Tag Archives: Pete Romano

The Hamlet At Saugatuck: Hotel, Retail Plan Ties Rail, River Together

A decade ago, the Saugatuck Center project brought new stores, restaurants and apartments to the banks of the river. It also brought new life and vibrancy to one of the oldest neighborhoods in town.

An even more ambitious and innovative plan may now do the same, a few yards south.

The Hamlet at Saugatuck” reimagines the relationship of the river and railroad to the area. Designed to feel like an extension of the community, it’s envisioned as an economic engine for residents and visitors; a gateway to the rest of the town, and a chance to build something inexplicably missing everywhere else in Westport: a hotel.

A view from the Saugatuck River. These buildings would be on Riverside Avenue, from Railroad Place (left) to Charles Street (right). The railroad tracks are on the left.

Invested in and spearheaded by area residents – including Westport-based ROAN Ventures and Pete Romano’s LandTech environmental engineering firm, with world-renowned architect Bill Bensley – the project is making its way through the long approval process.

Yesterday, ROAN submitted an application to amend the text of Planning & Zoning Department regulations, creating a new zone called General Business District/Saugatuck Marina.

Plans encompass the rectangle between Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place, Franklin Street and Charles Street, plus land on Riverside Avenue from Tutti’s to Railroad Place, and the private parking lot above Luciano Park now used for boat storage.

A gourmet market would be built on land that is now a private parking lot. This is the view from Luciano Park.

It would not include the Black Duck, the office building on Riverside Avenue in front of All Seasons Marina, or Railroad Place between Steam Coffee and the alley by the train station. Current Railroad Place tenants will remain, and The Hamlet aims to help those local businesses thrive.

But what it will include is quite exciting:

  • A boutique hotel with approximately 55 rooms, 35 condo-type residences, pools, and underground parking.
  • New shops and restaurants, featuring local artisans.
  • Gardens, space to stroll and socialize, fire pits in the winter – and a spa.

The boutique hotel, including condo-type residences, and ground-floor shops.

  • A year-round gourmet market on the now-private railroad parking lot, with local vendors (think New York’s Eataly, but with an area twist).
  • A marina with at least 22 slips, giving the community safe and enjoyable access to the waterfront.
  • Water taxis taking guests to Longshore, Compo Beach and downtown.

Another view, with the railroad on the left, the I-95 bridge on the right.

  • A boardwalk along the river, similar to Bartaco’s, with the goal of Connecticut Saugatuck and Westport via waterway.
  • Re-skinning and beautification of the 21 Charles Street office building. Bringing it more in line with local architecture and aesthetics.

Affordable housing would also be included.

The Hamlet is envisioned as a place where year-round visitors – including those arriving by rail – would stay, play, shop and dine, then use as a base as they explore the rest of Westport.

ROAN also plans to implement cultural, wellness and family-focused programming, designed for the community at large.

There is plenty of work to be done. The current dry cleaners, near what was once a car dealership, needs heavy remediation. ROAN is ready to do that.

Redevelopment of this area has been discussed for years. This winter, state legislators considered a bill to designate areas near train stations for dense development. It stalled in committee, but similar proposals are expected again.

It took several years, and two stages, for the Saugatuck Center project to be completed a decade ago. The Hamlet is in the early stages of the permitting process. ROAN is targeting a 2026 opening.

So it’s too early to book a hotel room, or a water taxi ride.

But it sounds like it will be well worth the wait.

P&Z Dives Into Pool Coverage Text Amendment

One of the unintended consequences of COVID is a rise in the number of new swimming pools. All over town, construction is underway.

All over town — except in areas of town with lots that, according to zoning regulations, are undersized or non-conforming. Many of those properties are in areas like Saugatuck Shores and Compo Beach.

For years, architects and land use experts — including Pete Romano, the principal at LANDTECH, the Westport-based engineering and planning firm — have gone to the Zoning Board of Appeals requesting variances. This Thursday (May 6, Zoom), the Planning & Zoning Commission will consider a text amendment to address that issue.

Text amendment 793 would modify the swimming pool definition to exclude swimming pools of a certain size from total coverage calculations, in all zoning districts.

It would also exclude “sports courts” (private basketball and pickleball courts, etc.) of a certain size from total coverage calculations.

