Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Property transfers as reported by the Westport Town Clerk’s office for the period Jan. 12-16, 2004:
Lucky 139 LLC to Joseph and Tracy L. Troy, 139 Harbor Road, $2,450,000.
James R D. and Lisa M. C. Allison to Eric A. and Laarni Ragaza, 7 Lees Lane, $735,000.
Terry Marsh to Ashley S. Moran, 85 Valley Road, quit claim, $45,400.
William W. and Amber L. Sweedler to Susan Jaffe Tane, 36 Bermuda Road, $4,250,000.
Estate of Betty M. Strong to Lucky 139 LLC, 187 Compo Road South, $515,000.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
This is a sober weekend for many Westport taxpayers. Notices of updated real estate assessments and taxes for the next year based on the projected grand list and mill rate have hit Westport mailboxes and the news for some is jolting, for others, relief. Tax notices hit mailboxes Saturday. WestportNow.com photo
The notices listed 2003-04 taxes that would have been paid on the projected rates, in effect giving the town’s best guess at what taxpayers might approximately pay in the next tax year,
“My taxes went down $300,” said one resident, who, like other Westporters agreeing to comment for this story, asked for anonymity.
“It was quite a relief since they already went up 50 percent since I bought my house five years ago.”
Another resident said he, too, was relieved, when he opened the tax assessor’s “2003 Property Assessment Notice” Saturday.
“My projected taxes are up 5 percent,” he said. “I think, all in all, that’s reasonable.”
A number of Westporters attending Saturday’s community meeting at the Westport Public Library held by Rep. Christopher Shays chatted about the notices in the hallways.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Editor’s Note: WestportNow today inaugurates a new feature Westport property transfer listings as reported by the Westport Town Clerk’s office. The new feature comes as WestportNow simultaneously launches a new real estate section. Click on the left hand column sections list to see all real estate stories.
Richard R. Floersch to George S. and Ana Lucia Corey Jr., 2 Tiffany Lane, $3,550,000.
Westport Home & Land Co LLC to Andrew T. and Meera D. Gilbert, Lot 19, 40 Terra Nova Circle, $905,222.
Judi A. Bishop to Gregory W. Altschuh and Janis G. Lipman, 196 Hillspoint Road, $915,000.
Allan P. Cramer to Estate of Howard K. Levy, 8 Lincoln St., 50 percent interest, $200,000.
Hook ‘n Needle, a Westport landmark on Post Road East for more than 30 years, has been sold to Westport Design Center LLC for $1.3 million, according to a filing in the Town Clerk’s office. Owners Marc Bloch and James Henry announced last September they were retiring. The needlepoint store was housed in a former mill and served customers all over the world via the Internet. WestportNow.com file photo
Monday, January 12, 2004
In another sign or the vitality of the Westport commercial real estate market, a Riverside Avenue office building has been sold for $12.65 million.
This office building at 274 Riverside Ave. sold for $12.65 million. WestportNow.com photo
The five-story building at 274 Riverside Ave. was sold by Westport-based 274 Riverside Associates LLC to Stamford-based Lexham Riverside LLC.
The building, which was built in 1973, last changed hands in 1994 for $4 million when 274 Riverside Associates bought it from National Home Life Assurance Co.
The sale resulted in a $31,500 payment to the town for real estate conveyance tax, according to the town clerk’s office. State taxes were $126,000.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Main Street’s Onion Alley Restaurant is no more.
Onion Alley closes after 18 years. WestportNow.com photo
The downtown Westport restaurant and pub, a mainstay of the street since 1985, quietly closed its doors Sunday night for the last time.
“I couldn’t put together the management for it and it just wasn’t performing,” building owner Drew Friedman told WestportNow.
Friedman, 74, who owns interests in several properties in the downtown area, said the restaurant had not done well since Westport’s Fine Arts movie theatres, up the street on Post Road East, closed at the end of 1998.
“We were heavily dependent on the theaters for nighttime traffic and it hasnt been the same since,” he said.
The theatre building is now Restoration Hardware.
Even opening the restaurant for breakfast in recent months did not result in much improved sales, he said, and the seven-day-a-week breakfast operation was cut back to only weekends.
The Westport office vacancy rate as of Jan. 1 stands at 16.8 percent, up slightly from 16.2 percent in July 2003, according to Ted Hampe, chairman of HK Group.
