Darien, Connecticut: an old New England town with a busy social life

It was during an inspection of their 1920s colony home in Darien, Connecticut that Josh Peschko felt that he and his wife, Kristy, had chosen not only the right city, but the right one. district.

“School had just come out, and there were kids coming out of every nook and cranny cutting our lawn and everyone’s lawn,” said Mr. Peschko, 36, an asset manager, describing the scene outside their three bedroom home, which is located between Holmes Elementary School and Woodland Park. “There are no fences and we are right in the middle. It’s a shared space, so of course you have to like that sort of thing.

Since moving into the home they bought for $ 985,000 in 2016, the Peschkos have embraced the community feel of their new neighborhood and everything else in this 14.9 square mile coastal county town. from Fairfield. The boys who live nearby come to play with their 4-year-old son, Hudson, while the girls in the neighborhood want to help feed their 1-year-old daughter, Berkeley, he said. And thanks to a program hosted by the YWCA Newcomers Club, the Peschkos have attended a number of dinners with other newcomers in Darien.

Like many young families who found their way to this well-heeled city of about 22,000, the Peschkos were drawn to the school system, which consistently ranks among the highest in the state. Others are drawn to the city’s natural beauty, its easy access to New York City, and its active social, artistic and sporting cultures.

“We’re a sports-oriented community for sure,” said Doug Milne, a real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence who has lived in Darien most of his life. “A lot of people who come here don’t know anyone, so they put their kids into youth football at age 4 and they make lifelong friends.”

Colleen Thompson said she feared she might not have a social life when she and her husband, Jon, decided to move out of their one-bedroom apartment in Lower Manhattan earlier this year and move to Darien.

“I was intimidated by how we were going to make friends, thinking that everyone would be completely cut off,” said Ms. Thompson, 31, a fundraiser for the museum. “But we’ve found tons of people who are like us, with the same nervousness, wondering how they’re going to meet.”

While the Thompson’s initially thought they wanted an older home, they realized they knew nothing about the renovation and in March purchased a six-bedroom, four-bathroom Cape Cod-style home. and a half on the waterfront, built in 2012, for $ 5.775 million.

They now enjoy taking their Maltese, Ralph, for a walk along the Rings End Bridge and Weed Beach, where Cove Harbor flows into the Long Island Strait. And Ms Thompson recently found out she was pregnant.

“There are so many meetings for new parents,” she said. “Stroller rides; mommy workouts, where you bring your baby; mother’s night, when you can leave the baby at home. Now we just need the baby to be able to participate in all of these things. “

From grand homes along the coast to historic homes in the woods, Darien offers a wide variety of desirable accommodations.

Inland, towards Merritt Parkway, older homes on large wooded properties share the neighborhood with the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, Wee Burn Country Club, and the Country Club of Darien, each of which hosts equestrian competitions. local and national.

Closer to the town center, near the border with the neighboring town of Stamford, the houses and grounds are slightly smaller. And along the city’s 16.5 miles of coastline, where peninsulas jut in and out of Long Island Sound, are multi-million dollar homes. The coast is also home to two public beaches, as well as the Darien Boat Club, the Noroton Yacht Club and the Tokeneke beach and tennis club.

With four exits on I-95 and a busy shopping stretch of Boston Post Road that runs through the city, Darien has a vibrant, if not particularly modern, downtown core. That will likely change with final zoning board approval in late November of a mixed-use project on a 7.17-acre triangle of underused land at the foot of Exit 11 of I-95.

Scheduled to be inaugurated next spring or summer, the nine-building project will add 116 apartments, 80,000 square feet of offices, 32 stores, seven restaurants and an urban park. David Genovese, Managing Director of Baywater Properties, one of the developers, said the generous site gave them a unique opportunity.

“In an old New England town like this, it’s very rare that you can create a critical mass that allows you to rethink the whole downtown experience,” he said. “We wanted to bring back to the community what used to happen, by creating public spaces where people can interact.”

Mr Genovese said he hopes the apartments will give empty occupants a chance to stay in town, while Mr Milne sees the development, with its “New York vibe”, attracting young residents.

At the end of November, there were 206 houses and 17 condominiums on the market in Darien. According to the SmartMLS, the median selling price of a home in 2018, through November 27, was $ 1.385 million, down from the median selling price of $ 1.42 million during the same 11 month period in 2017.

The cheapest house currently available is a 700 square foot cottage built in 1930, with one bedroom and one bathroom, priced at $ 359,000. The most expensive is the Ziegler Steinkraus Waterfront Estate, built in the early 1900s on 63.5 acres of a private island, with a 13,015 square foot main house, guest cottages and an equestrian center, listed for $ 120 million.

Suzanne Okie, an agent for Halstead Real Estate, said the home stock is currently plentiful and sellers are willing to negotiate the price. She attributed this buyer’s market, among other things, to the uncertainty surrounding the recent election.

“People are not rushing to buy their next home,” she said. “It was a wait-and-see environment as everyone is looking to see how the new tax laws will affect them.”

Participation is key to living in Darien, whether it’s watching your children compete in sports programs offered by schools and the city; volunteer in one of the many charitable, community, cultural or environmental awareness programs; or join one of the three golf clubs, two yacht clubs or a beach, tennis, hunting, garden or ice hockey club.

Keeping up with the busy social circuit requires a schedule like the one published in the Darien Guide for Newcomers, which includes events like the Darien Library Spring Gala, the Summer Concert Series at Grove Street Plaza, the Ox Ridge Charity Horse Show and the Turkey Bowl. , the football showdown between Darien High School and rival New Canaan High School took place on Thanksgiving Day.

About 4,800 students – 85% of Darien’s school-aged children – attend the town’s five elementary, middle and high schools.

Darien High School, which enrolls 1,354 students, has repeatedly ranked at or near the top of the state on SAT scores and other measures of achievement. In 2017-18, the school’s average SAT scores were 601 in reading and 605 in math, compared to state averages of 524 and 507.

The high school sports program is also popular, and the school campus, built in 2008, features grass sports fields and a state-of-the-art stadium.

Nearby private schools include Greens Farms Academy in Westport, for Kindergarten to Grade 12, and New Canaan Country School, for Kindergarten to Grade 9.

The New Haven line of the Metro-North Railroad has two stops in Darien, from where it takes about an hour to get to New York. Tickets purchased on the train from either station cost $ 18 (or $ 21 during rush hour) or $ 11.50 ($ 15.25 during rush hour) in advance. A monthly ticket costs $ 335.

Darien is about 40 miles northeast of New York; driving on I-95 or the Merritt Parkway takes about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic.

“Gentleman’s Agreement,” Laura Z. Hobson’s bestselling 1947 novel, is set in Darien and neighboring New Canaan, and focuses on an undercover journalist who denounces American anti-Semitism. The book was adapted into a film, starring Gregory Peck, who won the Oscar for Best Picture.

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About John A. Provost

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