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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

State Grant of $22M to Bridgewater Draws Criticism

By Keith M.Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The State Bond Commission is expected to approve $22 million in financing Friday to help Westport-based hedge fund operator Bridgewater Associates expand operations in Westport, Wilton and Norwalk.

That sparked criticism today from House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, who called the grant to the world’s largest hedge fund “dubious,” given the state’s fiscal woes.

But Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said these planned expansions would be an economic win for Connecticut.

“With all that has transpired in the last two weeks, with the state’s budget a mess — and unfinished school construction projects hanging — to make the world’s largest hedge fund a priority, I find it dubious,” Klarides said. “Of course we want to keep highly skilled, well-paying jobs in Connecticut. But we all know that other vital projects will not be funded because we have to curtail our borrowing.”

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05/24/16 06:13 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, May 19, 2016

CT Gets Credit Downgrades From Wall Street

By Keith M.Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

The new state budget’s ability to mitigate longstanding fiscal problems got poor marks today on Wall Street as two of the four major rating agencies downgraded Connecticut’s credit ranking — probably boosting borrowing costs in the future.

Fitch Ratings Inc. and Standard & Poor’s both lowered their bond ratings in response to the $19.76 billion budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature’s Democratic majority crafted for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The other two firms, Kroll and Moody’s Investors Service, didn’t change their ratings, but did maintain a “negative outlook.” This represents a warning that they intend to monitor state finances closely over the next year, and sometimes is a precursor to a formal downgrade.

“The message from the credit rating agencies couldn’t be any clearer: It is high time for a sustained commitment to fortify the state’s financial footing, in the midst of persistent economic uncertainty,” state Treasurer Denise L. Nappier wrote today in a statement announcing the downgrades.

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05/19/16 07:05 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

CT Jobless Rate Remained at 5.7% in April

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut added 3,500 jobs last month, but unemployment remained at 5.7 percent, the state Department of Labor reported today.

The jobless rate is slightly better than the 5.8 percent mark achieved in April 2015. The state has added 20,100 jobs over the past 12 months and 9,800 positions since Jan. 1.

Still, Connecticut is about 23,500 jobs shy of recovering all positions lost in the last recession, which ended more than six years ago.

“Connecticut saw increases in both job counts and labor force participation in April,” said Andy Condon, Director of the Office of Research at the labor department. “As new workers entered or reentered the labor force, the number of unemployed also grew. This explains recent upward pressure on our unemployment rate.”

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05/19/16 05:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Comings & Goings: Daly Method Opens

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Daly Method has officially opened at 272 Post Road East. The practice, headed by founder Renee Daly (r) ) offers chiropractic care including “Graston and active release technique, certified sports rehab, functional training, massage therapy, and wellness care.” Among those taking part in the ribbon cutting were First Selectman Jim Marpe and Matthew Mandell, president and executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Measure Strips $1B in Bonded Projects off of CT’s Credit Card

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

The Senate voted early today to rebalance Connecticut’s credit card in the face of shrinking tax revenues, canceling or delaying about $1 billion in financing for a wide array of projects and programs.

Outside of this rebalancing process, the bond package for the 2016-17 fiscal year also authorizes $382 million in new borrowing for municipal school construction, down significantly from financing for local schools approved in recent years.

The Senate enacted the measure 34-2. It now heads to the House of Representatives, which is expected to consider the bill Friday.

The cancelations affect capital projects at public colleges and universities, municipal school districts, economic development programs, social services, housing, recreation and the environment, transportation, and numerous state facilities and information technology systems.

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05/13/16 01:27 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Legislative Wrap-Up? Not Yet

By James Lomuscio

Today’s Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce (WWCC) event at the Westport Library had been billed as a post session wrap-up with area state legislators.

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Connecticut’s yet-to-be completed budget was the main topic at today’s session at the Westport Library. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

However, it was far from over since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $20 billion budget with about $1billion in cuts has yet to be passed.

Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) and Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) said that they had to convene in Hartford Thursday for a special session to work on and vote on the budget.

Rep. Johnathan Steinberg (D-136), Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Rep. John Shaban (R-135) said they would have to go back, too, but that it was uncertain when the House of Representatives would meet.

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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Mother’s Day Bonanza

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Westport Florists, 1 Treadwell Ave., reported doing brisk Mother’s Day business today. Said Tina Ahlberg, manager, “It’s the busiest weekend of the year.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

05/08/16 05:11 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Busy, Busy

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Mother’s Day is the busiest weekend of the year, according to Tina Ahlberg, manager of Westport Florist, 1 Treadwell Ave. at the intersection of Saugatuck and Riverside Avenues. Ahlberg said the store’s most popular items this weekend are flower arrangements which range from $20 to $450.  She added, “The busiest day was yesterday, but we’re busy today too, tons of phone calls. We’re almost sold out from a combination of walkins and phone orders. We’re so thankful to the town for their patronage.”  The store, which opened in February and formerly known as Hansen’s Florist located at 240 Post Road East, marks its first Mother’s Day in the new location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

05/08/16 05:06 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

CT’s Top Taxpayers Took a Big Earnings Hit Last Year

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s 50 largest state income tax filers reported nearly $3 billion less in quarterly earnings this spring than they did one year ago — which resulted in a $217 million hit to the state’s coffers, the legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal staff reported today.

That drop represents a 30 percent plunge in earnings, a trend that sparked fierce debate within the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee as members approved a revenue schedule for next fiscal year’s state budget.

“If we’re losing $3 billion (in adjusted gross income) the impact is going to be across the whole budget,” said Sen. Stephen T. Cassano, D-Manchester, who first questioned nonpartisan analysts about the revenue trend.

Connecticut’s income tax, which provides nearly half of the revenue needed to support the annual budget, gets about 60 percent of its receipts from paycheck withholding and about 40 percent from quarterly filings.

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05/04/16 06:06 PM Comments (2) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Dems Abandon Plan to Adopt Budget in Regular Session

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Majority Democrats in the House of Representatives conceded late today that they would not adopt a new state budget before the legislature’s mandatory midnight adjournment deadline.

In a joint statement, House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, both said it would be unfair to force a vote in the session’s waning hours.

“As a matter of democracy and fairness to all the members of the House, it is not possible to do a budget this evening,” the House Democratic leaders said.

“The time it took to reach an agreement, combined with the challenge of staff to physically get a printed bill to the floor, and then achieve passage, would likely require a cutoff of discussions. That scenario would not be fair for the purpose of allowing a complete and reasonable debate, and at this point would be a disservice to House members and the public they represent to move forward tonight.”

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05/04/16 05:58 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Democrats, Governor Strike Budget Deal

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

Democratic legislators ended a tense day of negotiations today by announcing a deal on a new state budget that the General Assembly will race to adopt Wednesday before the constitutional adjournment deadline of midnight.

Passage will require the cooperation of the Republican minority, an uncertain prospect after House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, exchanged insults outside the Capitol press room.

Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, largely glossed over the spending cuts necessary to balance the budget, focusing instead of positive aspects: No tax increases, more money for transportation funding and revenue-sharing with towns, albeit at lesser amounts than originally planned. It also avoids tapping Connecticut’s emergency reserve.

Each said they have votes for passage in the House and Senate.

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05/03/16 11:35 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tesla Sales Ban in Connecticut Stands

By Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

The effort by Tesla to win legislative approval to directly sell its electric cars to consumers in Connecticut has failed for the second consecutive year in the face of opposition from car dealers and competing manufacturers, a Senate leader said early today.

“I think the car dealers and others have been very effective in lobbying in their favor,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, the sponsor of this year’s Tesla bill, told the Connecticut Mirror. “We’ll come back again and try in another year.”

A similar bill passed the House last year, but never came to a vote in the Senate. Duff signing on as lead sponsor this year gave Tesla an influential ally in the upper chamber, but Duff told The Mirror his caucus was divided.

