Photographs by Lauren Stevens
Above: The newly opened Bedford Square
Commercial real estate developer Dan Zelson and his wife moved from Weston to Southport ten years ago, drawn to its quiet charm. “It was always our dream to be here,” he says. “I love walking in the village. I love that you can still go into stores and sign your name and have a bill sent to your house, instead of dealing in cash.”
While his sons were going through Fairfield Country Day School, Zelson was embedded in Bedford Square (bedfordsquare.com). The decade-plus-long restoration project (with Paul Brandes, Zelson’s business partner at Charter Realty & Development, and with fellow Bedford developer David Waldman of David Adam Realty) has turned the old Westport YMCA and adjacent buildings into the cornerstone of a revitalized downtown. Developed largely on the site of a 1920s English Tudor manor originally donated by the Bedford family, the mixed-use project will house some 80,000 square feet of commercial, retail and office space, anchored by Anthropologie & Co., plus residential apartments.
Zelson’s favorite feature is the large, central courtyard. Accessible from three streets, it includes a shaded sitting area and entrances to retailers and outdoor dining. “This is a crossing point through the middle of town,” he says. “It’s the most direct way to get places, and it’s a gathering place.”
Currently involved in a project in Westchester, Zelson also eyes his hometown. “We’d love to get involved in some kind of development downtown. I think there’s a huge potential for Fairfield to do something impactful, with senior housing, with a hotel and office, by the train station and train parking. It’s a huge tract of excess land.”