Category Archives: Saugatuck

A Tale Of 2 Restaurants

Westport’s Splash-less summer is nearing an end. The waterside restaurant at Longshore — and its very popular patio bar — closed last winter.

A new tenant — Pearl of Longshore — is leasing space from the town. But renovations are going slowly.

Very slowly.

As in, making the North Avenue/Merritt Parkway bridge project look like warp speed.

The steps to Splash, and the Inn at Longshore.

The steps to Splash.

Today, for example, no one was working.

The target date of December probably won’t be met.

And if the current pace proceeds, we may be looking at a 2nd Splash-less summer next year.

The scene today inside Splash...

The scene today inside Splash, after the entire summer…

...and outdoors.

…and outdoors.

Meanwhile, a full crew has been hard at work in Saugatuck.

They’re transforming the venerable Mansion Clam House into a very good looking Parker Steak House.

A new look for an old building.

A new look for an old building.

Sheetrocking is set for this week. They seem confident they’ll be done in 2 months.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

When the workers are done at Parker Steak House, perhaps they can head over the river. A new job is waiting.

Ticket To Ride

The ticket machines on Metro-North’s New York-bound platform are quick and convenient.

According to one “06880” reader, they’re also a death trap.

She writes: “2 ticket machines are positioned so closely to the open track that if the line exceeds 2 people (as it often does), the 3rd person stands at the edge of the track. Quick purchase of a ticket is also impeded because sunshine obscures the screen.”

Train station ticket machine

She proposes a “no-brainer” solution: moving the machines inside the waiting room.

Oh yeah — one more thing. Our safety-first writer says, “Directly adjacent to the ticket machines is a high-voltage pillar.”

All the more reason to have that 1st cup of coffee before you get to the station!

Swing That Bridge Around!

The Cribari (aka Bridge Street) bridge was built in 1884. It’s the oldest surviving movable bridge in Connecticut.

It doesn’t move a lot these days — you wouldn’t either, if you were 131 years old — but it was opened today.

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti was there. He took this photo (click on or hover over for a fantastic enlargement):

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

JP reports:

“It was quite a spectacle. Police, traffic agents, crowds gathered to watch. Boats went under. Kayakers and SUPs paddled nearby.

“It took 1 minute to open, 1 minute to close. Thankfully it didn’t get stuck.”

 

New Downtown Plan: No Permits Needed

Pete Romano is a well-known — and much-admired — Westporter.

He’s one of the prime movers behind the redevelopment of Saugatuck Center (and a co-owner of the beloved Saugatuck Sweets shop). For many years he was a leading volunteer with Festival Italiano. Pete knows how important it is to build — and sustain — a community.

He’s also a principal with Saugatuck-based LandTech, one of the area’s leading environmental and engineering firms.

Recently, Pete attended a conference on “Cities of Tomorrow.” In between heavy-duty panels of mayors, economic directors and futurists, there were 10-minute vignettes of imaginative, fun and very cool ideas.

Pete was particularly taken by a guy who took an abandoned city block out west. He developed it fully, placing businesses in abandoned store fronts, painting crosswalks and bike lanes, putting up planters with trees, creating sidewalk cafes and the like.

Creating green space where none existed.

Creating green space where none existed.

Here’s the kicker: He did not have permission to do anything. No permits, no licenses — nothing.

All he had were a few buddies, and a huge pair of you-know-whats.

He told the conference: “You can do anything, as long as you wear a hard hat and fluorescent vest.”

I am not advocating that anyone do this in Westport, mind you.

And if anyone does, please don’t mention where you got the idea.

Parking Day 2

Ta-da!

Sweet Pete!

Pete Romano is a legend.

The native Westporter has followed his parents — PJ and Joan — as an avid supporter of everything every local kid does. He’s now one of the prime movers behind Al’s Angels, touching youngsters and their families in extra-special ways.

He’s helped build his company — Landtech — into a well respected civil engineering and environmental consulting firm.

Pete Romano

Pete Romano

Pete was a driving force behind the long-running, very popular Festival Italiano, and now he’s a leader in the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

But — in the same way Paul Newman is known to a new generation as a food purveyor rather than a movie star — many Westporters know Pete only as an owner of Saugatuck Sweets, the riverfront ice cream-and-candy shop that will be remembered fondly years from now by every kid growing up today in town.

So it’s fitting that Saugatuck Sweets is the site this Saturday (August 8) of Westport’s celebration of Pete’s 60th birthday.

The festivities go on all day. At 2 pm, First Selectman Jim Marpe will present an official town proclamation.

At 7 p.m. there’s a concert with Silver Steel at 96 Franklin Street, near Luciano Park. There’ll be ice cream, zeppoles and soft drinks, plus a chance to “touch a fire truck” from the Saugatuck station.

The event would have been held at the plaza Pete helped create next to Saugatuck Sweets. A noise complaint earlier this summer shut that concert series down.

But Pete and his pals are problem solvers. Their creative solutions have helped make Westport a better place for — well, in Pete’s case, 60 years.

Happy birthday, Pete! See you in Saugatuck on Saturday!

Saugatuck Sweets

 

 

 

Intriguing Real Estate Trends: 2050 Estimate Now Available

The good news is: By 2050, Westport will have plenty of new waterfront property.

The bad news: Current waterfront property will be worthless. It will sit underwater.

Want to check out if you’re a winner or loser? Head to Climate Central. They’ve spent 2 years developing interactive maps for coastal states. You can see — if you dare — estimates of areas vulnerable to flooding from combined sea level rise, storm surge and tides, or to permanent submergence by long-term sea level rise.

The site also offers reams of statistics. But the maps are the money shots.