“I didn’t go into this to twist arms to pass it that way,” Duff said. “My job is to protect the caucus and the interests of the state.”

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04/30/16 01:05 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, April 29, 2016

Malloy Says Budget Talks Have Hit the Wall

By Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas

www.ctmirror.org

A somber Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared late tonight that budget negotiations with legislators “are hitting a wall,” and he predicted the General Assembly would adjourn Wednesday without adopting a budget he could sign, thereby failing to avert a nearly $1 billion deficit.

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy assesses the state of budget negotiations tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ctmirror.org photo

And unlike recent statements when the governor warned he would force lawmakers into special session indefinitely until they agreed to cut spending, Malloy struck a more uncertain tone about Connecticut’s fiscal future.

“Unless something changes dramatically in the next few hours, I supposed what I’m saying is I don’t think we can get to a negotiated settlement” on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the governor told reporters in his Capitol office.

“In which case,” Malloy continued, “folks can either decide to come back to the table or take whatever steps they need to take.”

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04/29/16 11:45 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Cutting the Ribbon at Serena & Lily

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Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe (c) is joined today by Lily Kanter (purple) and Serena Dugan (beige) at the official opening of the Serena & Lily store in the former Kemper-Gunn house at 35 Elm St. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/29/16 10:47 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Serena & Lily to Open at Kemper-Gunn House

Though not exactly the Mom & Pop shop that the town had hoped to woo to the restored and relocated Kemper-Gunn house at 35 Elm St., town officials are nonetheless bullish about Serena & Lily, the national home furnishings, bedding and decor outlet opening there on Friday.

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The Serena & Lily store in the Kemper-Gunn house on Elm Street officially opens Friday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

In fact, the town is so pleased that First Selectman Jim Marpe will be part of the ribbon cutting ceremony set for Friday at 9:30 a.m.

“We are very excited that Serena & Lily found a home in Westport,” said Marpe. “We welcome them and wish them much success.

“Serena and Lily’s presence in the downtown location, coupled with the unique circumstances surrounding the move and restoration of the Kemper-Gunn House, can be attributed to the dedication of many Westporters,” he added. “I want to extend my sincere thanks to all the people who helped make this happen.”

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04/28/16 10:44 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Getting Ready for Opening

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Jill John, director, brand marketing/communication. Serena & Lily, shows off the store opening Friday at 35 Elm St. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/28/16 10:37 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Ready for Customers

WestportNow.com Image
One of the rooms ready for customers at the Serena & Lily store opening Friday at 35 Elm St. in the relocated Kemper-Gunn house. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/28/16 10:32 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Comings and Goings: Lucy’s Opens Thursday

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Lucy’s, a high-end women’s boutique, opens Thursday at 23 Jesup Road in the space formerly occupied by Lynne Scalo Design, according to owner Lisa Savone. A Westport resident, Savone said she is not new to the Westport fashion scene, having previously owned and operated Lucy’s around the corner at 48 Post Road East, next to Tiffany, from 2004 to 2013 when she closed the business to raise her family. The Post Road space is now occupied by Joie, a designer clothing store. Savone also owns Lucy’s in Ridgefield for the past 10 years. She said the name of the business originated with her childhood nickname which, she said, was also her mother’s and grandmother’s nickname. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/26/16 05:26 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chamber to Honor Joseloff, McDowell

WestportNow editor-publisher and former First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Tony McDowell, executive director of Earthplace, will receive First Citizen Award honors at the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s (WWCC) June 14 gala, WWCC Executive Director Matthew Mandell announced today.

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Gordon Joseloff (l) and Tony McDowell: to be honored June 14. Contributed photos

“These are two very deserving people of this award,” said Mandell. “Each year the board looks for one nonprofit and one traditional business, and these fine individuals stood out and represent what is best in our town for their work ethic, generosity and how they approach business.”

