Category Archives: Saugatuck

Consultants Plan. Candidates And Readers: Respond!

On Monday, “06880” gave a nod to the Westport Historical Society’s “06880 + 50” exhibit. It’s an intriguing look forward, at how our town might look and act 5 decades from now.

Yesterday, Saugatuck Center Transit Oriented Design consultants unveiled their latest master plan.

Looking forward themselves — but only 5 to 10 years — they presented a vision for the area bounded by the train station, Saugatuck Avenue and Riverside Avenue.

The landscape looks beautiful — filled with trees, sidewalks, a realigned park and improved lighting.

There are also over 200 new residential units. Plus more than 40,000 additional square feet of retail space. And new deck parking.

Colored areas show possible development of Saugatuck over the next 7-10 years, based on a presentation by the Transit Oriented Design group.The railroad station is at the bottom; the intersection of Riverside and Saugatuck Avenues is at the top.

The development of Saugatuck is exciting. It’s also challenging and controversial.

It comes at a time when downtown Westport grapples too with new development — on both sides of the river.

Many plans for the future look great. Many blend our town’s history and heritage with the reality of today, and the promise of tomorrow.

Sometimes they miss things. Traffic — as anyone who has crawled through Saugatuck or sat on the Post Road can tell you — is central to all aspects of life here.

Our infrastructure is aging. Our public services are stretched thin.

The future of the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is key to any discussion of the future of Saugatuck. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

This November, voters will elect a first selectman — and 3 Planning & Zoning Commission members.

Four Westporters are vying to be chief executive. Five are running for the P&Z spots.

All will face issues involving preservation of historic structures and open space. They’ll weigh in on amorphous subjects like town image and character, and concrete ones like personal property rights versus property development.

All candidates are invited to chime in on those topics right now, in the “06880” “Comments” section. Of course, readers can pipe up too.

But here’s something we can all agree on: Let’s keep it civil. Discuss the issues in a positive way. Don’t bash others; no ad hominem attacks.

After all, this is Westport, not Washington.

Our future is in our hands.

(Click here for the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design website. As of yesterday evening, the most recent presentation had not yet been added to the site.)

Firefighters Come Through

A dramatic house fire shut down Saugatuck Avenue today, near Saugatuck Shores.

“06880” reader Michelle Benner reports that Westport, Norwalk, Weston, Fairfield and Stamford fire departments — and chiefs — were all there.

The fire burned for over an hour and a half. An hour in, the owners had a fireman pull a vintage red sports car out of the garage.

The Saugatuck Avenue fire today. (Photo/Westport Fire Department)

Stamford’s department arrived with a special truck to refill oxygen tanks.

Eversource came 45 minutes in to cut the line from the utility pole. It took a while because they couldn’t drive  the truck over the hose connected to the hydrant (which was fortunately right across the street from the burning house). The line had to cut it by hand with a long pole, instead of using the cherry picker.

Firefighters brought hoses into the house, and fought the fire from inside. Water shot up out of the roof, as flames and black/brown smoke continued to pour out.

“It was heartbreaking to see,” Michelle says. “Thankfully, it appears no one got hurt.”

“But it was heartwarming to see the firefighters working together, the other towns coming in to help, and how protective the chiefs were of their men.

“The guys who climb out on the ladder to fight the fire from above are especially brave!”

The fire burned for nearly 2 hours. (Photo/Michelle Benner)

Slicing Up Saugatuck

The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.

Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.

Thanks go to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, plus the Slice’s many sponsors.

And congrats to the Gillespie Food Pantry: recipient of some of today’s funds.

Here’s what the Slice looked like, starting and ending at Bridge Square:

Owner Bill Taibe (right) and his Kawa Ni staff served Japanese delicacies (and drinks).

Firefighters at the Saugatuck station promoted fire safety (and offered a seat in their very cool truck).

The Whelk offered some delicacies …

… while a few feet away on the riverfront plaza, the Silver Steel Band played.

Matt Storch dished out fries. The Staples High School graduate’s new Match Burger Lobster restaurant opens in 2 weeks.

Socks — a face painter — came from Norwalk.

The Funicello family’s Tutti’s is always a Slice of Saugatuck favorite.

