Tag Archives: Bruce Becker

Roundup: Iain And Linda Bruce, Hotel Marcel, Bayberry Bridge …

Dozens of Iain and Linda Bruce’s many friends, colleagues and fellow civic volunteers gathered at the Westport Library last night to say thanks and farewell.

After 33 years in Westport — and countless contributions in all areas of town life, from the Westport Weston Family Y and Library to music, schools, religion and RTM — the couple are moving at the end of this week.

They head to York, Maine where they’ve had a second home for years. They’ll jump right into community activities there (and Iain will pursue a master’s in history at his alma mater, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario).

Iain and Linda have made Westport a much better place. Our loss is Maine’s gain. Thank you both. And of course, we look forward to seeing you whenever you want to head south.

Iain Bruce — always proud of his Scottish heritage — wore a kilt at last night’s event. His wife Linda shared the stage, as both made very brief remarks. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Every I-95 driver knows the former Armstrong Rubber/Pirelli headquarters in New Haven. That’s Marcel Breuer’s 1960s-era concrete box on the left as you head north, just before the I-91 merge.

It was vacant for quite a while. But 3 years ago, Westport architect/developer Bruce Becker bought the Brutalist building.

After extensive renovations, this spring he’ll open the Hotel Marcel. The 165-room boutique hotel runs generates and manages all its own power, thanks to solar panels, storage batteries and state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies.

It’s called the first zero-net-energy hotel in the U.S.

Connecticut Magazine has published an in-depth, fascinating story on Becker, and the hotel.

It quotes architect Duo Dickinson: “Bruce Becker is changing architecture more than any other practitioner in New England and perhaps America.”

The story notes: “a structure created a half-century ago by an innovative designer (Marcel Breuer) is returned to vibrant life by another innovative designer bent on changing the way we think about energy, built environments and our future.” Click here for the full story. And click here for an “06880” on Becker’s zero-energy Westport home. (Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)

PS: One more Westport connection: Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the Hotel Marcel’s site/civil engineer.

Bruce Becker, in front of his new Hotel Marcel. (Photo/Ned Gerard for Connecticut Magazine)

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They’re not big news. But a couple of agenda items for the next Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (Wednesday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) seem interesting.

Commissioners will be asked to disband the Levitt Pavilion sub-committee. The agenda says: “As part of her review of the Town’s various sub-committees, the First Selectwoman has decided that she would like the Levitt Pavilion committee to report directly to her office. In order to do so, the sub-committee of the Parks and Recreation Commission must be disbanded.”

More impactful may be a proposed moratorium on bench donations.

According to the agenda: “Many of our beach and park facilities are over-saturated with memorial benches. Staff are presently reviewing the current policy while we also work to create standards that will be used going forward for any new installations.

“Until we have more detailed information that we can provide to the Commission, we request a moratorium be placed on all new bench requests until further notice.”

Click here for the full agenda, and meeting information.

Compo Beach memorial benches (Photo/Anne Ziff)

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The Bayberry Lane Bridge over the Aspetuck River will be closed for construction. The project starts Thursday, and is slated to run through November 30 (fingers crossed)

So that means — according to the sign below — Bayberry Lane #2 is closed.

There’s just one problem. There is no road called “Bayberry Lane #2.”

In fact, there’s not any road in Westport ending in “#2.”

Or probably anywhere else in the country. (Hat tip: Bill Dedman)

(Photo/Bill Dedman)

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Yesterday’s post-Easter and pre-Arbor Day festivities at Jesup Green included egg hunting and a tree giveaway.

Bartlett Tree Experts donated red maple saplings. Westport Tree Board members handled the rest.

Westport Tree Board members on the left are Dave Lowrie and Dick Stein. Ed Picard is on the right.

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lotsa lotsa kids egg hunting!  Here’s a pic of some interested neighbors acquiring a red maple sapling, donated by Bartlett Tree Co.  (sorry didn’t know the pic was being taken so didn’t get their names.)   Tree board members left to right are;  yours truly, Dick Stein and Ed Picard far right

Congratulations and thanks to the Westport Police Department, Westport Womans Club, Sunrise Rotary and Homes with Hope, for collaborating on yesterday’s food drive at Stop & Shop.

Thanks too to all who donated, to support the Gillespie Center food pantry, and Westport Human Services.

Volunteers at yesterday’s food drive. From left: Marty Berger, Paul Keblish, Anna Rycenga, Rob Hauck, Andy Berman, Tom Lowrie, Joe Watson.

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Can there be anything more natural than the tides?

Jonathan Prager contributes today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo: timeless tides, and their aftermath at Compo Beach.

(Photo/Jonathan Prager)

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And finally … in honor of the photo above:

 

Roundup: Fireworks, Mill Pond Jumping, River Cleanup …

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Jennifer Rago McCarthy grew up with Westport traditions. Like the Yankee Doodle Fair. And the 4th of July fireworks.

In 2020, COVID knocked out the June fair. To be safe, the Westport Woman’s Club moved this year’s event to September.

For the second straight summer, the fireworks wee canceled.

Which got Jennifer — a 1985 Staples High School graduate — thinking: Why not have the fireworks on Labor Day weekend?

Why not indeed?!

Jennifer asked me to post her idea. If enough people are interested, it may be worth pursuing.

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? If you’re down with fireworks on Labor Day weekend, click “Comments” below.

And if you think that’s a bad idea, click “Comments” too — and tell us why.

Labor Day, 2021?(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

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“The show must go on” is a time-honored tradition. On Friday night, Drew Angus honored it well.

The Staples High School graduate, recording artist and all-around good guy was booked for the Levitt Pavilion. Right before showtime, a hard rain fell.

But Drew — standing behind his band’s covered instruments — gave a fantastic performance.

Most of the crowd was far in back, under the overhang. A few hardy folks sat on the grass. But it didn’t take long for many to get up and dance. It was an amazing scene. (It didn’t hurt that one of his numbers was “Singin’ in the Rain.”)

Carleigh Welsh announced that Drew will be booked for another performance this summer. Hopefully he knows “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.” (Hat tip: Laura Schwartz)

Drew Angus, singing in the rain. (Photo/Laura Schwartz)

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For decades, kids jumped off the Sherwood Mill Pond bridge.

When the water got grotty, they stopped.

The pond is back in great shape. Several years ago, the jumpers returned.

Last summer, some of them were loud and rude. They ruined it for everyone. Residents complained. Parks & Rec put up a “Danger/No Jumping or Diving” sign, complete with little red-slash pictographs.

Yesterday, Ann Becker Moore, Pam Washburn and Karen Como spotted a new sign. It says simply: “Jump.”

(Photo/Karen Como)

WTF?!

If anyone knows what’s going on, click “Comments” below.

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This was 90 Morningside Drive South, when it was on the market.

It was bought last July for $2.64 million, by Mattera Construction. Here’s how it looked yesterday:

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Every other Saturday morning, Longshore Sailing School hosts a Saugatuck River cleanup.

Despite yesterday’s weather, 40 single and double kayaks headed out. Each came bag with incredible amounts of trash.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe collected the most. They don’t win anything. But everyone who loves the Saugatuck River is grateful.

The next cleanup is July 17 (9:30 to 11 a.m.). Anyone interested should meet at Longshore Sailing School, behind the pool.

Paul Danielewicz and Mark Jaffe.

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Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Eastern Conference finals. They advance to the championship for the first time since 1974 (when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the starting center).

The Westport connection? The Bucks are co-owned by Westport hedge fund manager Marc Lasry. PS: They were named the Bucks long before the billionaire bought them. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

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Conversion of the former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in New Haven — the concrete box on the left as you head north, next to Ikea and just before the I-91 merge — into what may be the most energy-efficient hotel in the country has “Westport” all over it.

Hotel Marcel’s developer and architect is Westport-based Bruce Becker. He’s building it to meet net-zero energy standards. It will generate as much energy as it uses. All electricity is produced on site, and it’s the first passive house-certified hotel in the US. 

Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the project’s site/civil engineer.

It’s a great project. To learn more, click on the video below. (Hat tip: Peter Gold)

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The weather hasn’t been great this 4th of July weekend. But Jolantha of Kellogg Hill proves you can put lipstick on this pig.

