WESTPORT, Conn. – Hundreds of Westport residents are backing a plan that would save the historic Kemper Gunn House from the wrecking ball by having it moved from Church Lane to the Elm Street municipal parking lot just up the road.
Built circa 1855, the Queen Anne-style home is one of two buildings at 35 Church Lane, next to the Westport Weston Family Y’s downtown facility, which is slated to be transformed into a mixed-use complex known as Bedford Square.
The Bedford Square project — approved last month by the Planning & Zoning Commission — calls for a portion of the Y and both buildings at 35 Church Lane to be removed to make way for four new buildings. Rather than demolish the historic Kemper Gunn House, Bedford Square Associates, the project developers, has offered to relocate the home at no cost to the town.
“This old Victorian has been a center piece of our downtown since it was built,” said Representative Town Meeting member Matt Mandell, one of the many residents advocating for the home’s preservation. “By moving it across the street to the Baldwin lot, the town preserves the historic house, it maintains the character of downtown and it re-establishes the streetscape of Elm Street, long lost to a parking lot.”
If the house is moved, the town would retain ownership of the land and enter into a ground lease with a developer, who would take ownership of the home at no cost. It would then be restored by the developer and leased out for retail or office use.
“It’s a win-win for the community,” said Mandell.
Over the past few weeks, Mandell has been collecting signatures for a petition urging the Planning & Zoning Commission to approve the relocation plan. As of Wednesday, Mandell said he’s gathered approximately 300 in-person signatures and 118 online.
The petition will be presented to the commission on Thursday night, when it is slated to review the plan. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium, 110 Myrtle Ave.