HK Group tracks 172 office buildings, with square footage totaling 2,565,000 SF of which 431,000 SF was vacant on Jan. 1.
An additional 27,000 SF was being offered for sub-lease or future direct lease, reflecting planned tenant moves.
Therefore, the office availability rate was 17.5 percent on Jan. 1, Hampe said.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Westport is receiving a windfall as a result of this years increase in the local municipal real estate conveyance tax.
Town Clerk Patricia H. Strauss said revenues have more than doubled in the first three months of this fiscal year over last year.
Strauss told WestportNow that in the three-month period ending Sept. 30, the town collected $534,717 in real estate conveyance taxes compared to $251,733 in the same period last year.
The increase came despite a slight dip in sales over the period Җ 218 sales in the recent period to 227 a year ago—and reflected increased value of transactions.
As part of its budget-balancing efforts earlier this year, the state legislature reduced state programs but allowed municipalities to increase revenues by increasing the conveyance tax.
The conveyance tax rate for municipalities increased effective March 15 from 0.11 percent —or $1.10 per each $1,000—to .25 per cent, or $2.50 per each $1,000.
The rate is supposed to revert back to its lower rate effective July 1, 2004, but many legislators have expressed doubt that in these tight budget times this will happen.
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Westport is losing another longtime local retailer CamerArts, a photo and camera store in Sconset Square, is selling out to a Ridgefield retailer who will reopen it as a photo, card and gift shop.
֓The face of retailing has changed dramatically, said owner Stephen A. Schwartz, 58. ԓThe competition is stronger than it ever has been. And that makes it very, very tough.
Schwartz, who ran a learning center for photographers as well as selling cameras, photo supplies, and offering photo finishing, said he has no regrets after 23 years in the square.
ԓIve been in retailing for 35 years and itҒs time, he said. ԓEverybody in Westport has been terrific. But times change. People are more demanding. Its hard to meet those demands and make a profit. You just max out.Ҕ
Schwartz, who lives in the Compo Beach area with wife Nancy Holson, founder of the political satire group “The News in Revue,” said while sale of his business has been completed, hes waiting a few days to change the sign.
ғThe Fairfield County Weekly, or Advocate, whatever they call it, is coming out in a few days naming us the best photo shop in the county, he said. ԓIronic, isnt it? So weҒll keep the sign up until then.
Schwartz gained some national notoriety three years ago after Martha Stewart wrote an article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine saying she really didnԒt like Westport and intended to leave.
The CamerArts owner put up a bulletin board in his store and invited Westporters angered at her comments to post messages to her. That was fun,Ӕ he recalled with a chuckle.
Of course Stewart stayed anyway. But now its CamerArts thatҒs leaving.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Another longtime locally-owned Westport retailer is closing its doors Kidwear at 1045 Post Road East near Colonial Road. The two sisters who founded the children֒s clothing and accessory store 16 years ago say its time to move on.
ғIts a combination of everything,Ҕ said Westporter Lynne Rozsa, who along with her younger sister Nancy Symington of Bridgeport, opened the store in 1987. ItӒs hard fighting the (poor) economy and retail is so consuming.
The storeԒs Web site says the two sisters decided to open Kidwear because they wanted to create a fun, easy one-stop shopping experience for moms or anyone shopping for children.Ӕ
Now, in a mailing to Westporters, they announced they are launching a quitting business saleӔ beginning Thursday. Everything will be sold, their letter said, including clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, and even store fixtures and equipment.
At the end of the sale, they plan to award customers more than $2,000 in prizes.
Rozsa said she looked forward to quieter times. It’s been hard, she said, having three kids go through the Westport schools while helping Westporters and customers throughout the country via their Web site or phone.ItӒs time to get out, she said.
Monday, April 28, 2003
Westports Eddie Bauer store, a fixture for many years at the intersection of Post Road East and Taylor Place in the heart of the town center, is closing.
The Spiegel Group Inc. said the store—which it actually counts as two as it has apparel as well as home items—is one of its 60 underperforming Eddie Bauer stores it plans to close as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
The Downers Grove, Ill.-based catalog retailer said the closings affect 51 apparel stores, eight home stores and one outlet store in 25 states plus the District of Columbia. It said it may close more of its 529 Eddie Bauer stores in the future.