Or at least decorate her for the holiday.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)

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“Naturally … Westport” ventures today to Bermuda Road, on Saugatuck Shores:

(Photo/Diane Yormark)

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And finally … happy birthday, America. We’ve made it through 245 years. Here’s to the next 245!

Roundup: Basso Restaurant, Hotel Marcel, Santa Claus, More


First it was the Fine Arts III movie theater. Then it was Matsu Sushi restaurant.

Now 33 Jesup Road is poised to become Basso Restaurant and Wine Bar.

After 13 years in Norwalk, Chef Renato Donzelli is moving here. He and his crew will double their current space, and have access to outside dining.

Donzelli says he will “introduce contemporary, inventive menu items to the already beloved Mediterranean repertoire.”

French, Portuguese and Greek specialties will be added, along with artisinal Neapolitan pizza made in a wood-fired oven.

He expects to open later this month, after renovations that include exposed brick walls, recycled wood and leather furniture, and artwork that pays homage to Donzelli’s Mediterranean background. (Hat tip: Jeff Jacobs)


I really like the men and women who work at CVS. Though overworked and (I am sure) underpaid, they are always polite, eager to help, and friendly.

And they do it all despite having to put up with what they know is corporate imbecility.

The other day, I made an appointment online for a flu shot. 10 this morning worked perfectly. And sure enough, at 9:30 a.m. I got a text reminder. It included instructions on how to check in online.

“Welcome, DAN!” the next screen said. “When you arrive at the store, tap the button to let our pharmacy know you’re here.”

“I’m here at the store,” I tapped.

The pharmacist seemed surprised to see me. “We’re out of flu shots,” she apologized.

“But I made an appointment online!” I said. “They told me to come in. Why couldn’t they have told me you ran out?”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized again. “They don’t have that capability.”

“That’s pretty stupid,” I said, stupidly stating the obvious.

“I know,” she agreed.

My blood pressure was dangerously high. I should have asked for some medicine.

Then again, it was probably out of stock.


Every I-95 driver knows the former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in New Haven. That’s Marcel Breuer’s 1960s-era concrete box on the left as you head north, just before the I-91 merge.

The former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters. (Photo/John Muggenborg for New York Times)

It’s been vacant for a while. But it’s being converted into what the New York Times says “could be the most energy-efficient hotel in the country.”

Hotel Marcel’s developer and architect — Westport-based Bruce Becker — is building it to meet net-zero energy standards. It will generate as much energy as it uses.

“It’s probably the most challenging project I’ve ever undertaken, particularly since we’re doing it during a pandemic,” Becker told the Times.

“But I’ve been intrigued with the building at least since I was a graduate student at Yale in the late ’80s, and I thought it could be fascinating.”

One more Westport connection: Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the project’s site/civil engineer.

Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


A while back, Katie Larson’s daughter asked what would happen if Santa Claus fell asleep on Christmas Eve. Cute!

Just as cute: The 1995 Weston High School graduate (Katie — not her daughter) has just published a children’s book. “The Night Santa Fell Asleep” is now available in paperback. Click here to order. (Hat tip: Erin Regan)


And finally … Booker T. Washington died 105 years ago today. The educator, author, orator and adviser to US presidents was 59 years old.

Bruce Becker: Zero Energy Home Is 100% Worth It

Bruce Becker’s 2 master’s degrees from Yale — one in architecture, the other an MBA — led to his career as a sustainable architect/developer.

He’s created LEED Platinum buildings at 360 State Street in New Haven (with 500 units, it’s the largest apartment in Connecticut, and Hartford (the redevelopment of the Bank of America tower into 285 units).

360 State Street, New Haven. The train station is at lower right.

The renovation of his 1917 Compo Beach saltbox into a solar paneled, VRF powered zero-energy home may be Becker’s smallest project.

But it has big implications, he believes, as a blueprint for where Westport can — or, really, must — go in the crucial (and very near) future.

