9 Connecticut towns that tell the story of where people moved during the pandemic

Stamford’s 06902 ZIP code — a sprawling “L” extending from the Cove neighborhood through the South End and up the city’s western side to the Merritt Parkway — led Connecticut in terms of new arrivals in both 2019 and the pandemic year of 2020, as reported by CBRE in a national analysis.

But last year, Stamford also surpassed a section of New Haven to post the most departure notifications as well of any city in Connecticut — while absorbing net losses in both years.

The extremes of Stamford and New Haven have parallels throughout Connecticut, depending on the data points one selects to look at with regard to gains or losses in households and individual residents.

The CBRE report uses change-of-address forms filed with the U.S. Postal Service to determine migration patterns in and out of Connecticut and elsewhere.

Households typically file a single change-of-address form for all family members sharing the same last name. (Anyone in the household having a different surname files an individual form, leaving open the possibility of the gross numbers including multiple individuals from the same household.)

The following municipalities and neighborhoods jump off the CBRE tables for significant departures from the norm.

Dropping anchor in Westport

The 2018 installment of Chowdafest at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn. The town led Connecticut and New York ZIP codes in 2020 for new arrivals as captured in U.S. Postal Service change-of-address forms for individuals and households.

The 2018 installment of Chowdafest at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn. The town led Connecticut and New York ZIP codes in 2020 for new arrivals as captured in U.S. Postal Service change-of-address forms for individuals and households.

Alex von Kleydorff / Hearst Connecticut Media

Westport led all Connecticut ZIP codes in one of the most critical measures for the state economy: net gains in people establishing residency, whether purchasing, renting or making a weekend home their permanent address.

First Selectman Jim Marpie said that in addition to regular household moves, the gains in Westport and other towns could reflect parents taking children back under their roofs, after city jobs went remote for the duration of the pandemic.

While that could provide a short-term boost for businesses as recreational spending stays in Connecticut, it could also produce a boomerang effect this year or next, as those young professionals purchase homes themselves or rent in towns they can afford.

Westport’s popularity also has direct implications for the income taxes they send to Hartford, Albany or other jurisdictions.

However you add it up, Marpie said he knows of more than two dozen businesses planning to open in downtown Westport amid the real estate boom, on the heels of Barnes & Noble relocating its Post Road East store to the center of Westport.

“There’s no doubt we’ve had an influx,” Marpie said. “We’ve had three to five restaurants open during the pandemic that seem to be ... doing quite well, and with onset of being able to comfortably eat outdoors, we’re expecting a real surge in outdoor dining.”

Doing the math in Greenwich

Empire State Realty co-founder Peter Malkin and spouse Isabel in early May 2021 in Greenwich, Conn., where the couple live.

Empire State Realty co-founder Peter Malkin and spouse Isabel in early May 2021 in Greenwich, Conn., where the couple live.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Adding up five ZIP codes included in the CBRE analysis from “backcountry” estates north of the Merritt Parkway to Riverside and Cos Cob, Greenwich combined for 850 net additions in changes-of-address to surpass the totals in Westport.

The Greenwich real estate market continues to sizzle this spring; this past week, a $22 million estate on Round Hill Road hit the market, joining seven others priced at $20 million or more. Another 20 homes are listed above $10 million.

More than 360 homes sold in Greenwich in the first four months of this year, as reported by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, pushing aggregate sales to nearly $940 million.

On a conference call last week, Empire State Realty Trust CEO and Greenwich resident Tony Malkin said that the landlord’s Stamford office buildings have seen a pickup in tours this year among prospective tenants, but with no significant increase on the part of New York City employers that might be exploring suburban offices to spare executives the commute.

“Have we seen a big flow of tenants in that tour group out of New York City?” Malkin said. “A handful, and some leases done — smaller leases under 10,000 square feet.”

Park City, Elm City exoduses?

Cyclists roll out of East Rock Park in April 2021 in New Haven, Conn., one of several neighborhoods that loop downtown in the city's 06511 ZIP code. The district had the largest net loss in Connecticut of individuals and households reporting permanent moves elsewhere in 2020, according to a CBRE analysis of U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data.

Cyclists roll out of East Rock Park in April 2021 in New Haven, Conn., one of several neighborhoods that loop downtown in the city’s 06511 ZIP code. The district had the largest net loss in Connecticut of individuals and households reporting permanent moves elsewhere in 2020, according to a CBRE analysis of U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data.

Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media

Despite several apartment projects over the past several years — and the employment anchors of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Health — the city of New Haven had net losses of people reporting address changes to the U.S. Postal Service as captured in the CBRE study.

Hartford’s Asylum Hill and West End neighborhoods had a bigger exodus than New Haven on a per capita basis, while Bridgeport had more households and individuals leave as an absolute number.

