Some of the smartest people I know in real estate advised me against taking this assignment because, they warned, I’d be bound to offend hundreds of homeowners who expect their own address to be included among the best streets in town. Offend hundreds of people at once? That’s the kind of challenge I relish, so here goes.
First of all, of course, there is no such thing as “the best street in town.” Home buyers and their desires are far too idiosyncratic to allow that kind of ranking. For every desperate striver who would gladly sell his first-born in exchange for a huge house in a prominent location that simply shrieks, “Look at me!” there’s another who, like Garbo, wants to be alone. A backcountry house may be perfect for a hedge-fund trader who’s chauffeured to work every day, but a mother of five who is the chauffeur might prefer a house in crowded Riverside, where her kids can walk to school or their friends’ houses without parental supervision. With that caveat, here are some of the streets in town that continually command a premium.
Field Point Circle
David Ogilvy, speaking of the entire Belle Haven area, says that it “retains the feel of a summer community that just happens to be attached to Greenwich.” Here are grand old summer houses with great architecture and all long since converted to full-time residences. There’s high security and a neighborhood club (as a sailor, I won’t vouch for its harbor but, in this case, that’s a quibble and beside the point). I’d suggest that Field Point Circle should be at or near the top of anyone’s list of best streets in town, even though it’s approached via the Grass Island sewer plant (there are compromises involved in every scrap of Greenwich real estate). While it doesn’t hold the record for the highest sales price achieved (Conyer’s Farm, at $45 million, has that distinction), I think that, year in and year out, this address commands the most prestige and the best prices. My brother Gideon (a realtor with Cleveland, Duble & Arnold) once researched sales in this neighborhood to see if the “international marketing” pitch some firms tout as the way to sell Field Point Circle homes actually worked. He found that out of twelve recent sales, eleven of the buyers were relocating within Greenwich. Sometimes you have to live in town a while to appreciate or at least understand its high market prices.
Other than the Brunswick traffic and the great Halloween invasion, when half the town and much of Westchester descend on the place, this is a great family neighborhood littered with impressive old houses, almost all of which have been renovated. Owners who live here seem to gladly put up with Brunswick School and its students (and some actually enjoy the Halloween frenzy) in exchange for living in beautiful homes and having good friends on either side. The street is particularly appealing to families with young children. Plus you’re within walking distance of Whole Foods, and in a pinch, you can sprint to Greenwich Avenue.
Park Avenue/Park Place
One of my very favorite streets in almost-central Greenwich, this stretch has big yards, dignified houses of all ages and a convenient location. Houses in this near-bucolic neighborhood seem to sell rapidly and well. You and your agent will have to keep on top of new listings if you want to buy into this area.
I know this street from my bicycling tours through midcountry Greenwich. Its western half, beginning after the parsonage itself, holds some of the best-looking houses in town. It’s very appealing despite the protest of one potential buyer who, eyeing the back of St. Mary’s cemetery and the Nathaniel Witherell down the road, exclaimed, “I’ll be living between the dying and the dead!” Aren’t we all? Get over it.
Almost any street in this section of Old Greenwich is a sure winner. Many large Victorian summer homes have been winterized and updated (insulation, central heating, all the good stuff) over the years. The large lots that I remember as a kid are gradually being carved up, but that’s true all over town. With tons of kids, easy access to Tod’s Point, Old Greenwich School and the train, this area has a strong community feel about it. Although pricey, houses still hold their value very well.
Club Road/Gilliam Lane
These parallel Riverside streets present a bit of a quandary. My editors chose Club Road while, no doubt because I grew up on Gilliam, I prefer the latter. Club Road is busier in the summer due to the daily stampede of cars delivering and picking up kids at the Riverside Yacht Club, and, for now at least, the houses are mostly larger and more impressive. As the tear-down boom continues its sweep through Riverside, the countrylike atmosphere will change, but you can’t lose on either street.
Kathy Adams of Country Living Associates still sounds wistful remembering her commute, pre–real estate days, to IBM via these roads. “I’d drive up Clapboard to Round Hill, cross Porchuck to John Street — when the leaves were turning.” These are all still nice streets but, to my eye, they’ve lost
some of their lush beauty as, one by one, the 100-acre estates have been chopped into four-acre ranchettes, and high, towering walls have blocked the views of what were once rolling meadows. It’s your call; in my opinion, we’ve lost something here.
Up and Coming
Perhaps Arch Street, right next to Binney Park, is a place to keep your eye on. This area starts off with some so-so 1960s contemporaries, but four new, expensive and good-looking houses have been constructed recently.