“I’m idealistic but pragmatic,” says Becker. He knows the importance of placing housing near train stations — “that’s where the state and region have to go” — but he also knows that suburbs like Westport won’t change overnight.

Most carbon emissions, he says, comes from driving, not buildings. But he’s doing what he can in both areas to reduce his own carbon footprint.

He’s had electric vehicles since 2011. And when he bought his Quentin Road property, he wondered whether a solar roof and batteries could provide all the energy needed for his house and 2 cars. (He’s also president of the Westport Electric Car Club.)

He removed his oil furnace and oil tank, replacing them with new generation high-efficiency VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) electric air source heat pumps for heating and cooling the house, eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

“The key to combating the climate crisis is electrifying everything — and making electricity from renewable sources,” Becker says.

“The technology exists today. And it’s economically advantageous.”

Then he ripped off his poorly insulated dark cedar roof, and foamed the cavity. His new, attractive and highly reflective roof virtually eliminates the need for air conditioning. Immediately, Becker’s energy requirement dropped by 70%.

He installed 67 solar panels on the flat section of his roof. When the sun is at its peak, they create 21 kw.

Bruce Becker’s home. Solar panels are barely visible.

Becker describes the benefit of net metering. He exports electricity to the grid in the summer, when utilities need it most. In the winter, when demand is lower, he draws it back out. It all balances out, he says.

Becker’s Tesla powerwalls store excess energy (14 kwh each) for backup power and load management. They also kick in automatically when the power fails.

Bruce Becker’s Tesla powerwalls.

A home energy analysis before all the work produced a Home Energy Rating System score of 253. “That’s failing,” Becker says.

Older homes are usually around 140. A new house built to code is about 100. An Energy Star homes is 85 or so.

Becker’s current HERS score is 19.

“You can take an old home, recycle it and make it green, efficient and sustainable,” Becker says.

“It’s not the norm. It takes a bit of initiative. But I’m happy to be a resource.”

Bruce Becker, with a “Westport Green Building Award.” 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Green Task Force chair David Mann hailed Becker for  “meaningfully contributing to a sustainable Westport, and furthering the goal of being a net-zero community by 2050.”

Every homeowner can do something, he notes. If a furnace needs replacement, “ask about VRF pumps. They’re less expensive, and cost less to operate. People sell what they’re always sold, like oil furnaces, so they might not mention it to you. But if they realize they might lose the sale, they’ll sell you one.”

Is there any downside to what he’s done?

“None,” Becker insists. “It’s good for me, and for the environment. It’s a rare win-win.”

Now he wants to see many other Westporters win too.

A before-and-after comparison of Bruce Becker’s energy consumption and costs.

Rare Tesla 3 Purrs Into Town

Word on the street is that Westport has more Teslas than any other town in the state.

But only one is a Tesla 3.

That’s the new affordable electric sports sedan. After state and federal incentives, the Model 3 starts at $25,000, according to a press release from the Westport Green Task Force. (A Westporter who works for Tesla says the cost is actually $35,000 to $40,000.)

Over 180,000 people pre-ordered the car within 24 hours of its announcement last July.

Production is sluggish though. So far, only 2,500 have come off the line.

But Westporter Bruce Becker — an architect and member of the Westport Electric Car Club — took delivery of his on Monday. He says it’s one of only 3 Tesla 3s in Connecticut.

Becker brought his vehicle to Staples High School this afternoon. It was part of a “high tech show-and-tell” for interested students.

First Selectman Jim Marpe checks out Bruce Becker’s Tesla 3.

The event took place at Staples’ charging stations, outside the fieldhouse.

Becker calls Westport “a leader in the transition to electric vehicles — an important driver for environmental, public health and economic reasons.” He says that besides the highest per capita number of Teslas, our town also leads in per capita registration of all kinds of electric vehicles.

First Selectman Jim Marpe lent his support. Noting Westporters’ long support of sustainable solutions, he said, “The town is proud to support EV ownership through its network of public EV charging stations.”

Besides Staples, there are chargers at the library, Town Hall, train stations, and in a few commercial and private residential areas.

Electric vehicles lined up near Staples’ charging stations today (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, Volkswagen, Tesla X, Nissan Leaf,