Goldman and Gruder agreed working with businesses and nonprofits on projects can be strenuous, and the Chabad project was no exception.
"It was very lengthy," said Gruder. "Both the negotiation and the actual securing the purchase of the premises due to the ownership of the building being throughout several family members and several family trusts, basically all located out-of-state."
Gruder said the property transaction also required plenty of due diligence, because of the structure's old age and its "quirky nature," such as the septic facilities being across the state highway from the building.
There were also numerous regulatory issues to deal with. For example, the team of attorneys involved with the project had to consider how, because the building was previously a restaurant, it could be used by Chabad as a religious center.
In 2007, Chabad of Litchfield County was denied a zoning application in Litchfield to renovate a historic house similar to the one in Westport. The drawn-out controversy, including a lawsuit, has bubbled around charges of religious discrimination.
Legal messiness being an unattractive outcome, Gruder said an informal town meeting was held at the building to advise the neighbors prior to submitting Chabad of Westport, Wilton, Weston and Norwalk's formal proposal and application.
About 40 members of the public attended this meeting last March, where they were informed of Chabad's desire to use the building for religious purposes, assured the exterior of the building would not change, and asked to support the zoning application at the public hearing last May.
"We actually had our engineers, our architects, our zoning council all there," said Gruder. "And we invited all the neighbors to come and all the prominent local individuals in the area to come in advance and ask questions."
Now the effort is nearing completion. "All that's left is [to] finalize the conservation approval and then perform some interior renovations to the property while at all times maintaining the façade and regional structure, because of its historic nature."
One of Goldman, Gruder & Woods' longtime clients is Able Construction of Norwalk, the construction company that is working on the building renovations. "They are also a family of very strong supporters of Chabad," said Gruder. "They donate their time as well at no cost for the project.