2050 Westport coastal map

This is a very pretty map. Until you realize that blue represents water. Nearly everything south of the Post Road could be submerged. And look how far over its banks the Saugatuck River flows. Hover over or click to enlarge.

The above map is based on a 2-degree Celsius average rise in temperature.

Virtually everything south of 95 is gone. So is all of downtown, as the Saugatuck River surges over its banks.

Alert “06880” reader Glenn Payne — who we can thank (or blame) for sending the link along — notes:

While the attached is somewhat alarmist (it shows all land within 20 feet of high tide underwater), and the timing is likely beyond most readers, it does paint a very different picture of Westport sometime in the future. While some may be relieved that their house has not been submerged, their commute will be challenged, as I-95 will be.

He poses some interesting questions:

  • What is Westport without a beach and downtown?
  • Who pays the bills if the biggest taxpayers (Nyala Farms, Beachside homes) are not there?
  • And who lives in the rest of Westport if much of Manhattan (and the financial district) is gone?

So don’t sweat the details of the new downtown plan. Who cares if there’s a new traffic pattern at the beach. Neither will be around forever.

But until then, be careful where you park. “06880” will move to higher ground. We’ll still be watching.

Welcome to Westport!

Welcome to Westport!

(To see the interactive Westport map, click here. For Climate Central’s “Surging Seas” page, click here.) 

Bridging Saugatuck

Everyone in Westport calls it (redundantly) the “Bridge Street bridge.” No one uses the official “William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge” name. (He was a popular cop who, for years, theatrically directed rush-hour traffic at the Riverside Avenue intersection.)

In a while, though, everyone in town will be talking about it.

Preliminary discussions between local and state officials have begun regarding repairs — or perhaps replacement — of the 131-year-old, 287-foot structure.

It’s the oldest surviving movable bridge in Connecticut. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It carries 16,000 vehicles a day.

Maritime commerce in long-ago Saugatuck — and upriver, downtown Westport — depended on the bridge’s ability to open. It was a tedious, hand-cranking process.

It also put a lot of stress on the bridge — stress that’s been aggravated by tremendous vehicular traffic, and occasional collisions with vessels. Now its girders are rusting — and possibly cracking.

An idyllic shot of the Bridge Street bridge. Usually, it's filled with traffic.

An idyllic shot of the Bridge Street bridge. Usually, it’s filled with traffic.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has identified serious deficiencies with the Bridge Street bridge. They’ve got their eyes on it. (And many others — our infrastructure is not exactly healthy.)

Renovation or replacement would entail considerable disruption to a structure vital to our town. (Repairs a while back resulted in a temporary span being constructed adjacent to the permanent one. That’s when a much-needed northbound turning lane was added, coming off the bridge by the old Mansion Clam House.)

There’s no question something must be done. When it is, will other issues be addressed — like the congestion that currently clogs Saugatuck for hours each day?

Will there be discussion of (let’s say) using some of the land at (let’s say) Rizzuto’s parking lot for a roundabout, moving traffic continuously through without a light? It’s been done elsewhere.

“Improvements” are in the eye of the beholder. Would you like to see the old truss bridge remain? Would you prefer a completely new structure?

If you have ideas on how to improve the Bridge Street bridge — and the traffic mess on and around it — click “Comments.” Please use your real name. Feel free to add thoughts on when and how you use the bridge, and what you think of it.

The Bridge Street bridge and environs, as seen on Google Earth view.

The Bridge Street bridge and environs, as seen on Google Earth view.

Art And Artois

After sketching Bridge Square yesterday, Jim Chillington prepared to relax.

Jim Chillington - Bridge Square

Checking Out The Mansion

In the heart of Saugatuck, it’s hard to miss: Every day, the former Mansion Clam House moves closer to its new incarnation as Parker Steak House.

The substantial portion of townsfolk who don’t like restaurant changes wonder what’s ahead. Owner Chris Costa — a longtime Westporter who bought the property from his uncle’s estate — sends this reassuring message to all:

I’m glad that my family contributed to Westport’s individual character for many years with the Mansion. It’s my intent that the building and grounds retain some of the salty dog touches that I too enjoy.

I intend to replace the fisherman on the roof. We are searching for a new mannequin now, and some foul weather gear. The old one was beyond repair for safe installation.

The quirky Mansion Clam House fisherman will be back -- in some form -- at the Parker Steak House.

The quirky Mansion Clam House fisherman will be back — in some form — at the Parker Steak House.

We will do parking lot and dock work too, once the structure is complete.

My passion for the individual character and spirit that has endeared Westport to me is alive and well. I too sometimes lament the homogenization of the beige stone and shingle world the town seems to have become.

We need individuality and diversification. The cookie-cutter thing doesn’t work for me.

I need to respect and balance the tenant’s design and wishes, and collaborate with things that can work to add all the character people fondly remember.

Work proceeded last month on the former Mansion Clam House. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Work proceeded last month on the former Mansion Clam House. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Not the least of that will be some very good food. To be clear: It will not solely be a steak house! While that is a focus, seafood of course will be well represented.

The operator is a great guy, very open to listening to customers to get them great food at fair prices and a welcoming atmosphere. He’s in this for the long haul.

I am too. This is not a trendy one-hit-and-done, in-and-out.

Time will tell. At the end of the day, the people are the voters.

We set the stage. They come. Everyone learns. Evolutions occur. And a good balance is achieved!

(Hey, “06880” readers! If you know where Chris Costa can find a good fisherman mannequin, click “Comments” below.)

 

Sweet Saugatuck

Some people might see this as a perfect summer afternoon: relaxing at the plaza by Saugatuck Sweets.

Others might see the cellphone and the I-95 bridge.

What do you think? Is the ice cream cone half empty, or half full?

Lazy hazy days