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Westport Seeks Developer To Preserve Historic Gunn House

The town of Westport is seeking proposals from real estate developers to renovate and preserve the Gunn House, an 1885 Queen Anne-style home at 35 Church Lane.
The town of Westport is seeking proposals from real estate developers to renovate and preserve the Gunn House, an 1885 Queen Anne-style home at 35 Church Lane. Photo Credit: File

WESTPORT, Conn. – Bids are being sought from real estate developers to renovate and preserve the historic Kemper Gunn House at 35 Church Lane in Westport, next to the Westport Weston Family Y’s downtown facility.

As part of the proposed Bedford Square Project , the Y facility and property at 35 Church Lane would be redeveloped into a mixed-use complex. However, because the 1885 Queen Anne-style home can’t be incorporated into the project, Bedford Square Associates — the project developers — have offered to relocate the home, at no cost to the town, instead of having it demolished.

“While the house is not part of our plans for our mixed use Bedford Square development project, we know it is important to many people in Westport to have it preserved,” Bedford Square Associates said in a statement. “That is why we have offered to donate the cost of moving the house to the Elm Street municipal parking lot.”

In addition to covering the costs associated with moving the house, Bedford Square has also agreed to contribute to the construction of a new foundation for the house at its new site. The foundation would be lifted to allow parking underneath the home.

Once the house is relocated, it would need to be renovated and preserved—which is why the town is seeking bids from developers. The town officially issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) from real estate development firms Monday. Bids are due by 2 p.m. May 30.

Drafted with help from the Westport Historic District Commission and preservation advocates, the RFP states that the town would retain ownership of the land and enter into a ground lease with a new developer, who would take ownership of the home at no cost.

That developer would be then responsible for renovating and adapting the house for new uses, which could include commercial use.

“The house gets saved and a savvy developer gets to have an opportunity to participate in Westport’s thriving downtown,” said Westport Representative Town Meeting member Matthew Mandell, who along with RTM member Don Bergmann, advocated for the home's preservation.

Although no public funds would be used for the project, the town would benefit financially though the ground lease and real estate taxes. A potential new downtown merchant would also help bolster the local economy.

“The relocation of this house will be a win-win for all if developers come forward to take advantage of this unique opportunity and if our town government bodies provide the modest, but crucial approvals,” said Bergmann.  “We need to work together.”

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