Norwalk fared better than New Haven, with Harbor Point’s developer Building & Land Technology now eyeing a massive apartment build out in Norwalk north of the Merritt Parkway.

The state is doubling down on the return of commuters in time; early construction is now proceeding on a new Merritt 7 station adjacent to BLT’s soon-to-be-completed Curb at North Seven apartment complex totaling more than 700 units.

“Up until the last 16 months, it’s been one of the deadest markets ... in the country, so it’s about time we got a little juice,” said Harlan Stone, CEO of the luxury flooring maker HMTX Industries, which is building a new design center on a hill above the Metro North station. “I owned a house in Weston for 20-something years and my return on investment was negative — I put more into the house than I got back.”

Pre-pandemic momentum in Weston

Zelda Monteiro of Fairfield looks over the stuff at the Norfield Grange's Black Friday Trunk Sale on Nov. 27, 2020, in Weston, Conn.

Zelda Monteiro of Fairfield looks over the stuff at the Norfield Grange's Black Friday Trunk Sale on Nov. 27, 2020, in Weston, Conn.

Jarret Liotta / Jarret Liotta

Weston squeezed onto the list of three dozen ZIP codes in New York and Connecticut to see a net influx of at least 400 new arrivals across both 2019 and the pandemic year of 2020, as neighboring Westport topped all with 955 net new arrivals as reported by CBRE.

Sandwiched between (in descending order) were Darien, New Canaan, Trumbull, Ridgefield, Oxford, West Hartford, Fairfield, Southbury, Stamford, Guilford, Cheshire, Wethersfield, Madison and Greenwich’s 06831 ZIP code running up the western half of the town and into its “backcountry” studded with estates.

While New York had a slightly larger number in that topmost group — including wealthy towns like East Hampton, Scarsdale and New Rochelle, with a smaller base of towns within traditional commuting distance of New York City — Connecticut’s rankings in the CBRE study was notable.

Several of those towns had a common denominator: high placement on school rankings — one factor parents of young children use in relocation decisions.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Darien High School tops in Connecticut this spring; Weston High School was third, just behind the Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut in Groton and just ahead of Staples High School in Westport and New Canaan High School.

Stopping off for good in Washington Depot

Diners at the Po Cafe in early May 2021, adjacent to the U.S. Post Office in Washington, Conn., which services the 06793 ZIP code. The village led Connecticut ZIP codes for incoming movers in 2020 on a net basis, as reported on postal changes of address.

Diners at the Po Cafe in early May 2021, adjacent to the U.S. Post Office in Washington, Conn., which services the 06793 ZIP code. The village led Connecticut ZIP codes for incoming movers in 2020 on a net basis, as reported on postal changes of address.

Alexander Soule /Hearst Connecticut Media /

The U.S. Postal Service recorded significant changes throughout the state in smaller towns as well, if measured as a percentage of their overall population.

By that metric, the 06793 ZIP code spanning Washington and Roxbury in the heart of Litchfield County led the state for net gains in address changes in 2020, at 6.7 for every 100 residents in town.

With the Mayflower Inn & Spa its best known magnet, the town and its Washington Depot village have long been a draw for New York and New England tourists. But with home sales now booming across Litchfield County, it appears that some of those visitors kept the Connecticut countryside in mind as they took stock of their options during the pandemic.

The CBRE data does not include changes of address for hamlets with 10 or fewer on file with the U.S. Postal Service in any given year. The Centerbrook section of Essex has the largest population of Connecticut towns with such a data gap; Berkshire Hathaway reports 10 homes selling there in 2020, one more than the prior year.

“It’s certainly part of this broader trend of people moving farther out from the urban core — at least for the time being,” said Matt Mowell, a CBRE economist in Boston who co-authored the report. “You have more people who have the freedom to work completely remotely.”

Under the radar in eastern Connecticut

A family eats takeout recently on a patio outside the Earth Hotel at Mohegan Sun.

A family eats takeout recently on a patio outside the Earth Hotel at Mohegan Sun.

Joe Amarante / Hearst CT Media

If Stamford proves that new apartments and senior communities in smaller cities and towns can provide a major boost, Norwich’s Taftville district backs up that assertion.

In Taftville, the developers of the Lofts at Ponemah Mills added another 120 units to the multi-phase redevelopment of what was at one point in the 19th century the largest textile mill in the United States. Owner One Key touts Ponemah Mills proximity and amenities to workers and new hires at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casino resorts, as well as the Electric Boat submarine yard in Groton, which is undergoing a rapid expansion.

All eyes are on Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in particular as bellwethers for Connecticut tourism. On Tuesday, Mohegan Sun offered a $2,000 signing bonus for new culinary staff it hires this spring.

“We did go to hell and back in the last year or so,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, speaking Tuesday after a tour of Electric Boat. “We were the first state to get 50 percent of our people vaccinated — I think that’s helping us get back to a new normal.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman