Tearing down, building big
In what might be an encouraging sign for the area economy, demolitions of existing houses are on a pace that one local official said could set a record.
Darien officials have recorded 14 single-family home demolition permits so far this year, and 16 more are being reviewed.
New Canaan also has seen teardowns picking up. The Building Department has approved at least six in recent months, and others are awaiting approval. One house threatened with demolition there is among the town’s oldest, a 1735 saltbox at 8 Ferris Hill. Preservationists are organizing an effort to save the structure.
“Teardowns, or replacement houses, are way up in terms of numbers,” Ginsberg said.
Replacement houses refer to larger houses built on the site of demolished homes. Through March 21, 14 properties had undergone, or were undergoing, such an upgrade. Another 16 are awaiting approval.
A sizable portion of Darien’s recent construction is taking place on Long Neck Point Road and Nearwater Road.
“If you drive down those streets,” Ginsberg said, “you’ll be amazed. It’s house after house being reconstructed.”
After teardowns in 2014 and 2015 remained steady at 36 each year, Planning and Zoning is projecting a potentially record high number for 2016, perhaps comparable to 2013, which saw 57 residential teardowns. But, Ginsberg pointed out, much of that activity was the result of a single project. “2013 was a very busy year. Part of that was attributable to the redevelopment of the Heights at Darien. You’ll recall that 53 single family houses had to be torn down to create that new project,” Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg said in almost every case up to this point in 2016, the size of the replacement house was larger than the original. But there are a few exception.
“What you find in some cases, but not all, is some of them are spec — a developer buys a house, tears it down and puts up (a new one). Sometimes it’s a family who lives in town already. There are a couple where the family already lives in town and they’re just moving to a new house for more space,” Ginsberg said.
“We can estimate that we might have 57 residential teardowns, and that probably doesn’t even include Old Town Hall homes, which may or may not be torn down this year,” he added. “It’s too early to tell, but it’s been very active from that standpoint, for whatever reason. It’s one of the quirks for this year”
At one point during the presentation, a board member asked Ginsberg if the trend was a sign of a good economy, to which Ginsberg replied, “It’s a sign of a good economy in Darien. I can’t speak to the rest of the state or the rest of the country.”
In New Canaan, demolition permits have recently been approved for structures on Gower Road, Overlook Drive, Millport Avenue, Carter Street and Country Club Road.