By Gretchen Webster
WESTPORT — The Westport Inn, a Post Road landmark since the 1960s and one of two hotels in town, is closed after its sale last November.
But plans appear to be taking shape that could include redeveloping the property at 1595 Post Road East into a smaller upscale inn, with condominiums and off-site affordable housing as elements of a multi-part package
Although the new owners say they expect to file plans with the Planning and Zoning Department, nothing has been submitted yet, according to Michelle Perillie, deputy P&Z director.
However, a development plan for a hotel with 40 rooms and 18 condominiums is among the options for the site currently under consideration, according to an email sent by Rick Redniss, a principal in a Stamford engineering and surveying firm, to Representative Town Meeting member Richard Lowenstein, District 5, among others.
The intensity of the property’s use under that option would be less than the 117 rooms currently in the former inn, according to an email provided by a source to the Westport Journal.
The Greenwich Hospitality Group, which operates the Delamar luxury hotels and restaurants in Fairfield and Greenwich, and also is a partner in the La Plage restaurant at the Inn at Longshore, apparently will be a co-developer of the project, the correspondence indicates. Charles Mallory, founder of the Greenwich Hospitality Group, was not available for comment.
The email from Redniss, who was not available for comment, indicates the developers are also considering building “affordable” residences at another location in town.
Those units would help the town meet the state mandate for affordable units, which under the 8-30g statute requires at least 10 percent of a town’s housing stock comply with the state’s affordable criteria. Otherwise, developers can override local zoning regulations to build large, multi-unit housing projects.
Westport currently does not meet the state-mandated 10 percent threshold.
“My observation is that it’s still going to be a hotel … it wasn’t something that raised any alarms with me,” Lowenstein said Monday. The only question he has is whether there is a market for a luxury hotel in the area, he said.
Since nothing has been submitted to the Planning and Zoning Department, plans could change, and Redniss makes it clear in the email that a lot of preparatory work must be done, such as communicating with neighbors, meeting with various town boards and a P&Z public hearing.
The 3.8-acre property was sold for $5 million on Nov. 4, 2020, to W I Associates LLC, 265 Post Road West, according to Tax Assessor’s Vision Appraisal data base. The current property appraisal is $5,721,300, according to the data base.
Jim Randel, with an office at the W I Associates address, said last week that plans will be submitted to the P&Z soon, but had no further comment.
The inn’s website has been taken down, but the hotel is still listed on various hotel and travel websites, including TripAdvisor which states: “This hotel is temporarily closed until 11/25/21,” and directs travelers to other hotels in Fairfield and Norwalk. The Hotels.com website states that “The Westport Inn has no availability for your travel dates,” no matter what dates are entered, and Expedia says “We are sold out” for any date requested for Westport Inn reservations.
A recorded message at the inn’s phone number states: “We are currently not accepting reservations for rooms or events for today or any date in the future.”
A Google ad still stands, however, which describes the inn as “a laid back suburban hotel with an indoor pool, exercise room and bike rentals.”
As recently as July, the hotel’s front desk was staffed by a receptionist who told visitors that the hotel would reopen in one year.
But for several weeks this fall, the building has been completely locked with a sign in the front entry, “We’re sorry, the hotel is closed.”
There was also a small sign on a hotel door with a number to call for more information. A person described as being in charge of facilities answered at the number, and said there would be someone calling back, but no call back was made. The sign with a contact number has since been taken down.
The future of the inn has been a mystery even with staff at businesses next door, including an attorney’s office and a pediatric practice, saying they had no idea what was happening at the neighboring property.