Eddie Bauer operates outdoor-themed stores in the United States and Canada. Spiegel said the closures should improve the chain’s financial results in fiscal 2003 and beyond. It said the stores will remain open pending the bankruptcy court’s approval of the store-closing plan.
Spiegel did not say how many jobs will be lost. The company, founded in 1865, filed for protection from creditors in March.
THe 16,400-square foot building at 40-44 Post Road East was sold in 2002 by Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust to a Greenwich-based real estate investment group for $7.5 million. It had purchased the building in 1994 for $4.2 million.
Longtime Westporters will remember the Eddie Bauer location as housing the old Ship’s Lantern Restaurant as well as Colgan’s Pharmacy. The Ship’s name is retained by the Ship’s Corner Chinese takeout which occupies the rear portion of the building facing on Jesup Road.
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Attorney Alan Neigher lives in Fairfield but works in Westport. But not by much. A good golfer standing outside his office near the Super Stop and Shop on Post Road East could probably hit a ball across the town line into Fairfield.
What does that have to do with anything? Maybe nothing. But it is interesting to note as Neigher does battle for a client who lives mostly in Stamford but is trying to convince Greenwich he ought to be considered a resident there, at least for voting purposes.
Todays Greenwich Time highlights the legal dispute and quotes from a legal brief filed by Neigher in which he argues that “no law requires that a party living on property bisected by town boundaries must vote where (he) or she pays the greater amount of real estate taxes, or where their bedroom is located.Ҕ
For political trivia buffs, it is also interesting to note that Neigher, better known for his legal briefs on behalf of his media and entertainment clients, is opposed by the First Selectman of Easton on the issue.
The Town of Greenwich hired Bridgeport attorney William Kupinse Jr., who also wears the hat of Eastons top elected official, to represent its two registrars of voters in the dispute.
For longtime area media buffs, there is another interesting note: Alan Neigher is the son of the late Harry Neigher, a well-known columnist and cartoonist for the old Bridgeport Herald, (later the Bridgeport Sunday Herald), and probably knows a thing or two about publicity for his cases when he wants it.
Perhaps that, along with his other media connections, has something to do with how NeigherҒs Greenwich-Stamford border case ended up on the front page of The New York Times metropolitan section April 10 under the headline: Is It Greenwich Or Stamford? Lay Your Head On Either Side.”
Update: A special arbitration panel ruled May 16 that Neigher’s client was improperly removed from the Greenwich voter list, but the panel’s decision did not address what determines residency, which could leave room for him to be removed again.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Talk about your high profile properties the Empire State Building and now a prize piece of downtown Westport in your portfolio.
The $18.1 million Westport deal closed on April 14 and today’s Hartford Courant/The Advocate of Stamford gives prominent coverage to the transaction under the headline: “Best of Westport: $1,046 a square foot.”
Reporting on the sale of the 17,282-square-foot retail building at 66-99 Main St., the Courant notes, Owning a retail building in a town where Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Martha Stewart live isn’t cheap.
The one-story building housing Gap, Ann Taylor and J. McLaughlin stores was sold to a partnership led by W&M Properties executives Peter L. and Anthony E. Malkin of Greenwich. They bought it from Boston-based First Westport Properties.
Last year, an investment entity owned by Peter Malkin and his father-in-law, Lawrence A. Wien, acquired the fee title to the Empire State Building after owning the buildings master lease since 1961.
Each of the 66-99 Main St. retailers has a long-term lease for their space—The Gap, with 10,521 square feet; Ann Taylor, with 3,880 square feet; and J. McLaughlin, with 2,881 square feet.
W&M Properties said the Westport purchase, through its Wien & Malkin Co-Investor Capital L.P., is the investor group’s first retail acquisition outside of Manhattan in more than a decade.
The Malkins’ commercial and office building portfolio also includes properties in Norwalk, Darien, and Stamford, New York and elsewhere.
According to the Courant, the buyer said dependable rents, high-income residents in the area and future value of the property prompted its purchase.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Todays New York Times takes a look a soaring home prices in the Northeast which, coupled with rising property taxes, are driving an increasing number of elderly from their homes and communities.
Sound familiar? The story doesnҒt mention Westport, but many Westporters will be able to identify with those who are cited. It says some communities provide relief to seniors by allowing them to work off part of their taxes. That has yet to be tried in Westport, which has a number of senior tax relief programs that are income-based.
