Phase II of Gault’s Saugatuck redevelopment project is almost done.
Saugatuck Craft Butchery is getting ready to move across Riverside Avenue, into much larger quarters (with tables and seats). Cocoa Michelle will follow with an expanded gourmet market, from around the corner on Railroad Place.
All of the 1-bedroom apartments on the west side of Riverside have rented; only a few 2-bedrooms remain. They’re high-end, with handsome finishes and intriguing layouts.
Sidewalks are being extended; outdoor lamps will be installed.
And — very importantly — Ketchum Street is open to traffic.
The hump has been almost eliminated. Riverside Avenue and Franklin Street are once again connected — now visually, as well as vehicularly.
Newly engineered Ketchum Street makes walking in Saugatuck fun.
That’s good news for the small businesses nearby. And great news for anyone who cares about this tight-knit, walkable neighborhood. It’s back — and more vibrant and varied than any time since I-95 tore through.
That construction ripped the heart out of Saugatuck.
Scott Smith is a longtime, and very alert, “06880” reader. As communications director of the Westport Y, he also spends a lot of time downtown. Last week he sent this photo of a huge hole in the parking lot behind the new building going up at 100 Post Road East, next to the old Town Hall (now Spruce).
As a self-described “Touch-a-Truck kind of dad,” Scott has followed the construction of the building — the 1st new one downtown in 40 years — with interest. He says:
Like most job sites around town, they had to pound away for days through solid rock ledge to dig the foundation. I’m always amazed to see the guys working the machinery, how dexterous they are and how oblivious they seem to be to all that jarring noise. I’d last about two hours on the job.
So that’s why I was intrigued to see that in the parking lot just a few feet away, when they had to dig another hole through the pavement, there was 10 feet of garden-variety dirt with loose river rock, then another 10 or 12 feet of pure gray sand. It was very cool-looking, and a classic study in our curious local geology.
The sinkhole was filled in the next day or so; end of lesson. But it got me thinking about other places around town with big holes in the ground, or just filled in, or new plans to dig big. My son and I have ridden our bikes to the top part of Gault’s new development in Saugatuck – that’s a lot of rock! The Gaults have done such a nice job so far. I can’t wait to see how the next phase of the development goes.
And last week I attended the opening ceremony of Cliff’s Place, the new halfway house at Longshore. That modest little project turned out very well, and is just the first of some even bigger privately funded construction projects in the works that will serve a public purpose.
There’s the swanky new Levitt Pavilion, which just received town approval (and some public funding), and, of course our new Y, which will break ground in December. (I’m a member of the Golf Advisory Committee, and work at the Y – a partner/sponsor of some Levitt children’s performances — full disclosure!)
The brick buildings at Compo may get some work.
As “06880” well documents, and as WestportNow.com’s “Teardown of the Day” shows us, virtually every day there are new (big) homes going up all over town. Combine that with some other projects in the planning stages downtown (the movie theater, the remaking of our own old Y) and what I hear may be an ambitious renovation of Compo Beach’s dilapidated brick buildings, all this work gives me a good feeling that we really are “rebuilding America” (at least our small part of it).
Think how many guys are working these days, or will be, on job sites locally. And once they pack up for other sites and leave the ribbon-cutting for those in shiny shoes and nice ties, think how our community will be the better for it.
I think we’re making good progress these days. Don’t you?
A typical Staples absence note says, “He was at the doctor’s.”
Brian Hershey’s says, “He was at the Arctic Circle.”
If anything merits an excused absence, his does.
Brian Hershey, proudly wearing his Polar Bears International/Gault fleece.
Brian is a go-getter. He’s president of the Geography Club for good reason: Still a high school junior, he’s already visited 50 countries.
He plays alto sax in the jazz band and pit orchestra.
He spent last summer in Japan, as an exchange student.
He loves science. So it was no surprise that last spring he entered an international contest run by Polar Bears International aimed at educating teenagers about climate change.
Nor was it surprise that — after writing an essay, and undergoing interviews — Brian was one of 18 winners.
Which is how, earlier this month, he traveled to Churchill, Manitoba — a small town on Hudson Bay — to meet with scientists, study polar bears, and figure out how to stop the world from falling apart.
Brian met incredible people. Meeting other teenagers was as intriguing as interacting with climate change experts and park rangers. Most of the teenagers won contests co-sponsored by zoos (Brian’s was the only one sponsored by an energy company — Gault). Their perspectives broadened his own.
He spent time with Inuit trappers. One woman had been hired at age 7 to guide white hunters. At 9 she traveled 50 kilometers, spending 20 days trapping, then hauling furs back to Churchill.
“I figured these trappers would just kill animals,” Brian says. “But their lives depend on animals. They really understand the importance of conservation.”
But his encounters with a few dozen polar bears — some as close as 2 feet away — were truly amazing.
Brian Hershey took this photo. The polar bears are having fun -- but there should be snow and ice on the ground.
A buggy brought the group to a research station in the middle of the tundra.
“We were at the mouth of the Churchill River, where fresh and saltwater mix,” Brian explains.
“The bears hadn’t eaten in 4 months. They were starving, waiting for the ice to form, so they could hunt and eat seals.
“The water wasn’t frozen — but it should have been. Looking in the eyes of those awesome predators was an incredible experience.”
Brian returned to Westport — via prop plane to Winnipeg — motivated to find solutions to climate change. He and his new friends had agreed to try to get major businesses or organizations wherever they lived — Australia, the UK, wherever — to reduce their carbon footprint by 5% in 1 year.
Brian immediately approached Staples principal John Dodig to discuss “realistic, applicable ideas.”
One was to start using thin, recyclable paper — like the type Brian saw in Japan — for the many handouts teachers distribute.
Another suggestion: designate some junior parking spots (a coveted commodity) for students who recycle the most.
Brian Hershey, at the Arctic Circle.
Brian is determined to educate as many people as possible — of all ages — about the importance of environmental awareness.
“Climate change,” he notes, is a “misnomer. Climate is dynamic — it’s always changing. The question is whether people believe human beings are now contributing to the change.
“I think we are. And I want to talk about it.”
His message — to his friends, teachers, and hopefully the nation — is both personal and universal.
“Why should people in the slums of India, or Brazilian favelas, care about polar bears?
“You have to look at the global picture — at weather, ocean salinity, fishing, trade, everything.
“I have friends all around the world. And I’m going to use all my contacts, everyone I know and everything I learned, to try to spread awareness as much and as far as I can.”
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