There would be size limits: 850 square feet for pools, and up to 40′ x 40′ for sports courts. Non-conforming lots would still be required to adhere to building and conservation setbacks, and fulfill all drainage requirements.

A Westport summer scene.

Romano has represented many homeowners who have sought variances. He says the text amendment would reduce the number of land-use approvals required to construct a pool.

He notes a current regulatory quirk: A homeowner right now can construct a patio 35 inches high, right up to all building setbacks, and fill the entire lot, setback to setback. It would not count toward total coverage calculations; that only applies to patios at least 36 inches above the ground.

However, Romano says, “once you punch a hole in the patio and pour water in it, it counts towards total coverage.”

Many town officials seem to be in favor of the text amendments. So are most realtors.

Thursday’s meeting will be livestreamed at www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments can be sent to PandZ@westportct.gov by noon Thursday. To comment in real time during the meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov by noon on Thursday; include your name, address and “agenda item 5.” Click here and scroll down for the full text amendment.

Pics Of The Day #1296

As Westporters — and all Americans — bite their nails, hold their breath and say a prayer that their candidate will win tonight, here’s a reminder that we are all in this together.

LandTech principal Pete Romano put this sign outside his Saugatuck office this morning. Amen!

(Photo/Jeff Seaver)

In a similar vein, Amanda Doyle sends along her 8-year-old daughter Niamh’s homework for today.

Unsung Hero #116

Jeff Seaver runs Seaver Interactive, a web design and digital marketing firm in Saugatuck. He’s been friends, and worked with, Pete Romano — a Saugatuck native — for 7 years. Jeff writes:

Walking around town with Pete Romano is like going for a stroll with the mayor: folks say hello everywhere he goes. Pete’s well known not just for his expertise in running Landtech — an engineering and environmental firm on Riverside Avenue — but also for his community service. His reputation spans generations.

His father, PJ Romano, grew up in Westport. He was a PAL volunteer for almost 50 years. The athletic field behind Saugatuck Elementary School is named for him, honoring his role in developing PAL’s football, baseball, wrestling and other programs, including the ice rink at Longshore.

Pete’s mom, Joan Romano, still volunteers with PAL. That spirit continues, as Pete maintains a strong family tradition of service.

Pete played baseball and football at Staples High School. His mom recalls that Pete “would knock a player down, but then afterward, stop to help pick them up.”

Working with his longtime friend and partner at Saugatuck Sweets, Al DiGuido, Pete is one of the forces behind DiGuido’s legendary Al’s Angels charity. Last year, Pete helped organize and oversee over 2,500 holiday meals to help those in need.

Pete Romano (left) with his mother Joan, and Al DiGuido, at Saugatuck Sweets.

Al DiGuido said, “I have never thought of Pete Romano as a hero. I doubt he regards himself that way. He just has a tireless passion for doing the heavy lifting for those in need, which inspires me and so many others.

“Pete doesn’t seem to need or want the spotlight. He’s not looking for trophies, awards or accolades. I think he does this because its in his DNA. His family has always been committed to doing all they could to help the community. Some are content to sit on the sidelines, but Pete gets his hands dirty doing the hard work that is truly needed.”

But Pete has a superhero alter ego. Every Christmas he plays Santa Claus. He arrives on a Westport Police patrol boat at Saugatuck Center, lighting the tree and entertaining kids.

Here comes Pete — er, Santa Claus!

His good works could fill a book. They include being a major contributor to the renovation of the Westport Weston Family YMCA, and helping sponsor events for the American Cancer Society, Project Return, ElderHouse, Operation Hope,  Westport Rotary, Little League Softball, plus many other local causes.

Bill Mitchell has been a pal of Pete’s for many years. They support many of the same causes, including Operation Hope and Project Runway. Bill notes, “Pete and his family have been a gift to our community.”

Steve Smith, Westport’s building inspector, said, “Pete Romano is a successful community leader who is generous and always willing to help out a community cause. He has given his time to our town unselfishly — and always with his characteristically great sense of humor.”

Phil Cerrone, an architect who has partnered in a number of efforts with Pete’s firm, said, “Pete is one of the most caring and considerate people I know. He can always be relied on to help a friend in need. Just as important, he can also be counted on to supply top quality food and drink!”

