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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Saugatuck Center Tree Lighting ‘A New Tradition’

By James Lomuscio

Westporter Sam Gault said the more than 50 friends and well wishers who gathered for food and cheer at the Saugatuck Center Christmas tree lighting tonight exemplified his vision for the commercial, office and residential development.

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The Christmas tree lights went on at the new Saugatuck Center tonight as Santa arrived by boat. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During

“The vision has always been to bring people together,” said Gault, president of LH Gault & Son, Inc., a hometown company started in 1863.

“It marks our first Christmas season here and shows that this is a place for the community to gather beyond the season,” he added about the new, two-building, one-acre complex on Riverside Avenue and overlooking the Saugatuck River.

Gault noted that the complex is replete with a public access boardwalk, and that all of the amenities are aimed at bringing back a sense of neighborhood to Westport’s Saugatuck section.

It was on the boardwalk tonight that Santa Claus, a.k.a. Westporter Peter Romano, engineer for the development, arrived via a motorboat that pulled into one of the complex’s 20 slips. Despite intermittent rain, parents, children and other adults ran to greet him.

As soon as they did, Gault’s brother-in-law Jim Donaher, a principal in the family business, threw the switch setting an 11-foot-tall Fraser fir tree aglow in white lights. The tree,  a centerpiece in the garden of the courtyard separating the two buildings, was donated by Anthony Palmer, owner of Anthony’s Nursery in town.

Among those present were First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Selectman Charles Haberstroh, Lawrence Weisman, Gault’s attorney for the project, and Gus Pappajohn, a Norwalk builder and Westport resident who built Saugatuck Center.

“As a Westport resident I’m very proud to be part of this project that has worked so well for the Westport community,” said Pappajohn. “Now, on to Phase II.”

Phase II involves the construction two buildings totaling 21 rental units on 1.6 acres across the street at the building that housed Doc’s Cafe, which closed down less than two weeks ago.

Architects’ renderings of Phase II were on display in a Saugatuck Center first floor room being finished to house a restaurant that local restaurateur Bill Taibe plans to open New Year’s Eve, Gault said.

In that room, many gathered to keep dry and sample wine, cheese and holiday cookies, while Ryan Fibiger, co-owner of Saugatuck Craft Butchery, housed in the building across the courtyard, grilled organic meat sliders for all who were hungry as they waited for the tree lighting.

“We really needed this,” Haberstroh said about Saugatuck Center. “You have to remember, there used to be a huge oil tank here.”

“I think this was a wonderful event,” Joseloff said of the tree lighting. “It’s the start of a new tradition in Westport.”

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Posted 11/30/11 at 02:28 AM  Permalink



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