A Greenwich primer

Out of towner HG raises a good point: folks like him don’t necessarily know the geography and layout of Greenwich. Herewith a top-of-the-head, completely subjective overview of the subject:

Greenwich has a series of discrete neighborhoods, ranging from blue collar cheap to blue blood expensive, and they each occupy small pockets of land. From east (Stamford border) to west (Port Chester, NY border) they are: Old Greenwich, Riverside, Cos Cob, Greenwich, Byram, then north to Glenville and, further north, the Back Country (anything above the Merritt Parkway, with 4 acre lots).

Old Greenwich and Riverside property is cheaper north of the Post Road (Rt. One), more expensive as your cross the Post Road and head south. In Old Greenwich, prices really jump when you pass south of the “Village” and start hitting prime time as you approach the water and Tod’s Point, our premier town beach. Lots are small but direct waterfront can fetch $7-10 million.

Riverside follows the same trend. Higher south of the Post Road, higher still south of the train tracks, still higher as you go south of Riverside Avenue and approach the water. $23 million is about our highest waterfront sale: 4 + acres, deep water dock, spectacular views up and down Long Island Sound but $12 million is not unusual. Non-waterfront is cheaper, but $2.5 and up for most homes south f Riverside Avenue.

Cos Cob is cheap(er) than Riverside or Old Greenwich with some very nice neighborhoods and a good elementary school. Unlike Riverside and Old Greenwich, lots get larger north of the Post Road so prices rise going north, rather than decline. There are two twisting, winding roads near the Riverside border, Cat Rock and Cognewaugh, that are hell to drive on but quite scenic and some people love them. Highest price on Cognewaugh was around $5 million but I doubt that will happen again for awhile. Builders who tried failed, and the most recent sale of a spec house, on Cat Rock, was 43.8 million, far more than I thought it was worth but far less than the builders did.

Central Greenwich – eh? Saw a building boom of $5 million condominiums a couple of years ago but I don’t think that’s happening now. Lots of them sitting empty and for sale – bargains in the waiting. South of central Greenwich is Belle Haven which, once you get past the sewage plant, is quite nice, with some $20,000,000 + sales and some houses not on the market that will eventually fetch twice that, I think. There’s Belle Haven and “near Belle Haven” and you want to be careful not to pay Belle Haven prices for near Belle Haven value. There’s also I-95 waiting behind some of these near Belle Haven houses but you’ll discover that on your own.

Byram – cheap blue collar neighborhood, perfectly nice, he said, but not necessarily what people move to Greenwich for. Funny enough, Byram Shore Road runs along the water and the waterside houses pull in large prices – $23,000,000, once and still big bucks today. Cross the street and watch your value drop to a tenth, so don’t be swayed by what the house 50 feet away but on the water sold for. It doesn’t apply.

Glenville -bigger lots, nice area, but removed from Central Greenwich (all of five minutes but there you go) so prices are a fraction of what Riverside and Old Greenwich’s (south of the Post Road) are.

Mid-Country is the 2 acre land north of the Post Rad and south of the Merritt. Can be quite pricey – $10 million on Round Hill, even, just a month ago, $16.5 million for new construction on 7.5 acres. $2 – $3 million used to be a typical price for the mid-country, I’d drop that to $1.5 (and up) today. Just like the Back Country, the farther west you go, the lower the price.

Back Country: 4 acres, figure about $3 million for a building lot, so even if you find a cute little cottage back there, and you can, if it sits on 4 acres, you’re still looking at a multi-million dollar piece of property. There are exceptions – 7 acres off Round Hill have been foreclosed on and,together with a livable, but run down house, could be bought for $1.5 if Weikert, the listing broker, cooperated. As it is, it refuses to return calls or communicate in any way on this property which I assume means they have their own buyer in the works. whatever, when it finally sells, it should drive prices down a bit, even if it is substandard property (wetlands, steep hill, cellphone tower behind it).

So that’s abut it, for now. And HG and other readers, remember that this was literally just zipped off my keyboard, without much reflection and certainly without the nuanced shades of difference that each neighborhood has. But as a general, quick primer, it should get you started.

21 Comments

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21 responses to “A Greenwich primer

  1. HG

    Fantastic! Thank you.

  2. BackCountryGal

    Riverside – isn’t that the town off the Saw Mill going into the city? And Cos Cob – my grandpappy smoked one of those. HG, it’s BackCountry or NO Country for Old (Wo)men. Don’t let CF tell you udder-wise.

  3. Helsa Poppin

    Hi Chris,
    This is excellent and sums up what it took me about 3 years of living in this town to know. You didn’t hit every nook and cranny (Banksville) but it’s a good overview.

