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Living In…Saugatuck

The New York Times Sunday real estate section holds a strange fascination for people in the tri-state area.

It doesn’t matter if we’re actively buying or selling, or dying in the same house our great-grandparents were born in. Like realtors drawn to obituaries — that means a potential listing! — we pore over the real estate pages. We can’t help reading about pets in co-ops, which Brooklyn neighborhood is next on the hot list, and of course who paid how much for what.

Every Sunday, the Times singles out a town or neighborhood for its “Living In” feature. This Sunday, it will be Saugatuck.

Bridge Square rocked last September, at the “Slice of Saugatuck” festival. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

Titled “What I-95 Hasn’t Put Asunder,” it describes the mid-1950s construction of the Connecticut Turnpike as “a battering ram.”

Houses came down; so did a church. Blacktop replaced Turtle Pond, a favorite place to ice-skate. A rumbling overpass halved Franklin Street, a residential locus for Italian-Americans (who today account for about 20 percent of the population).

“You know that progress has to happen,” said Cathy Romano, whose childhood home, a porch-wrapped wood-frame house on West Ferry Lane, became a dorm for highway builders before being razed for a parking lot. “But it was traumatic.”

Yet Saugatuck — which before the Italians arrived was the commercial center of Westport — has reinvented itself. And the Times takes notice.

Bustling and dense, with a number of restaurants and some shops, Saugatuck can feel almost urban, especially when compared with leafier, sleepier Westport areas like Coleytown, which has two-acre residential zoning. But there are plenty of people who would rather be squeezed in than spread out.

Yards away from the bustle, a serene Saugatuck scene. (Photo by Bobbi Liepolt)

The piece describes the Gault family’s “$18 million attempt to ease the effects of I-95’s divisive presence: Saugatuck Center, a mixed-use four-acre redevelopment project….In a community with hardly any housing beyond single-family homes, 27 new apartments amount to a lot.”

The Times includes Saugatuck Shores in its Saugatuck roundup, which seems a stretch. But here’s the connection:

Recovery of another kind is on the minds of some homeowners in Saugatuck Shores, a low-lying, compressed area. Hurricane Sandy dealt it a punishing blow, as have other big storms.

The houses perched atop carports seem to have come out unscathed. But more modest properties — especially along Harbor Road, which is separated from Long Island Sound by a jumble of boulders — seem hurt. On a recent visit, a few had plywood in their windows, and the storm had strewn oysters across lawns.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Saugatuck Shores.

Because this is the Times real estate section, money matters. Readers learn that the most expensive home on the market — a 5-bedroom 2000 colonial on a 2-acre waterfront lot with a tennis court — is listed at $10.99 million.

Last year, the average price for all 29 single-family homes sold in Saugatuck was  $1.22 million. Hopefully, some of those sales were by families who held on — and thrived — in the decades after I-95 sliced through.

Finally — buried at the end of the story — was some intriguing news. There are 1,064 reserved parking lots at the train station, and the waiting list is 4 years. But — who knew? — the town is planning “an online effort to cull outdated names.”

(Click here to read the entire New York Times story on “Living In Saugatuck.”)

For many people, the Black Duck epitomizes Saugatuck. (Photo by John Kantor)

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