One of Pete’s most treasured causes is Wakeman Town Farm. Pete often joins with his friend, architect Peter Wormser, scooping ice cream at the Farm’s special events. 

Pete Romano and Peter Wormser, at Wakeman Town Farm.

Pete always has time for Westport schools. He and his firm helped create the night lights at the Staples High School football field, the fields at Bedford Middle School, and the Loeffler Field terrace (granite seating on the soccer field hill).

He is a generous supporter of Staples sports teams, Staples Players and middle school theater productions, the Staples robotics team, and more.

Pete’s firm collaborates with Gault Energy on many projects. Gault family members are effusive in their praise. Ginger Gault and Jimmy Donaher say, “He has keen insight to go along with a big heart, and on top of everything else, he’s hysterically funny. Pete is the complete package.”

He is especially proud of his 2 daughters. They went through the Westport School System, and are now smart, vibrant, strong women. Pete said, “They got the best public education one could dream of. How do you ever repay that debt?”

Pete Romano

Pete celebrated a birthday recently. As with many hard-working and generous folks, one of the hardest challenge is figuring out what to give them.

What do you give a man like Pete Romano who does not have everything, but gives everything?

The only answer is: love and genuine appreciation for all that he does.

 

Closing The Barn Door On Aquarion’s Water Tanks

Back in the day — before Bridgeport Hydraulic built a water storage facility, and Staples High School moved in across the street — North Avenue was farmland.

A couple of decades ago, the Rippe farm and orchard was replaced by Greystone Farm Lane. Developers tossed a bone to the past, designing parts of some of the houses to look like silos.

Which may provide one solution to a controversy now roiling the road.

Aquarion — Bridgeport Hydraulic’s successor — wants to build 2 water tanks at the site it owns. Their 39-foot height concerns neighbors.

Pete Romano has an idea.

The LandTech principal knew that on Wilton Road at Newtown Turnpike, Aquarion used a facade to “hide” some of its equipment.

The Aquarion facility on Wilton Road.

He asked Peter Wormser — an architect at his engineering firm — to design something similar for North Avenue.

The result: 2 “barns.”

LandTech’s rendering of the barn structures for North Avenue. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

“I know Wilton Road is not as big,” Romano says. “And maybe Aquarion needs access on all 4 sides. But it’s an idea. It might get people talking.”

North Avenue will not go back to apple orchards and onion farms.

But perhaps — even with 2 big pumping stations — it can look that way.

 

Support Pete “Happy Feet” Romano

Westporters know and love Pete Romano for many things:

His civil engineering and site work for LandTech — including the redevelopment of Saugatuck. His involvement with Saugatuck Sweets, Westport’s 21st-century Ice Cream Parlor. His long years of volunteer work with Al’s Angels, PAL and many more organizations.

We do not, however, know and love Pete Romano for his dancing.

After this Saturday (April 9, 6:30 p.m., Rolling Hills Country Club), though, we might add that the list.

Pete will don his best duds, lace up his dance shoes, and join professional dancer Anna Belyavtseva in Elderhouse‘s “Dancing with the Stars” benefit.

The competition will be fierce — including Kitt Shapiro, founder and creator of “Simply Eartha” — but Pete is both a great competitor, and game.

His goal is $15,000 in pledges, to help the adult day care center that provides services to seniors coping with memory loss and other serious conditions.

There’s still time to contribute. Just click here. (In the spirit of friendly competition, Pete sent along Kitt Shapiro’s contributor’s page too — click here!)

And the next time you see Pete, tell him: “Shake a leg.”

Pete Romano and his friendly competitor, Kit Shapiro.

Pete Romano and his friendly competitor, Kitt Shapiro.

 

New Downtown Plan: No Permits Needed

Pete Romano is a well-known — and much-admired — Westporter.

He’s one of the prime movers behind the redevelopment of Saugatuck Center (and a co-owner of the beloved Saugatuck Sweets shop). For many years he was a leading volunteer with Festival Italiano. Pete knows how important it is to build — and sustain — a community.

He’s also a principal with Saugatuck-based LandTech, one of the area’s leading environmental and engineering firms.

Recently, Pete attended a conference on “Cities of Tomorrow.” In between heavy-duty panels of mayors, economic directors and futurists, there were 10-minute vignettes of imaginative, fun and very cool ideas.