    For out-of-towners who are interested in all the shadings on the gradient map of Greenwich prices, it pays to expand on what you said about traffic noise and the wetlands issue. Both I-95 and the Merritt run through the town, and in addition there are a half-dozen or so major and considerably more semi-major streets winding through town where noise and excessive speeding traffic are issues. There are few places which are close to the commuter train but insulated from the noise
    so many of us moved here from NYC to escape. Any house that fits those criteria will sell for more than a similar house that is either far from the train, or within listening distance of the highway.

    The wetlands thing is a whole other headache. Basically you can’t touch wetlands – not only can’t build on it, but can’t landscape it. You’re pretty much stuck with skunk cabbage if that’s what grows there. Also, what previously wasn’t wetlands can turn into wetlands if your neighbor builds a huge house and the runoff turns your land into swamp. Moral of that story is you better build before he does.

    Yet another factor is that a lot of Greenwich is very rocky. There are places where you can’t dig a basement unless you’re willing to blast. Lots of backyards that face a sheer cliff or have huge rock ledges everywhere that make placement of pools problematic. The problem of non-level land is rampant. There are plenty of low-lying lots that I’m sure get flooded all the time, though when we were looking at houses everyone swore their basement had only flooded the one time. Just like every politician only cheated on his wife the one time.

    More things that increase or decrease the desirability of certain parts of Greenwich over others: Very few neighborhoods have actual sidewalks, like where kids can learn to ride a bike and maybe stroll to the corner store. I think this, more even than easy access to the beach, is what makes Old Greenwich so popular. Backcountry is gorgeous but it’s deer and tick-infested (well, probably every place is but especially the back country). Can’t have a vegetable garden without fencing it in. Can’t take a walk without doing a full body search for ticks later.

    Another factor is whether the house is close to one of our several (is it three?) public housing projects, which get a lot of mentions in the local police blotter section of our various local publications (not one of which is as informative as this blog, I might add). This in addition to the snob factor that leads some to reject Cos Cob because they don’t want that phrase appearing on their mail.

    This town is amazing for many reasons (one picked at random is its four(!) public libraries). I wouldn’t say the housing stock itself belongs high on that list. Most houses I look at are either brand-new, oversized, soulless constructions with oddly proportioned rooms that I wouldn’t have a clue how to live in, or tired old houses lacking storage space in bad need of an overhaul whose owner seems to think is worth $3.5 million. It’s almost impossible to find a conveniently located house on a quiet street, not in full view of the neighbors but not too isolated either, in a tasteful, traditional but not Home Depot-generic design, with enough room for two or three kids plus the occasional overnight guest to have their own space, with adequate storage, a level front and back yard, enough room for a garden and pool and the occasional game of catch, within a seven-minute drive of a train station, if you don’t have $3 million to spend.

  4. Courthouse Triangle

    That triangle in the Round Hill area with Bourke on Fort Hill, Noel on Round Hill, and DouglASS on Pecksland. The middle of the Triangle is Round Hill Club. Enter that zone, especially around a Christmas holiday party, and talk with one of these three folks, and you too will end up in a Courtroom someday explaining yourself, or never to be seen or heard from again.

  5. anonymous

    Cos Cob is world famous for its above-ground pools, no?

  6. anonymous

    Proximity to trains (let alone actually commuting via mass transit) is about as desirable as closeness to public housing…or flying commercial

    Most traders and senior IB execs drive (or are driven) into Midtown or down to GS, usually arriving at office <<7AM; trains are for the short-bus kids…

  7. Resident

    HG,

    Rember to avoid any of the countless new houses in lousy lots that require sumps to keep them from sinking.

  8. BackCountryGal

    Excellent summary Helsa. One comment from my vantage point as a 50+-year Greenwich resident – too many young new families with gobs of money want to build a moat around their homes, both emotionally and physically. They don’t seem to be interested in the sense of neighborhood like we did. I think that’s very sad. It’s all about being connected, no matter if you are a CosCobber or BackCountryGal like me. Pick a community that’s right for you and your family, then dig in, volunteer, have neighbors over, talk, laugh, BBQ, pot luck, pick deer ticks off each others back. But do it!! Hope that wasn’t too preachy.

  9. Stanwich

    Hey Helsa, there are no public housing projects in Cos Cob, which you seem to insinuate. The housing projects are in Byram, Central Greenwich and Old Greenwich. So if you go to any western elementary school, Old Greenwich or Julian Curtis you are going to get kids from the projects.

    Not sure why you continue to bust on Cos Cob when Bryam, Glenville and areas of central Greenwich are far worse than anything in Cos Cob.

    CF, I am going to kick you in the fupa when I finally get to meet you. Not sure why Frankie still hangs out with you considering he loves Cos Cob.

