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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Waldman Moving Ahead With Elm Street Plan

Westport developer David Waldman said today he is moving ahead with a plan to develop Elm Street next to his Bedford Square project.

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Westport developer David Waldman addresses today’s Westport Rotary Club meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Addressing the Westport Rotary Club, he also said he had been talking to “the players involved” and might be willing to revisit his plan to develop the former Save the Children building on Wilton Road. The project was turned down by a 4-3 vote earlier this year by the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. (See WestportNow March 3, 2016)

Waldman said he intends to sign an option on Wednesday to purchase 36 Elm St., currently occupied by the Villa Del Sol Mexican restaurant and empty retail space.

In an informal presentation to the P&Z in February, Waldman received a mostly positive response to a plan to swap 36 Elm St., to be torn down, for part of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. (See WestportNow Feb. 25, 2016)

There, behind the Lux Bond & Green Store at 136 Main St., he proposed building a 9,750-square foot building housing a relocated Villa Del Sol, retail space, and four apartments, including one affordable one.

The new building would be adjacent to the recently moved and reconstructed Kemper-Gunn House, which Waldman and his partners moved from Church Lane to make way for the Bedford Square development.

Waldman—who spoke in Branson Hall of Christ & Holy Trinity Church just off Elm Street and within eyesight of the Bedford Square construction—said the town could choose to keep the newly acquired 36 Elm St. land as parking, add some green space, or even make room for an arts center.

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Under Waldman’s proposal, he would buy 36 Elm St., which would be torn down, and swap it for space in the Baldwin Parking Lot to build a 9,750-mixed used building. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Waldman said he anticipated the town soon to seek an 8-24 approval from the P&Z to allow the Elm Street plan to go forward.

As for his Save the Children project, Waldman lamented the P&Z rejection in March, saying the P&Z did not have full information about his proposal, especially his request for relief on height restrictions.

“I would like height not to be an arbitrary matter,” he said.

As part of the proposal, he said then he would relocate the historic building at the problem intersection at Wilton Road and the Post Road, allowing Wilton Road to be expanded by one lane. It was unclear whether relocating the house to the Save the Children property might be part of a revisted plan.

His proposal also included building a pedestrian bridge across the Saugatuck River to Parker Harding Plaza.

Waldman said his plan had received positive response from many members of the public, especially the idea for a pedestrian bridge.

“There’s a loud voice among the minority in this town with a not so vocal majority,” he said.

WestportNow.com Image
David Waldman showed this map for his Elm Street proposal to Rotary members. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

In an update on the Bedford Square project, Waldman said he anticipates full occupancy by January 2017 with Anthropolige the main anchor tenant in the old YMCA main building. He said the company’s plans call for inclusion of a restaurant.

While no other tenants have been signed, he said he has had expressions of interest from a wide range of companies, including the Tesla electric car company and Club Monaco, the casual clothing retailer owned by Polo Ralph Lauren.

Waldman said he was aiming for stores not typically found in a mall, possibly ones that might include a small café or a bookstore. He said he anticipated regular occurring events in the space that would attract customers, something he said he learned from successful malls.

There were 6,000 pages of architectural drawings for Bedford Square, he said, adding that he has been “blown away by what’s been achieved.”

In describing the housing part of Bedford Square, Waldman said all 25 units would be rentals with five affordable. They would range in size from 730-square feet to 2,200-square feet with monthly rentals ranging from $4,500 to $12,500.

Waldman said his vision for his projects was to “create a successful downtown Westport” and hoped Bedford Square would be a downtown landmark that will be around for at least the next 100 years.

Speaking more generally, he said he found it “a little disheartening” being required to strictly follow current building regulations when developers using the controversial state statute 8-30g to build affordable housing can disregard them.

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Posted 07/05/16 at 03:11 PM  Permalink



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