20 Great Places to Retire
When the time comes, you'll know it. But you may not know where to spend it. Here are some suggestions.
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Husky Heaven: Mansfield
It has taken an uncommonly long time for Mansfield, and especially its southern outrider, Storrs, to catch up with the fact that an enormous state university has been growing in their midst. Even as the state poured billions of dollars into UConn's infrastructure in recent years, the surrounding area seemed stubbornly to resist becoming a "college town" by providing cafes, shops and other amenities that might be enjoyed by students, their parents, alumni and university faculty and staff. But now all that seems to be changing with the plans for Storrs Center, to be built on a 50-acre parcel near the campus. According to a press release, "The town plan will knit architecture, pedestrian-oriented streets, small lanes and public spaces into a series of neighborhoods." The plan also calls for retail, restaurants, office space, several types of housing (including apartments and condos above the shops) and plenty of open space. Combined with UConn's existing facilities-Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, William Benton Museum of Art, Gampel Pavilion, etc.-Storrs and Mansfield suddenly look more attractive to retirees yearning for an affordable college town, especially if it was their own. Everything is planned to be in place by 2014.
Golf Course Factor: Danbury
All other things being equal, sometimes it's nice to retire to a town with a superior municipal golf course so you can take advantage of those carefree weekday mornings and favorable greens fees. Danbury is one such place, with an ample array of condos on the market (over 1,200 were sold in 2006 and 2007) and houses at reasonable prices, at least for Fairfield County. More to the point, Danbury's Richter Park Golf Course has been rated one of the top 25 municipal courses in America. As a Danbury resident and a senior over 62, you can get a weekday round for $27 compared with $85 for a nonresident. A season pass for 50 rounds at $1,000 compares very nicely with the outsider's rate of $2,750. And speaking of becoming a resident, of special note in Danbury these days is an enormous new housing complex called Rivington being built on the sprawling former campus of Union Carbide; among its offerings are new mid-rise condos and townhouses in a 55-plus "village" called Rivington Encore. (Golfers will also find a lot to like in Bloomfield, just north of Hartford, where the superior municipal course, Wintonbury Hills, offers great deals for resident seniors. The town is also home to several well-regarded senior communities, including Duncaster and Seabury.)
County Seat: Litchfield
Here is the heart of Litchfield County, established on high land along what would become the busy Hartford-Albany Turnpike, and once, in early post-Colonial days, the third most populous town in the state. Today, Litchfield offers small-town pleasures that run from the simple to the sophisticated-and enough of them so you won't feel you're stuck in Smallville. To begin with, Litchfield's architecture is some of the most interesting in Connecticut. Its 19th-century mansions line North and South streets like great ocean liners waiting to go out to sea, while the white-steepled Congregational Church on the green is perhaps the most photographed in the state. Elsewhere around the green, there are stylish shops, several types of restaurants, and convivial watering holes where, on occasion, the town's remarkable camaraderie and joie de vivre can be glimpsed. The outdoors plays into Litchfield's allure as well. Without leaving town, you can climb to the observation tower atop Mount Tom, sail on Bantam Lake (the largest natural lake in the state), cross-country ski through Topsmead State Forest or hike mile after mile in White's Woods, part of the 4,000-acre White Memorial Foundation. You'll be happy to learn that not all the houses are the size of ocean liners, and that some of the smaller ones within walking range of the green are quite reasonably priced.
New York State of Mind: New Canaan
One of the tricks of enjoying a comfortable retirement in lower Fairfield County is finding a place that's not too close to the noise, pollution and aggravation of the I-95 corridor but that's at the same time within shouting distance of a commuter rail station, and thus connected to all the pleasures of Manhattan. Another trick is to have a lot of money. If you qualify on both counts-and are conversant on the subjects of arbitrage and Republican fund raising-New Canaan may be just the place for you. This classic New York suburb is well-known for its multimillion-dollar single-family homes, but it also saw sales of 113 condos during the past two years, with a median sales price of about $625,000. Even if you never venture in to the big city, however, there's plenty to like in New Canaan's prosperous little town center, where a nice variety of shops and restaurants beckons. Another asset here is the nature of the retirees who already live in town, and who have lived here for years-they are largely affluent and well educated, and they make sure the local civic organizations and cultural institutions are well financed and intelligently run. As you may be aware, this is not the case in every Connecticut city and town.
Bend in the River: Middletown
How about a well-located college town with extensive river views and lots of condos selling at a median price of about $150,000? Now that I have your attention, let's talk about Middletown, where the Connecticut River takes a sharp turn east and heads down to the Sound. Middletown is the home of Wesleyan University, whose 3,000 or so very independent-minded undergrads and graduate students do their best to keep things interesting for the townsfolk. The school occupies 360 acres right in the center of town and generates satellite bookstores, shops and restaurants, as well as its own museum, galleries, theater, lectures and sports events. If your interests lie a little farther afield, Middletown is located midway between Hartford and the shore, and is an easy drive to either, and is also minutes away from good public golf courses in neighboring Middlefield and Portland. What's especially nice about Middletown are its house prices. A cool two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo in Parker House, a refurbished mill near the Wesleyan campus, recently went on the market for $219,000. A brand-new detached condo in Middletown's Bartlett Hollow starts at just under $330,000.