Joseloff, who served two terms as first selectman from 2005 through 2013, founded WestportNow in 2003. The online news site, which has since won dozens of excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists Connecticut Chapter, remains the only locally owned and produced news source in town.

“I am deeply grateful to be honored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce this year,” said Joseloff, “I know well the importance of having a vibrant and successful commercial presence in our community. It is something I have strived to promote throughout my Westport career.“

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Comings & Goings: County Bank Set for Mid-May Opening

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First County Bank opens mid-May at its new location, 1135 Post Road East, at the intersection of Morningside Drive North, according to Coastal Construction Project Manager Brian Steinhauer. The bank, currently at 1260 Post Road East, at the intersection of Turkey Hill Road South, will relocate to the first floor of the building facing Post Road East.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/19/16 07:11 PM Comments (2) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CT Unemployment Rate Rose Slightly in March

By Keith M. Phaneuf

www.ctmirror.org

Connecticut’s unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point in March, climbing to 5.7 percent, as job growth essentially remained flat, the state Department of Labor reported today.

The state has added 5,600 jobs since the start of 2016, but still has not fully recovered from The Great Recession. Through the most recent report, Connecticut has regained 91,400, or 76.7 percent, of the 119,100 jobs it lost during the last economic downturn.

“Although the rise in the unemployment rate this month was unexpected, there are some positive aspects to the move,” said Andy Condon, director of the Office of Research for the Labor Depatment. “The rise in unemployment occurred in a growing labor force, meaning it was driven by more people entering the labor market looking for work rather than a decrease in the number of employed. Job growth is occurring, but not fast enough to employ all of those recently entering the market.”

Six of the state’s 10 major industry super-sectors sdded jobs in March led by trade, transportation and utilities, which gained 1,300 positions. Gains also were recorded in: leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business, information, and education and health services.

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04/14/16 04:18 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WSJ Spotlights Westport Ice Cream Truck

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Today’s Wall Street Journal features a story about Westport’s Phil & Tom Ice Cream and how Tom Topalian, 29, a nurse and co-owner of the business, operates it with his family’s 1967 Good Humor truck. After recounting the history of the truck and the business, which he began with his older brother Phil, he said: “These days, my brother is serving in the Marines in Japan, and I have a full-time job, so my parents help out. They couldn’t be happier. The truck is one of the family now. It’s like a third brother.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jess Neider for The Wall Street Journal

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Comings & Goings: Alegre Opens

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Alegre, described by store manager Grace Brescia, as “trendy, chic clothes for smart shoppers,” has opened at 180 Post Road East, next to the AT&T store at the corner of Post Road East and Bay Street. According to Sheryl Blit, co-owner with her husband Eli, the store introduces “a new concept in women’s trendy apparel.”  Pictured are Brescia (l) and Mia Lupo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/11/16 02:33 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, April 08, 2016

Hiawatha Lane Project Not 8-30-g

By James Lomuscio

Developer Felix T. Charney, who wants to build 155 rental units on Hiawatha Lane off Exit 17 in Saugatuck, got support at Thursday night’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) pre-application hearing from an unexpected source—the Westport Housing Authority (WHA). 

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Felix T. Charney: developer is 1972 Staples grad and former P&Z commissioner. File photo

It has also been learned that the development proposed this time around will not be an 8-30g project, a state affordable housing law initiative that allows a developer to skirt local zoning laws.

Carol Martin, WHA’s executive director, gave her nod to the Summit Saugatuck plan becuase it includes a separate development that will offer 70 affordable units.

Because it is a separate development, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Palmer pointed out that 8-30g, which allows a developer to override local zoning laws if a municipality does not have 10 percent of its housing stock deemed affordable, cannot be used with this application.