Pete was particularly taken by a guy who took an abandoned city block out west. He developed it fully, placing businesses in abandoned store fronts, painting crosswalks and bike lanes, putting up planters with trees, creating sidewalk cafes and the like.

Creating green space where none existed.

Creating green space where none existed.

Here’s the kicker: He did not have permission to do anything. No permits, no licenses — nothing.

All he had were a few buddies, and a huge pair of you-know-whats.

He told the conference: “You can do anything, as long as you wear a hard hat and fluorescent vest.”

I am not advocating that anyone do this in Westport, mind you.

And if anyone does, please don’t mention where you got the idea.

Parking Day 2

Ta-da!

Sweet Pete!

Pete Romano is a legend.

The native Westporter has followed his parents — PJ and Joan — as an avid supporter of everything every local kid does. He’s now one of the prime movers behind Al’s Angels, touching youngsters and their families in extra-special ways.

He’s helped build his company — Landtech — into a well respected civil engineering and environmental consulting firm.

Pete Romano

Pete Romano

Pete was a driving force behind the long-running, very popular Festival Italiano, and now he’s a leader in the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

But — in the same way Paul Newman is known to a new generation as a food purveyor rather than a movie star — many Westporters know Pete only as an owner of Saugatuck Sweets, the riverfront ice cream-and-candy shop that will be remembered fondly years from now by every kid growing up today in town.

So it’s fitting that Saugatuck Sweets is the site this Saturday (August 8) of Westport’s celebration of Pete’s 60th birthday.

The festivities go on all day. At 2 pm, First Selectman Jim Marpe will present an official town proclamation.

At 7 p.m. there’s a concert with Silver Steel at 96 Franklin Street, near Luciano Park. There’ll be ice cream, zeppoles and soft drinks, plus a chance to “touch a fire truck” from the Saugatuck station.

The event would have been held at the plaza Pete helped create next to Saugatuck Sweets. A noise complaint earlier this summer shut that concert series down.

But Pete and his pals are problem solvers. Their creative solutions have helped make Westport a better place for — well, in Pete’s case, 60 years.

Happy birthday, Pete! See you in Saugatuck on Saturday!

Saugatuck Sweets

 

 

 

Don’t Even THINK Of Parking Here!

Judging from the emails I get, “06880” readers are fed up with illegal parkers.

So what can we do?

Sandie Cole shows what happened when a Canadian driver parked illegally overnight, in a private lot:

Canada parking

Pete Romano takes a stronger view than polite Canadians. He likes this sign, from the Meatpacking District in New York:

illegal parking - Pete Romano

But leave it to the Russians to have the most no-nonsense approach of all:

Получай!

 

 

 

Saugatuck To Be So Sweet

Remember that “Remember When?” teaser sign that “06880” wondered about last Sunday?

Readers speculated it involved a new ice cream parlor, coming to Saugatuck Center.

Now it’s official. Al DiGuido and Pete Romano — an entrepreneur/civic “angel” and landscape architect/Saugatuck native, respectively — will open “Saugatuck Sweets” in January.

The location is the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery on Riverside Avenue. In just one year, it outgrew its building and moved across the street.

Saugatuck Sweets will sell high quality desserts, ice cream, yogurt, bulk candy and the like. It’s one more addition to an area quickly earning props for its restaurants, non-chain stores (including the butcher shop, a gourmet market and kayak rental place), walkability and fun.

The interior of the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery -- shown here -- is easily adapted to Saugatuck Sweets. Chicken, lamb and sausages will be replaced by ice cream, candy and seasonal gift items.

The interior of the former Saugatuck Craft Butchery — shown here — is easily adapted to Saugatuck Sweets. Chicken, lamb and sausages will be replaced by ice cream, candy and seasonal gift items.

Sweets’ location is perfect. Not many people will chill with ice cream on the outdoor plaza this winter. But inside it will be jammed. By spring, Saugatuck Sweets — along with the Whelk next door — will be one more reason that Saugatuck Center is a hot destination.

DiGuido (who founded the Al’s Angels children’s charity) and Romano (whose longtime civic involvement includes the PAL and Festival Italiano) have spent decades doing good things for kids, families, Saugatuck and our entire town.

Their newest venture promises to be especially sweet.