More than a decade ago, the Gault family’s bold plan kick-started the renaissance of Saugatuck.
Two plazas with restaurants, shops and apartments brought new life to one of Westport’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s a vibrant, fun and walkable area, with only one chain store in sight. (Dunkin’ Donuts. At least it’s not Starbucks.)
Now, a new development will soon begin.
Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously in favor of Phase II of Saugatuck Center. It consists of residential apartments on Ketchum Street — the humpback road connecting Riverside Avenue and Franklin Street.
Aerial view of the Phase II apartments (white and green).
Three of the apartments will be affordable, based on town regulations.
Thirteen units will be in the area near the office building that houses the Hub workspace, Bartaco corporate headquarters and a financial firm. That building will remain. Parking is underground.
A small office building on Ketchum near Franklin, as well as the post office mailbox building, will be removed. Four more townhouse-style units will be built there.
The streetscape will be similar to the apartments already further east on Ketchum, with trees, sidewalks and matching lamps. Bruce Beinfield is the project architect.
An artist’s rendering of the apartments. View is northeast, from the corner of Franklin and Ketchum Streets.
The project also includes work on the parking lot at the existing office building, as well as 518 Riverside Avenue. That building houses Landtech, the engineering and environmental firm that’s working with the Gaults on Phase II.
The P&Z was the final town body needed for approval.
Groundbreaking takes place in early spring. The first residents move in in in 2021.
Last year, “06880” posted an urgent plea for help. The Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport was running a toy drive for their elementary school students. But they were falling far short.
Their kids were in desperate situations: the highest poverty brackets, shelters, you name it. 100% are fed breakfast and lunch at school. Their families have no money for basic necessities — let alone holiday gifts.
Westporters came through — big time.
Some of the presents that poured in to the Cesar Batalla Elementary School last year. (Photos/Jimeale Hede)
This year, alert — and generous — “06880” reader Alexis Donnerstag remembered the drive. She asked how she could contribute again. I hadn’t heard anything from the school. But I sent her a link to their website.
Within a couple of hours, Benji Labrador called. He’s the school security officer. He said the woman who handled the drive last year is gone. He’s in charge, but did not know about the “06880” connection.
Now he does. And so do you.
Anyone can order gifts online — at Amazon, for example — and have them shipped to Benji at the school: 606 Howard Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606. Click here for a direct link to Amazon’s Cesar Batalla page. You can drop gifts off at Vincent Palumbo Salon (616 Post Road East) — or directly at the school too.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
Meanwhile, closer to home, there’s a tree lighting — plus hot chocolate, s’mores and sliders — at the Riverside Avenue plaza (between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk) this Sunday (December 3, 4:30 to 7 p.m.) Santa arrives at 5:15 p.m.
The Gault family invites everyone to come. But they hope you’ll bring an unwrapped toy for a child age 10 or under. All gifts will be donated to Al’s Angels.
Who are they? Well — in addition to providing holiday joy for countless kids in the area — they’re the volunteers who light the William Cribari Bridge, just a couple of yards away from the plaza.
Those beautiful lights that make the Bridge Street Bridge sparkle don’t screw themselves in.
At midnight Friday, Al DiGuido, Vinny Penna and a crew of helpers were out, ensuring another bright holiday season.
Al’s Angels — the Westport-based charity helping children and families battle cancer and severe hardships (among many other good works) — ensures that the well-traveled bridge looks its best every holiday season.
You can see the lights for yourself on Wednesday, December 4. That’s when Santa arrives (6 p.m.), and a Christmas tree will be lit in Saugatuck Center, on the plaza between the Whelk and Saugatuck Sweets.
From 5:30 to 8 p.m. there’s refreshments, fun, and old-fashioned community spirit.
And — in that holiday spirit — the sponsoring Gault family asks everyone to bring an unwrapped toy, for a child under 10.
Al’s Angels will take care of the rest.
As — very quietly, but lovingly, all year long — they always do.
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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