A life-long Westporter who has lived in town for fifty years, having moved here at age one, David Waldman owns David Adam Realty, a commercial real estate brokerage, management and development company , founded in 1991.
I and my wife and three kids (15, 17 and 23) were quarantined at my home down by the beach from early March . As a developer: I spent the last 30 years developing projects which were designed to be interactive with the community–to be active and crowded. For example, I always loved driving by the Spotted Horse and no matter when I did, it was always crowded with people enjoying each other and living life. To see our world shut down and realizing very quickly that this “invisible enemy” was not going away any time soon, I began to really worry about my business and quickly began to feel the pain of how Covid-19 was going to change my immediate future and potentially long term future. National tenants stopped paying rent, restaurants and stores which were thriving are now struggling to stay afloat. [At the time of this interview] It is now [late] June and things have begun to get better in terms of my business. Of the 150 tenants I have across my portfolio, I made deals with over 100 of them to date, which has collectively cost me over $3 million in lost revenue. And while rent has been paid and I can again pay my obligations, I am afraid the entertainment aspect of our very social lives is going to take some vaccine to bring back what we have now all lost.
As a father, I was petrified from the first 30 days. I am a Type 1 diabetic, as is one of my children so we locked down our household and tried to limit our potential exposure: No people inside the house; grocery shopping in masks (horrible) and gloves and then wipe it all down. This went on for 30-40 days. As my wife and I watched the hospitalizations and deaths continue to decrease, we began to allow our kids to see their friend groups, allowed them see one another outside, at the beach etc. The biggest change in my mind, and in particular my fear, came after the protests began (and still go on). While I understand the circumstances which prompted these protests, I was pissed that after shutting down mine and my family’s life for 45+ days and following the guidelines put forth by our leaders, thousands of people decided they were done and this was a worthy cause to go out into the world, not socially distant and paying little to no attention to the reasons we stayed home for so long.
[As downtown opens up again] my fear is that it comes back and our government tries to shut our lives, stores and restaurants down again. With that said, I am so pleased with the initiatives and creative ways businesses are trying to make a go of it. Having tables and chairs spread out on sidewalks is great and makes people feel safer. My favorite new “creative” outlet for social gathering is the Remarkable Theater Group’s Drive in theater on Imperial. It opened to a sold-out crowd (67 cars) and again the next Saturday. It was full of families and adults seeking social interaction in a safe and controlled manner. I pray these initiatives continue after COVID.
I would like to see the state of CT “capitalize” COVID. What I mean is, COVID has accelerated Millennials’ desire to leave big cities for the suburbs to raise families. In the past 60 days over 10,000 people have migrated INTO Connecticut and Westport. Prior to COVID we were losing people and corporations on a daily basis. CT needs to become a more business-friendly State. The exodus from big cities is going to continue (unlike 9-11 where it was short lived). As for our town, my wish is that we stop creating “plans” which never get off the shelf and start doing things. We need a theater downtown. We need a public playground, we need our streets and landscape beds to look full of life and color and not just weeds. I really hope that people begin to realize how nice it is to be able to live in a place like Westport, where the community cares about one another and where the Town supports (financially) the catalytic things needed to allow Westport and Downtown to thrive.
I guess what I would like to share is that my vision of our downtown has been at the forefront of my business career for over 25 years. Unlike most developers who build outside their own communities, I have been blessed to be able to help shape our community. I have tried to create attractive, well-built projects that make people stop, look and enjoy. I may have rubbed some people the wrong way but in the end, I stuck to my beliefs and followed through on my promises. In the end I wish we were a world of “and” not “or”. Rich and poor, Black and White, Democrat and Republican. Growing up I remember our world being more understanding of the opposite opinion’s and beliefs. Today I only hear hatred, disgust when it comes to our individual beliefs. We need to all understand that each and everyone one of us on this planet can make a difference in the world we live in and will leave our children. Our planet needs us to take better care of it. In my mind, in a post-COVID environment, we need to unite all humans under a simply but steadfast premise, “treat others (and our planet) like you would want to be treated”.
We need to all understand that each and everyone one of us on this planet can make a difference in the world we live in and will leave our children