    • christopherfountain

      Stan, it’s precisely because Cos Cob kids can’t attend our elementary schools in Riverside and Old Greenwich that we put in housing projects – we wanted the diversity they provide and to give our children a chance to rub shoulders with the less fortunate.

  10. Stanwich

    At least we have pools in Cos Cob, OG doesn’t even have room for inflatable pools the lots are so small. And I grew up in Cos Cob and we had an enormous in-ground gunite pool (albeit with lot’s of ornamental concrete) but awesome nonetheless. This post is really starting my weekend out poorly. I am going to drop my garbage all along Sound Beach Ave on my way to the beach this weekend in retribution.

  11. ogrcc

    if the folks that take the train to work = short bus kids, then

    the folks that are driven to work in black cars = assholes

    I’ve only met a few money handlers that I have actually liked

  12. Helsa Poppin

    Hi Stanwich (if you or anyone else is still reading this thread),

    I live in and love Cos Cob. I didn’t realize that my poorly ordered sentences implied we have public housing here; we most certainly do not. Though I have heard rumors that some want to raze the Pinetum in order to build some.

  13. Byram

    I used to live in Riverside (since ’68) and moved to Byram, not on Byram Shore Rd. I really like it here and in my current life plan, which is looking like it will happen as planned as I haven’t got a lot of years to go, I plan to keep my house in Byram until the end. Keep downplaying this section so it doesn’t change and my taxes stay low. You might point out those waterfront condos that are vacant and crumbling, that should help the cause. And don’t forget to mention I-95! Every home in Byram hears the endless screeching of air brakes day and night. The beach, our only amenity if you could call it that, is the most closed-by-pollution beach in Connecticut. The whole section of town is obviously unsafe for children or women of child-bearing age, it is a big sewer.
    Finally, the one restaurant that people from real Greenwich frequented, That Little Italian Restaurant, closed. There’s really no reason to go to Byram anymore.
    I don’t think your write-up went far enough about what a dump this is, and I haven’t even mentioned the Port Chester traffic or crime.

    I hope this helps you steer out-of-towners away from Byram. If you need any more info, please don’t hesitate to write.

    • christopherfountain

      I think you summed up its charms and attractions perfectly, Byram, but I worry that you’ll be flooded by a wave of Cos Cobbers now, looking for greener pastures!

  14. pulled up in OG

    Greenwich has a series of discrete neighborhoods, and they all get assaulted nine or ten months out of the year by friggin’ leaf blowers.

  15. Riverside Dog Walker

    A housing project in Old Greenwich? Where? I’ve only been here 14 years and never heard of it.

    • christopherfountain

      Adams Gardens, Riverside, behind Caldors (ok, Walgreens). Nicely maintained, no gangs or trouble that I ever read about, no problems. If your kids went to Eastern they attended with students from here. The fact that you were unaware of that speaks for itself – if they were bad kids, you’d have known it.

  16. cos cobber

    I admit, its fun to stereotype cos cob. I am guilty, from time to time, of
    Fostering CF’s myths and legends regarding the fine people
    Of this neighborhood.

    The truth is, at least on my street, which is actually south of rte 1,
    That many of the old time hardy blue collar families have left over
    The past decade. My street has two hedge fund traders, two equity guys, anf various other upper mgmt types in finance all in a small cluster. Sure their are a few plumbers left, but not as many as 20 years ago.
    Cos cob is evolving…and hopefully without the concededness of other neighborhoods.

    One last thing, backcountrygal is right. Enough with the newbies who want to hide behind their hedge-fence-moat.

  17. Way Up Valley

    One of the really cool things about being in Cos Cob is nobody who’s not from here ever heard of it.

    1) When we lived in 06831 every time we went on vacation it was like “Oh, Greeeeeenwiccccchhhh, do you own a hedge fund?”

    When we say “Cos Cob” the responses range from “Is that closer to New York or Hartford?” to silent shrugs.

    We like the shrugs. Do shrugs not drugs.

    2) In talking with a potential employer in midtown Manhattan, he finally got around to “And where in hell is Cos Cob, Connecticut? Can you make it down to Manhattan every morning from wherever in hell that is?”

    When I told him it was Greenwich, he said, why the hell would I want his piss-ant job since obviously I must own a hedge fund.

    I hit him, as we are known to do in the Cob, and told him if he talked that way to me again they would find him floating in my above-ground pool, which has a clear view of the projects.

    PS The only hedge funds I know about are the money we put in the jelly jar to pay our guy to trim the hedges.

    PPS Of course there are no projects in Cos Cob, unless you consider the small nuclear reactor I’ve been working on since the 70s a “project.” Based on the popular response to Fred’s cell tower — well, never mind.

    These are not the droids you’re looking for.