By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Westport, CT – The sound of nailguns, generators, cement mixers and circular saws was the backdrop for a gathering of developers, builders and town officials who came together midday Monday at the new Saugatuck Center complex on Riverside Avenue to mark the completion of Phase I framing. American flags affixed to the peaks of each structure, considered good luck according to lore, signaled the milestone.
Phase I consists of two buildings, the “Tide” and “Marsh”, each just under 10,000 square feet, with a common zone between them alongside the Saugatuck River between Bridge Street and the I-95 overpass. Each building will feature 2,500 square feet of commercial office space, 2,200 square feet of retail space and three luxury residential units ranging in size from 1,200 to 1,900 square feet. There will also be a 500-foot long boardwalk at the rear of the complex, with access points for visiting boaters. May 1 is the target date for Phase I completion.
Phase II will add 5 more buildings in a horseshoe shape and 21 additional residential units directly across the road where Westport Florist and Doc’s Café are currently located. A final Phase III will add 27 more residential units on the hillside up behind Doc’s Café. All Phase I and Phase II units will be rentals. Phase III units will be condominiums for sale.
“This stage has been four or five years in the making,” said Sam Gault, whose family owns the heating oil company of the same name and Hamilton Development, the developers on the project. “The goal all along has been to bring a neighborhood back to Saugatuck. My father and grandfather said that before the I-95 bridge came through, there were a lot of homes here. Those went away. We’re bringing them back now with this project.”
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff echoed Gault’s comments. “This is great for Westport, and especially great for Saugatuck. It will revitalize the area and bring a neighborhood feel back. We have high hopes and expectations for the development.”
Yvonne Daugherty, owner of Doc’s Café, which will be demolished to make way for Phase II, holds no grudge against the developers and hoped to find a new, more appropriate space that will bring more business. “I took this spot with no lease and the full understanding that they planned to redevelop it. I was given two years and a favorable rent. That was 6 ½ years ago. Given the situation, I don’t have a complaint with the Gault’s.”
What Daugherty did have issue with was the disruption from the construction. As a result, her business is down 30%. But she admitted that all the area business owners affected have the same issue and seemed resigned to the fact.
Daugherty’s understanding is that demolition won’t go forward until the riverside development is fully leased. To that regard, she said, “I just ordered $10,000 worth of cups as I don’t see Doc’s going out of business any time soon.”
Doc’s patron and Westport resident John Casey, 44, said he’d be sad to see Doc’s go. “It’s a focal point and regular stop for everybody in Saugatuck. If Yvonne can negotiate a good deal and continue the business elsewhere that would be great.”
Casey added, “The Saugatuck area needed the development to revitalize business here. It’s been dead and tired. Sometimes business is just business.”