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Saugatuck project sailing into second development phase

Updated 7:19 am, Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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  • A view of the site of the second phase of development of the Saugatuck Center mixed-use complex in Westport's Saugatuck section. Building construction is scheduled to begin later this month at the site. Monday, July 9, 2012/ Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott / Westport News
    A view of the site of the second phase of development of the Saugatuck Center mixed-use complex in Westport's Saugatuck section. Building construction is scheduled to begin later this month at the site. Monday, July 9, 2012/ Westport, CT Photo: Paul Schott

 

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A major sequel will premiere soon in Westport's Saugatuck section.

About a year after the first phase of Hamilton Development's mixed-use Saugatuck Center complex was completed, the project's second stage is set to begin later this month.

"I think the construction of phase two will be more dramatic and tie in and make phase one even better," said Gault Energy President Sam Gault. "It's going to be very nice and will do nothing but complement what we've done in phase one."

Hamilton Development, which owns and oversees development of Saugatuck Center, is an arm of the Saugatuck-based Gault businesses.

Saugatuck Center represents one of the most ambitious and far-reaching development projects undertaken in Westport during the last 20 years. The first stage of development, finished in May 2011, included the construction of two new main buildings, which now house a water sports store, a butcher shop, a seafood restaurant, three financial-services firms and six apartments.

Hamilton Development also built a new marina and public boardwalk along the Saugatuck River and a 35-space underground parking garage during the first construction stage.

Standing a few hundred yards from the Saugatuck Metro-North train station, the new complex also reflects Saugatuck's emergence as a locus of "transit-oriented development." In addition to Saugatuck Center, new arrivals such as celebrity chef Mario Batali's Tarry Lodge Enoteca Pizzeria on Charles Street have also spurred growth of Saugatuck's commercial center.

"Our vision was to create a neighborhood and village-type feel," Gault said. "By having retail, office and apartments in the same vicinity, I think accomplishing that use has been good for the Saugatuck area."

Phase two plans

About 35,000 square feet of new development will be created during the second phase in a block that is framed by Riverside Avenue to the east, Ketchum Street to the north and Franklin Street to the west. The new section of the Saugatuck Center complex will include 21 apartments and 4,400 square feet of retail space.

Between two to four retail tenants will move into two new buildings on Riverside Avenue, Gault said. No businesses have signed leases yet for those storefronts, but Gault said the second-phase buildings could accommodate establishments such as a coffee house, bakery, ice cream shop, florist, or a bicycle store.

Three new buildings, which will be built around a plaza, will hold 17 of the new apartments, while the two new buildings on Riverside Avenue will hold two apartments each. Thirteen of the apartments will be townhouse-type residences, while the other eight will be flats, according to Gault. Four of the 21 apartments in the second-phase development will be rented as "affordable" or below-market-rate units.

The 15 two-bedroom apartments and 6 one-bedroom apartments will range from 1,100-square-feet to 2,000-square-feet. All of the new residences will be rentals.

Saugatuck Center's second-phase buildings will look similar to the phase-one edifices, but also have some distinctive features. One of the new buildings on Riverside Avenue, for instance, will include an approximately 35-foot tower, which will be shared by residential and retail tenants.

"There's going to be a little more stone on the front, on the face of the buildings, and on the retail buildings a lot of glass," Gault said. "The upstairs will be more shingled-style."

An approximately 35-space underground garage and about 30 above-ground spots will provide parking for the second-phase buildings.

The second-phase development will replace a group of buildings that have already been torn down. The old buildings housed tenants such as Doc's Cafe -- which closed in November 2011 -- and also included garages for Gault Energy and Gault Stone.

During the last month, crews from the Fairfield-based Walker Construction have performed excavation work at the site of the second-phase development to prepare it for the new buildings. The Norwalk-based A. Pappajohn Co. next week will take over management of construction at the site.

Second-phase construction is scheduled to finish by August 2013, Gault added.

On the other side of Ketchum Street, Hamilton Development has opened a new office park. The office complex contains a renovated 20,000-square-foot building at 20 Ketchum St. that houses several tenants, including Revere Capital, Resnick Investment Advisors, the marketing firm Madison | Mott, and Energi, a risk management and insurance brokerage company.

Part of 20 Ketchum St. formerly functioned as a meeting space for Chabad Lubavitch of Westport, a Jewish outreach group that is now seeking Planning and Zoning Commission approval to operate a religious center at 79 Newtown Turnpike.

Adjacent to 20 Ketchum St., a pair of buildings at 16 Ketchum St. and 25 Franklin St., will also accommodate new office tenants.

`AN-OLD SCHOOL FEEL'

A year after its opening, merchants who have moved into the storefronts in the first-phase Saugatuck Center buildings describe a spirit of solidarity among the new businesses there.

"Everything is efficient and runs well," said Kim Beaumont, owner of Downunder Kayaking at 575 Riverside Ave. "We cross-market very well with the other businesses here. There's a synergy."

Some of the Saugatuck Center business owners are strengthening ties they forged before opening their establishments in the new complex. The owners of Saugatuck Craft Butchery and the seafood restaurant The Whelk consulted each other when they chose their storefronts and now share clientele, said Saugatuck Craft Butchery co-owner Ryan Fibiger.

"It's a great place to come to work," Fibiger said of Saugatuck Center. "It's on the water, and it's a pretty heavily trafficked area which is good for retail business. It is its own burgeoning community."

The mixed-use complex has also garnered the support of a number of public officials, who have highlighted the project as an exemplar of sustainable development in Westport.

"If phase two looks and feels like phase one, then we've got a great project on our hands," said Representative Town Meeting member Matthew Mandell, whose district includes Saugatuck Center. "We don't want to see chain stores and large national institutions. We'd like to see mom and pops, as they have in phase one. That's the type of stuff that needs to be emulated."

Fibiger also emphasized his support for the arrival of other locally owned businesses in the phase-two storefronts.

"It would be great to continue the old-school feel here," he added. "I would love to see specialized, singular shops such as a bakery or a fishmonger -- really high quality places run by people passionate about those businesses. That would be perfect."

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott