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Mark Gilrain

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REAL ESTATE SOLUTIONS: Owning, Renting, Investing

Mentioned in this Article:
Wall Street Journal

Westport Connecticut Town With Arts History

$4.75 million

4 Pan Handle Lane

This 18-room Georgian estate built in 2007 has six bedrooms, six full and two half bathrooms, a designer kitchen with a center island, a home theater and a three-stop elevator. There is an in-ground pool, spruce trees and 261 feet of Saugatuck River Frontage.

Listing History: On the market for about five weeks

Property Plus: Adding two adjacent lots could form 8-acre estate.

Property Minus: The attic is accessible only through hatches. Listing Agent: Mark Gilrain of Halstead Property

Open House: Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

For more than a century, Westport, Conn., has been a destination for artists, first attracted by its scenic location along Long Island Sound and the Saugatuck River, its proximity to New York City and, later, its vibrant community of painters and writers. A commitment to the arts lives on today. The town's beloved Westport Country Playhouse produces an ambitious roster of plays and its former and current residents include many prominent actors. There is a popular high school acting group called the Staples Players, an art center, galleries and a fine-art festival.

"It has its roots in a Bohemian artist colony in the 1920s—F. Scott Fitzgerald came and spent a summer writing," says the town's first selectman, Gordon Joseloff. The community is also decidedly upscale. Its downtown, largely along Main Street and Post Road East, is a quaint and polished collection of high-end national stores and boutiques aimed at Westport and other area residents. Multimillion-dollar estates, many with star pedigrees, line its picturesque waterfront. "We have a lot of celebrities, and people who recognize a good thing when they see it," Mr. Joseloff says. "It's an hour commute by train from Manhattan, and you can quickly go from metropolitan New York City to suburbia, and in some northern parts of Westport you've got estates that are more than your normal 2 acres." Single-family houses include smaller Colonials on relatively compact lots, some within walking distance from the downtown and with a neighborhood feel. Others are more secluded, wooded or waterfront mansions. New luxury houses built on the sites of smaller homes demolished by developers are popular with buyers, brokers say, often selling in the $2 million to $3 million range. The median listing price in Westport in May, according to, Z +3.04% was $1.499 million.

The town's waterfront location is a large part of its appeal. Three town beaches offer Long Island Sound access; marinas cater to the area's many boaters and the Longshore Sailing School teaches 2,000 students a year out from its location in the Longshore Club Park, a former private estate now owned by the town. The Saugatuck River flows through Westport's downtown, and on its shores, the Saugatuck Rowing Club includes a boathouse, a fitness center, a dining deck and a restaurant. A renovation is in the works for the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit outdoor concert venue that hosts around 50 shows each season and overlooks the river.

Situated in Connecticut's Fairfield County, Westport is around 50 miles from New York City, with two Metro-North train stations in the town and easy access to the Merritt Parkway and I-95. Compared with nearby towns, property taxes can be relatively low, thanks in part to its bustling downtown. Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge-fund manager, is based in Westport, though the company is planning a new headquarters in Stamford."We think the economic impact will be not minimal, frankly, but not so great as some have imagined," Mr. Joseloff says.

Westport also has a significant summer population, drawn by the proximity to New York and water access, says Sue Lieberman, a partner with the Riverside Realty Group. "It's an easy commute compared to the Hamptons," she says. New residents include younger families from New York City as well as growing numbers of Europeans, Ms. Lieberman says."It's very multicultural—there are people here from all over the world," she says.

Parks: The 169-acre Longshore Club Park includes an 18-hole golf course, three swimming pools, a marina, tennis courts, a seasonal ice-skating rink and a sailing school. The three town beaches include the 29-acre Compo Beach along Long Island Sound and bordering the Saugatuck River. It has ball courts, a play area and a skate park.

Schools: Westport Public Schools, with around 5,800 students, include five elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. In 2011, 86.6% of Westport high school seniors took the SAT. Students in Westport scored an average math score of 598.5, compared with 505.5 statewide; an average reading score of 581.2, compared with 502 statewide, and an average writing score of 594.8, compared with 505.9 statewide, according to state data.

Restaurants: Tavern on Main is a 20-year-old American restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Moja, on Wilton Road, serves Asian-inspired cuisine. The two-year-old Tarry Lodge Enoteca Pizzeria is on Charles Street. Acqua, on Main Street, is a Mediterranean restaurant. A branch of the popular Shake Shack is on Post Road East.

Shopping: Several large national stores, including the Gap, J. Crew and Lululemon Athletica have stores on Main Street. Supermarkets include Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and the Fresh Market. Independently owned shops include Mitchells, a high-end clothing store for men and women run by three generations of the same family. A seasonal farmers' market is held Thursdays.

Entertainment: The Westport Country Playhouse is a not-for-profit theater, which produces plays as well as family and educational programs.

Friday, July 05, 2013