Wilton architecture board views Route 7 plan
WILTON — The recently approved Architectural Review Board had for its first meeting a conversation with developer Patrick Downend who presented plans for his property at 198-200 Danbury Road, the site of the former Sheridan Interiors business.
At the meeting on Nov. 12, Downend and his architect, Kevin Bennett of Bennett and Sullivan Architects, presented plans for a three-building project to board members Rob Sanders, Sam Gardner, Laura Noble Perese, John Doyle and Kevin Quinlan. They appeared to view the project favorably.
The plan, called Sharp Hill Square, includes the historic Raymond-Morehouse House, the former Sheridan Interiors, and two other buildings that would consist of 30 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.
Downend had previously applied to the Planning and Zoning Commission for text changes to the town’s zoning regulation that would allow greater height and building density in exchange for preserving the historic building and providing access to public space. His plan includes sidewalks that will lead to the Danbury Road entrance of the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
The Raymond-Morehouse House is a Greek Revival building that dates from around 1835-40, according to Connecticut’s Historic Resource Inventory. It is named for Zadok Raymond, an early 19th-century landowner. It was eventually sold to Sherman Morehouse in 1843 and remained in his family until the 1940s. According to the inventory, it is “easily one of the best preserved, 19th-century homes on Danbury Road.”
There is no application before the Planning and Zoning Commission at this time, but discussions between Downend and Town Planner Bob Nerney led to making the historic building “the showcase and set the theme for the development,” Nerney said.
“After some time, we started to appreciate the historic value of the house,” Downend said, adding they saw the advantages of reusing it, but it would have to be moved to allow for better traffic circulation.
“We are more encouraged we will be able to find a user, a bakery or a delicatessen, that can use the appeal of the house as a business model,” he told the board.
The building has a porch and there is room for outside dining. With the right business, it could become a destination, he said. The second floor would likely be an apartment.
As for getting in and out of the development, Downend said there are now three curb cuts that would be reduced by one. The entrance on Route 7 would be wider and the entrance on Sharp Hill Road would be moved further east, away from the intersection with Route 7.
One building, referred to as Building A, will be behind the historic house and it would have commercial outlets on the first floor and apartments on the second floor with underground parking in the back. An elevator would take residents to their apartments.
Like Building A, the second building, Building B, would be commercial below and residential above. It has a provision for a drive-thru, which Downend said he wants to keep whether for a bank or pharmacy. He said he felt strongly they would fill the spaces.
The board members commented on how the project would fit in with that section of Route 7, which includes the Wilton Historical Society complex and the historical Sharp Hill Cemetery. They also discussed colors, elevations, and roof lines.
Landscaping was also a subject of discussion. The renderings were shown without landscaping, but Downend said it included a stone wall, brick walkways, deciduous trees, shrubbery on the corner and numerous native plants.
Downend appeared before the Inland-Wetlands Commission on Nov. 14, where, according to the minutes, his application was approved.