Pre Application Submitted to P&Z for Bakery & Restaurant on Liberty Way

A new pre-application to convert a retail shop and health club to a bakery and restaurant was filed on Feb 4 with the town’s Planning & Zoning Dept.

The property, whose address is 8 & 10 Lewis Street, is located in the CGBR/CGIO Zones.

The prospective tenant is “KYMA Greenwich.”

The final blow to the now shuttered New York Sports Club, which fronts onto Liberty Way, may have been the pandemic.

But the retail shop, Sophia’s Costumes, a longtime independently owned gift shop that specializes in costume rentals and vintage clothes, is a going concern.

“I’m devastated,” said Sophia Scarpelli who has run her shop that fronts onto Liberty Way for 39 years.

Sophia's Costume Shop on Liberty Way. Credit: Leslie Yager
Sophia Scarpelli in her shop, which has been a destination for costume sales and rentals over the decades. Photo: Leslie Yager

Scarpelli said lease expired in January, but she had hoped to renew.

The Cos Cob native’s extravagant costumes have been popular to rent, not just for Halloween, but for fundraising galas and red carpet events, including Fashion’s Night Out.

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Models wearing costumes from Sophia’s Costume Rentals during Fashion’s Night Out. Credit: Leslie Yager
Halloween display at Sophia’s costume shop on Liberty Way. Photo: Leslie Yager

Scarpelli’s independent business has made headlines over the years, including freak accidents.

Not once, but twice, an elderly driver accelerated through the municipal lot and through her shop windows. Both times, Scarpelli made repairs and reopened.

Certainly the pandemic has been tough on retail shops, but with Halloween cancelled last October, the business took a heavy hit.

Last week Scarpelli switched out her merchandise to feature new spring gift items.

While retailers have struggled downtown, Greenwich Avenue has become something of an outdoor dining mecca, especially since New York’s restrictions have been tighter than Connecticut’s.

Pandemic notwithstanding, several new restaurants have opened in recent months including Orienta, Sweetgreen, and Kissaki.

And competition for a new bakery will also be stiff considering there are already four bakery/coffee shops just steps away: Raphael’s, a French bakery that opened in December on Mason Street; Black Forest on Lewis Street, Coffee Luca whose display features crumb cakes, cannoli, muffins, croissants and biscotti, and CFCF on the Ave.

According to the application, in 1981 the Planning & Zoning commission granted final site plan approval to M.H. Cohen to permit the alteration of a portion of the first and second floors of the existing building for use as a Health Club to be operated by American Fitness Institute (AMFIT). That space was most recently operated by New York Sports Club.

The prior use of that part of the building was for “office-assembly and warehouse.” The remainder of the building fronting on Liberty Way, which has been home to Sophia’s, and the retail space fronting onto Lewis Street were designated for retail use.

There is no parking on the property; though there are metered spots in the municipal lot and along Lewis Street.

The application notes that the health club use was legally non conforming. Health clubs are not allowed on the first floor of a building.

The tenant, KYMA, proposes to operate a retail bakery of approximately 3,500 sq ft on the first floor, and operate a restaurant on the first and second floors of the former sports club.

“Because a restaurant is not a permitted use on the second floor of the building, KYMA intends to seek Site Plan and Special Permit approval pursuant to Section 6-141, which permits a non-conforming use that it not more non-conforming than the former use nor more detrimental to the neighborhood,” wrote Chip Haslun, in a letter on file with the pre-application.

Pre-applications were a new option introduced by P&Z in the past year. They are non-binding and intended to prevent an applicant from investing time and money on attorneys, architects and other consultants unnecessarily.

The pre-application has yet to be scheduled on a P&Z agenda. Stay tuned.