Ambitious Redevelopment of Old Saybrook Riverfront Pitched to Zoning Commissioners

A superimposed map of the proposed project on an aerial map of the site (Credit: CT Examiner)


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OLD SAYBROOK – A local contractor pitched his ambitious vision for the Connecticut River waterfront between the I-95 Baldwin Bridge and the Connecticut River Railroad Bridge to the town’s Zoning Commission on Monday – including multifamily housing, shops, and a raised boardwalk connecting the two marinas on Ferry Road.

Cal Caldarella told the commission that he has spent five years acquiring property on Ferry Road, just south of Interstate 95, and working through various concepts for uses of the site. 

The concept Caldarella presented on Monday was for a “destination resort,” including marinas, multifamily housing and shops along the waterfront. The presentation was a “preliminary discussion” without a formal application. The proposal would require various approvals from local boards and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Many people leave here to go to Shelter [Island], to go to Block [Island], to go to Greenport, wherever they want to be to enjoy all of the facilities,” Caldarella said. “You want to have those kinds of facilities here, and we’ve acquired 25 acres to do that.”

An aerial map of the site near the mouth of the Connecticut River (Credit: Google Map Data, 2022)

The project includes redevelopment of two marinas – Between the Bridges on the northern end, and South Yard on the southern end – and the parcel of land across Ferry Road.

John Milone, engineer with SLR Consulting, presented the outline of the plan for a marina, shops, restaurants and multifamily housing, complete with a waterfront boardwalk and public access. Milone said the design wasn’t a plan for development, but a “basis for discussion.”

Milone said the vision drew from the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, which describes Ferry Point’s “huge potential for redevelopment as a vibrant and exciting destination” if it can balance water-dependent uses and other uses that support them.

Under the proposal, the bulk of the “marine support” uses would be moved to the South Yard, including rack storage, maintenance, stores and other “facilities necessary to have a high-quality marine support facility,” Milone said.

Moving the marine support to the South Yard opens up the rest of the area for other uses, without having to grapple with boats, cars and people all sharing the same space, Milone said. 

At the Between the Bridges marina, the plan would be to develop a mix of retail, a restaurant and some multifamily housing, Milone said. On the parcel across Ferry Road, which is now used for boat storage, there would be more multifamily housing, Milone suggested.

Milone told members of the Zoning Commission that he did not know yet how many units of housing they intend to build, but that it would be “in the range of 100,” and would depend on the capacity of the site to accommodate sewage.

A view of the property from Ferry Road (Credit: Google Map Data, 2022)

Milone said that the vision is for about 20 percent of the units to be built on the river side of Ferry Road.

Milone said there is also a “tremendous” need to repair the bulkhead at Between the Bridges, and many of the more than 280 slips need to be dredged to remove silt from the Connecticut River.

Milone said the tidal wetlands between the Between the Bridges marina and the town dock is “critically important” to bringing the entire project together and for providing public access that he said is crucial to the development. 

The plan envisions a raised boardwalk that would run along the waterfront from Between the Bridges, across the tidal wetland, to the town dock and the South Yard marina. Milone said the project could offer an opportunity to remove invasive phragmites that have overgrown that wetland, and plant native plants.

The town dock would remain but, Milone said, with improved public access mainly by building the boardwalk. He suggested gazebos on the tidal wetland, and a fishing and crabbing area on a jetty to the south of the South Yard marina.

He also told the commission that there would be parking spaces set aside for public parking – so that people other than boaters or residents could enjoy the area, as well as “transient docks” for any boater to use, in addition to berths at the town dock.

The properties would require a change in zoning to allow these kinds of development. Caldarella’s team raised the possibility of a Coastal Access Special Development District or a Coastal Access Overlay Zone – both requiring site plans to be approved by the zoning commission.

A view of the site in the distance from Old Lyme (Credit: CT Examiner)

Much of the project would be within the Connecticut River Gateway Conservation Zone, and would need to be reviewed by the Gateway Commission, and there will also need to be approvals by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“We really want to work with you folks to put it together,” Caldarella said. “We’re not coming in and saying, ‘We want this, or we want that.’ We hope that you will sign off on that concept and zero in on a mechanism.”