The Times quotes one economist as saying: For the older people, their homes are rising in values, but their income is not rising. But you cannot eat your house.Ӕ
Update: Sundays New York Times reported that home buying has reached a feverish pitch in much of Fairfield County җ Norwalk is an exception fueled, brokers say, by declines in interest rates to 30-year lows, a shrinking of inventories and uneasiness over the war, a listless economy and a jumpy stock market.
The Times said Westport had 31 of the 56 building permits issued in February for the Stamford Labor Market, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development. That includes Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Darien, Weston, Westport, Stamford and Wilton.
Last year only 36 permits were issued in February in the whole labor market. It is currently the only labor market showing an increase statewide, the report said.
The newspaper quoted Kathy Barnard, director of Westportגs Planning and Zoning Department as saying: “Things have not slowed down. People are putting on enormous two-story additions, tearing down houses to build bigger ones, and the issuing of building permits may not be backed up as much as it was last fall, but it’s still very busy.”
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Martha Stewarts place may not be the only game in town. Westporters with picturesque homes looking for a little added income can now add their homestead to the stateҒs list of potential location sites for filmmakers.
The casting call for homes has been issued by the Connecticut Film, Video & Media Office which is updating its database of available production crews, companies and support services for its print production guide, CD-ROM and Web site
Connecticut residents who want to make their homes available as locations to potential filmmakers are welcome to list their homes with the film office to become part of its library of Connecticut location sites.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
A recent Connecticut court decision may cause chaos to zoning regulations in the states municipalities, including Westport.
ThatҒs the gist of a report in The Advocate of Stamford which said the action could also affect efforts of the communities to limit “McMansions.” It quoted land use attorneys and officials.
The newspaper said the legal issue began with a Wilton couple’s quest to add a garage and breezeway to their home.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
It didnt attract a whole lot of attention, but the U.S. Census Bureau, in its wisdom, has declared Westport an urban area. And here we were blissfully thinking of Westport as suburbia.
It occurred in the spring/summer of 2002. There’s a lengthy explanation on the U.S. Census Bureau Web page of how urban (and rural) areas are defined.
Basically, the Census Bureau classifies as “urban” all territory, population, and housing units located within an urbanized area (UA) or an urban cluster (UC). It delineates UA and UC boundaries to encompass densely settled territory.
This is defined as those core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile.
The South Western Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) has a map of our area on its Web page—the “Bridgeport - Stamford, CT - NY Urbanized Area.”
If you’re not an urban area, according to the Census Bureau, you’re a rural area. And by modifying its definitions between 1990 and 2000, the agency considers Westport officially as urban. So I guess you can say now we’re not a “‘burb,” but a full-fledged “urb.” Thanks, Washington.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Westport continues to be the testing ground for national retailers pushing into new gender territory.
First it was button-down Brooks Brothers which chose Westport five years ago for one of its first freestanding women’s stores. It continues to operate at the end of Main Street opposite its men’s counterpart in Brooks Corner. Now Talbots, which took over the old Remarkable Book Shop for its women’s and children’s lines, is putting the final touches on its first men’s store a stone’s throw down the street.
The store, opening next month, is in space formerly occupied by The Limited. Westporters with long memories will remember it as the site of a one-time Mobil gas station.
While Brooks Brothers and Talbots battle it out with separate his and hers stores on Main Street, Mitchell’s continues to woo the same customers in its all-in-one location, also undergoing renovations, a couple miles up the road on Post Road East.
Mitchell’s, of course, may have an advantage in that it has the ability to host school car washes as well as the DMV license renewal bus. Try those on Main Street.
Update: Talbots Mens (that’s the way they spell it) is having a grand opening Thursday evening, April 3. The champagne benefit will feature informal modeling by members of the Westport Police Department and friends of the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County. At least that’s what the invitation says.
A portion of the evening sales will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Connecticut and the Westport Country Playhouse.
Arnold B. Zetcher, chairman, president and CEO of Talbots, is hosting the event.
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Westport’s Main Street welcomes another national retailer—Brookstone.
The store opened March 1 in the long vacant site at the end of the street leased but never occupied by Ralph Lauren. Handsome store. Those knowledgeable about Westport commercial real estate say with the signing, Westport’s Main Street hangs out the “no vacancy” sign.
The nation’s slowed economy has taken its toll on Westport like many other places, but local retailers say the town’s upscale residents have softened the impact.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be howls aplenty when a double-digit tax increase goes into effect July 1.