Mersene — owner of the very popular Indulge by Mersene — welcomed Railroad Place Slice-goers with her typically funky goods.

Every kid loves a bounce house.

A tae kwan do place lured passersby with this inflatable guy.

The Slice included Saugatuck Avenue too. Here’s the mouth-watering scene at Dunville’s.

All roads led to the Slice of Saugatuck. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. — there’s still time. After 5, several restaurants extend the fun with specially priced menus.

Pic Of The Day #139

Rusting railroad bridge (Photo/Amy Schneider)

Suited’s Sale Helps Houston

For 3 years, Ryan Meserole’s Suited.co custom shop across from the train station has dressed men well — and given back to Fairfield County.

Now it’s time to help Texas.

In 2012 Ryan’s aunt Rosemary Duffy lost her Brooklyn home — and everything else — Hurricane Sandy.

She moved to Houston. Now she’s going through it all again.

The timing could not be worse. Less than a month ago, Rosemary lost her brother-in-law — firefighter Michael Duffy — to cancer linked to 9/11.

Despite it all, she was most concerned for others, Ryan reports.

“I’m still a Brooklyn boy at heart,” he says. “I was fortunate to move here later in life. Despite what people say about New Yorkers, we love to help.”

So here’s his offer: Anyone who donates $100 or more to Red Cross Harvey relief will receive a 50% discount at Suited. It’s good for any fabric and shirt.

In other words: You can snag a custom suit for as little as $650 this weekend.

Ryan will even set up a laptop in his store, for easy access to the Red Cross website.

If you’ve already donated to the Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey, just bring in your confirmation. You’ll still get his discount.

Suited.co is at 44 Railroad Place. For more information, click here.

 

Slice Of Saugatuck Returns September 9

Saugatuck keeps growing. Every day, it seems, there’s something new and exciting in what was once our original town center.

There are new restaurants and stores. There’s new life and activity (like “Tuesdays at the Train”).

And — on Saturday, September 9 — new businesses will participate in the Slice of Saugatuck.

From Bridge Square to Railroad Place — and everywhere else — Slice of Saugatuck is packed. (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)

Six years ago, the 1st street festival drew 27 participants, and a few hundred people.

This time, 54 establishments have signed on. A crowd of more than 2,000 is expected to stroll the streets, nibble food, listen to live music at 6 venues, and enjoy kid and family activities like an obstacle course, bouncy houses and Maker Faire area.

The list of attractions includes 31 restaurants and 23 merchants. They’ll put tables outside, open their doors, then let the fun begin.

Slice of Saugatuck also boasts 2 beer gardens with wine), and specialty drinks at many venues. After the festival, a Saugatuck Happy Hour keeps the celebration going.

The “Slice” name comes from the street fair’s shape. Ranging from Riverside Avenue on one side and Saugatuck Avenue on the other, narrowing to Railroad Place, it resembles a pizza slice.

Of course, for many years Saugatuck was a heavily Italian neighborhood. There are still plenty of premier pasta-and-pizza places there — along with restaurants specializing in seafood, steaks, Mexican and Thai cuisine and more.

But you know that already. Saugatuck is a favorite destination for Westporters, and everyone else in Fairfield County.

It’s a little slice of heaven, right here in town.

(Tickets for the Slice of Saugatuck — $15 per adult; 2 for $25; children under 13, $5 — go on sale on-site at 1:50 p.m. the day of the event; cash only. Proceeds help fund the Gillespie Center’s food pantry. The Slice is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. For more information, including a map and list of participants, click here.)

 

Pasta Place Goes; Pizza Bar Comes

Pasta lovers said grazie when Grana Pastificio opened in a corner of Winfield Street Coffee, across from the train station.

In a rapidly changing town, the old-world, fresh pasta place seemed a throwback to Saugatuck’s Italian roots.

After only a year, the Grana guys moved out.

There’s a good reason: They now serve 15 restaurants, and make 250 pounds of pasta a day. They needed a bigger facility. (You can still order online, and pick up your order at Winfield’s coffee shop.)

The space will not be empty for long. The new tenant should also be welcomed by old Saugatuck hands — as well as anyone else who loves good Italian food.