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Promoting Tourism to Westport Area

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About 50 persons from the Westport area today attended a Town Hall event to promote tourism in the area. It was sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and featured a Connecticut Office of Tourism officicial to explain the COT’s revised website intended to attract greater tourism to the state. First Selectman Jim Marpe welcomed the guests and showed off the plaque when Westport won the 2014 Fan Favorite award for its tourism documentary. With him were Matthew Mandell, the Chamber executive director, and Westporter Felicia Lindau, marketing consultant for Connecticut Tourism, whose daughter Sutton was one of three sixth grade girls who created the award-winning Fan Favorite documentary. (See WestportNow Sept. 2, 2014) She outlined how the new website was designed and how businesses can participate and take advantage of it. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Getting Ready for Opening at New Location

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The Brownstone Boutique celebrates its grand opening Thursday at its new location, 142 Main St., second floor. (See WestportNow March 17, 2016) Owner Victoria Schallert (r) invites the public to a celebration reception 6 to 8 p.m. which follows normal shopping hours. Pictured with her is co-manager Mariana Hurtado. The Brownstone is one of three ground floor businesses -– the others are Shoe-Inn and Bobby Q’s Restaurant -– which have relocated following sale of the 36-42 Main St. building in November 2014 for $9.2 million by Drew Friedman, who died in February.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

04/06/16 02:23 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Another 8-30g Proposal, This Time a ‘Green’ One

By James Lomuscio

Another planned, multi-unit housing development that aims to skirt the town’s zoning regulations via the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g is in the works, its developers announced today. This time it’s at 1177 Post Road East.

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Plans call for construction of a new four-story building in the existing parking lot adjacent to the current 1175 Post Road East office building. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The proposed 94-unit, four-story, 42,000-square-foot building proposed for the 1.96-acre parcel is planned as a green, adaptive reuse of a commercial office building for the local workforce, say principals of 1177 PRE Associates, LLC.

The announcement says plans have been submitted to both the Conservation and Planning and Zoning departments.

The development company is a joint venture of local real estate developers Phil Craft and Stephen Lawrence. They said that 30 percent of the studio, one-bedroom and two bedroom units would be listed as affordable.

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Saturday, April 02, 2016

‘Scout & Molly’s Cuts the Ribbon

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Scout & Molly’s, the new apparel boutique for women at Playhouse Square, celebrated its grand opening today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (See WestportNow March 16, 2016) Participants (l-r)  Matthew Mandell, executive director, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce,  First Selectman Jim Marpe, owners Genevieve Bouchard and her husband Brian, and Bouchard daughters, Katy, 9, (l) and Solenne, 7. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) TYPE NAME for WestportNow.com

04/02/16 12:20 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

Friday, March 25, 2016

Comings & Goings: Steam Closes at Saugatuck, Still Open at GF

By Dave Matlow

The coffee, bakery and sandwich shop Steam, located at the refurbished stationhouse on the eastbound side of Metro-North’s Westport station in Saugatuck, has closed.

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Bob Glaser is still operating the Steam shop at the Green’s Farms station and hopes to continue.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The closure comes less than a year after its revival last June when loyal customers rallied additional support to keep the business running. (See WestportNow, June 28, 2015)

Meanwhile, the Steam shop at the Green’s Farms train station remains open under an agreement between the owner, Chef Briana, LLC , and Bob Glaser who, with a partner, assumed the rights to operate Steam at both locations, according to Glaser. 

“There’s been a huge outpouring of support from customers of the Green’s Farms location to keep it open,” he said. “They’re saying ‘please stay here.’ ”

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Comings & Goings: Serena & Lily Opens Next Month

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Serena & Lily, a California-based lifestyle and home décor brand, will open its flagship store, Serena & Lily Design Shop, at 35 Elm St. on April 29, according to spokesperson Betsy Baron. She said the store will occupy all four levels of the 3,000-square foot Kemper-Gunn House, built in 1889, that was slated for demolition to make room for the Bedford Square development but was eventually relocated from Church Lane in November 2014 to its present location. Baron said the privately owned business, headquartered in Sausalito, Calif., opened its first store in the Hamptons in 2013, in San Francisco in 2014, and then in Los Angeles in 2015. Westport is its fourth location. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

03/23/16 06:10 PM Comments (1) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

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