square feet. All houses were built in 1950. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Posted 11/13/08 at 12:28 AM


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I am really sad to see that they are going to tear down the existing houses in Hales Court.  My family was one of the original families that moved into the court when it opened and I lived there until 1965.  It was a really fun place to grow up.  There were lots of kids my age to play with. When we weren’t playing in our own yard, there was always a game of softball, kickball, or foursquare that one could join. We rode our bikes and played jump rope hopscotch in the road since there was very little traffic. Every evening in the summer, the kids on our side of the court played tag using the phone pole at the end of our driveway as home.  My brothers built a fort in our back yard and we had lots of great trees on the property line to climb and terrify our mothers.

The houses were nice although small.  They were well built and sturdy with hardwood floors and full basements.  Our house had ladders works and a covered front porch that in the summer was covered with roses.  Like us, many families had vegetable gardens in the back yard to grow our own
tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, and melons as well as flowers. 

It was a true middle class / working class family neighborhood.  Most of the wage earners worked in Westport.  Many worked for the town of Westport in the Police Department, the highway department, as teachers, or nurses.  My father worked for the Post Office and later as the head of the mail room at Famous Artist’s School. My mom before becoming a homemaker, was a registered nurse.  The goal of most of the families was to be able to save enough money to get a downpayment for a house of their own.   

As for the children many of us have done well in life.  Quite a few of us including myself were able to get scholarships from the Staples Tuition Grants, the Woman’s Club, and other groups in town to attend college.  Others of us worked locally and also made good lives for ourselves many others left town after they graduated.  I think we also lost two of our friends in Viet Nam.  It would be an interesting project to track down some of these people and find out what they are doing today.  I worked for over 30 years as a computer programmer / Systems Analyst for several well known local companies. Two of my brothers have had successful careers as auto mechanics the third has worked in credit and collections management.  All three of them have driven race cars either at Lime Rock or Waterford Speedway and my brother, John, races his J30 out of Cedar Point and does quite well.

I am going to have to come back to town and take some photos before these houses start coming down. 

Growing up in Hale’s Court and Westport was a fun and positive experience for us and I am sad to see it being torn down.  It’s like taking another part of what made Westport a wonder town to grow up in.


Sharon McArthur Brown

Posted by Sharon McArthur Brown on November 13, 2008 at 04:56 PM | #

Sharon, They are not tearing these houses down to build McMansions. Housing is bringing these homes up to standards and code for the 21st century. I live in the court and love my house and am very grateful for a safe place for my daughters to grow up, the yards are huge and plenty of room for 2 houses on each lot.It will be the upgraded version of what we have now but with more room for people who need moderate income housing.

Posted by Denise Stevens on November 13, 2008 at 08:26 PM | #

I am glad to hear that the court is still a safe and great place to bring up your children. Granted Westport does need more affordable housing, but why tear all of the houses down rather than renovate and enlarge the existing homes and build some nice high rise multi unit buildings in the center of the block to accomodate additional families and senior citizens. 

I agree with you that I have concerns where the existing residents will live during the reconstruction. I would also like to see more coverage in the local papers about the plans.

The Court has always been the nicest public housing complex in Fairfield County and I would like to see it remain that way. 

I currently live in Senior Housing in Waterbury and I would love to come back to Westport to live, maybe there will be that opportunity once the renovation is complete.

Posted by Sharon McArthur Brown on November 14, 2008 at 01:11 AM | #

Housing has plans to handle moving everyone. small groups at a time. A high rise multi unit building would not fit right in that location and seniors will be able to live there, but the wait list from what I understand is very long. the house that we live in know are not worth renovating, basements leak causing mold they are not handycap accessible, it is going to look even better that it does now.

Posted by Denise Stevens on November 14, 2008 at 03:37 PM | #

Darien is going through the same redevelopment process with Allen O’Neill Drive.  We, too, have houses and yards and driveways.  Once done, we’ll have “flats” and a couple of townhouses.  Patios and decks vs. backyards.  They are doubling the density so that abutting neighbors will have parking lots in their backyards.  Gone will be the quiet you can have in your house - now, you’ll have neighbors upstairs and sharing walls with you. The “flats” of one bedrooms will have common hallways where people can put their garbage bags until they get time to take them to the bin.  Muddy footprints, cooking smells, smokers, etc.  But don’t worry - a management company will be taking care of it all. The Town of Darien is all for it - stick all the affordable housing in one area so the rest of the Town doesn’t have to see us.  Also will provide more points for the mandate of 830(g).
As for relocation of the residents during all this, Housing Authority have no answers for us yet.  They don’t have a “plan” though the architect has drawn up plans for 116 units to go before P&Z;on 11/25.  They are hoping to fly right through.  The Town doesn’t care about the welfare of the current residents.  After all, we are 3rd class citizens who rent for nothing, hide our income and have no jobs.  We don’t even have a written promise that all of us can come back because the income levels are going down to 60% of the AMI and under. They promise we can come back but to what?  As for the relocation, they have 6 empty houses spread out they plan to put people in.  Those houses need updating from broken water pipes, broken windows, holes in walls, etc.  But that’s okay for us.  We can live around two years of construction.  Our children will be safe from all of that.  They don’t need to play in the streets anymore.  Might as well get used to the fact that the neighborhood as we know it will soon be obsolete (as they refer to the houses).  Pride of ownership will be no longer.

Posted by Carley Tankoos on November 14, 2008 at 06:18 PM | #

No one there wants to speak up?  I talked with a few residents who complained about the plans lack of parking and other such problems with the new plans but refuse to speak up and are afraid of “repercussions”...  Are you coming to the meeting tonight, 11- Dec?  I hope so.  Come and fight for adequate parking, adequate drainage and for your rights to not live in an area that allows for concessions.  The WHA lawyer stated, ” a slightly lower residential parking requirement is proposed….(to reflect) historical demand of Hales Court”.  What, people in there don’t have cars?  Also he states that “when creating an all-affordable residential community it is important to be as efficient as possible”, and so seek a reduction in the requirement for strom water maintenance.  A current resident stated this morning that they flood there now so I wondered why she would not come to the meeting and say something.  Her reply, “I need to live here.  I can’t speek up.  I want to stay here and cant afford another place to live”.  I suggested that she just come to the meeting.  She indicated that with no guarantees that current residents could return she would not step forward.

Posted by Teri Beckoff on December 11, 2008 at 06:24 PM | #

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