Graziano and Maurizio Ricci — owners of 2 Romanacci Pizza Bar restaurants (in Norwalk and Trumbull), and 2 Osteria Romanas (Norwalk and Monroe) — have wanted to open a Westport location for years.

This new spot will be a Romanacci. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, a “breakfast pizza” will complement Winfield’s coffee.

The brothers are finalizing their permits now. They hope to be ready around Labor Day.

Winfield owner Breno Donatti says, “They’re cool guys. They know what they’re doing. I’m happy to share the space with them.”

Commuters, Saugatuck residents, and all the rest of us should be happy he’s sharing the space too.

Cribari Bridge Swings On Sunday

If you’re sitting in a line of cars while the William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge slooooowly opens and just as slooooowly closes, letting a boat pass underneath, you’re probably not a big fan of the 133-year-old, last-of-its-kind-in-the-country span.

But if you’re strolling around on a lazy Sunday morning, the longtime ritual can be almost magical.

The hand crank on the William Cribari Bridge. It’s used now only if the mechanical crank fails.
(Photo/Tom Feeley)

That’s what happened last weekend. Jonathan Kaner was filming a campaign video for 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. He saw 3 men fishing on the banks of the Saugatuck River.

Suddenly, a police officer came by. The men greeted him.

Turns out, they’re the bridge opening crew. They were there to allow a small boat to go by.

Kaner’s tripod was already set up. He filmed the bridge opening and closing.

It took awhile, of course. So he sped up the video — 8 times.

Except for the boat. It cruises underneath at normal speed.

 

Photo Challenge #138

“06880” readers were cranking last Sunday.

We may not agree on what to call the span over the river: William Cribari Bridge? Bridge Street Bridge? Saugatuck Bridge?

But many folks instantly recognized last week’s photo challenge as the hand crank that once opened that multi-named bridge (and still does, if the motorized system fails).

Andy Kaplan, Peter Fulbright, Tom Erickson, David Sampson, Andrew Colabella (who also spotted the extension cord for Al’s Angels’ Christmas lights), Jay Tormey, Jonathan McClure, Joelle Malec, Seth Braunstein and Carmine Picarello all nailed it. To see Tom Feeley’s image, and read all the comments, click here.

This week’s challenge is harder.

Much harder.

If you know where in Westport you’d find this scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Heli Stagg)

BREAKING NEWS: Cribari Bridge Solution May Be At Hand

For years, the state Department of Transportation has pushed for a major renovation of the William Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge.

For just as long, Westporters and town officials have pushed back. They fear that modernizing and widening the 2-lane span over the Saugatuck River would draw traffic — including 18-wheelers — off I-95, whenever there is an accident or delay on the nearby highway.

A solution appears to have been found.

And it’s a creative one.

The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

According to State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, the DOT is prepared to reroute Route 136. Right now, 136 includes North and South Compo Roads, and Bridge Street, through Saugatuck and on out to Saugatuck Avenue headed toward Norwalk.

Under the new plan, Route 136 would join the Post Road (also US1) at the North Compo intersection. It would head over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown, then go south on Riverside Avenue (also known as Route 33), and on toward Saugatuck Avenue.

Thus, the Cribari Bridge would no longer be a state road.

DOT has agreed to do repair work on the bridge — but not a major renovation.

When repairs are finished, DOT would hand the bridge over to the town. Westport would own it — and be responsible for ongoing and future maintenance.

The bridge and environs would no longer be Route 136.

The plan was described to a bipartisan group of state legislators from the area — Steinberg, State Senators Toni Boucher and Tony Hwang, and State Representative Gail Lavielle — by state DOT officials, including commissioner James Redeker. DOT wanted the legislators’ input, before presenting it to 1st selectman Jim Marpe.

[NOTE: An earlier version of this story described — based on a source — the meeting as a “negotiation.” It was an informational meeting only.]

“It’s not cost-free to the town,” Steinberg admits. “But once in a while we come up with creative solutions that work for everyone.”

He gives credit to the DOT. “If they weren’t on board, we’d still be battling this out,” Steinberg says.

Marpe notes, “The concept has just been presented to me. I’m working with my staff to understand the short-term and long-term implications — including finances and public safety — to the proposal. It’s certainly an alternative that needs to be seriously considered.”