View Full Version : Fairfield Metro Center Moves Ahead

June 19th, 2004, 10:36 AM
June 20, 2004


Train Station Project Moves Ahead


A $300 MILLION VISION A rendering of what the Fairfield Metro Center might look like from a bridge at the new rail station.

A NEW train station, a crucial element in a major commercial development proposed for the town of Fairfield, has received final approval by the state, and work on the long-debated project seems destined to get under way this year.

The station is to anchor a $300 million development on a 35-acre brownfield site next to the Metro-North railroad tracks in the town of Fairfield. The ticket window and waiting room will be inside a 30,000-square-foot retail pavilion with two restaurants and a terrace cafe, and the commuter parking lot will accommodate 1,500 cars. The first phase of the 980,000-square-foot development, to be completed in 2007, includes a 200-room, 120,000-square-foot hotel; a 200,000-square-foot five-story office building; and a 42,000-square-foot fitness center, all ranged around a central green.

A year later, a 10,000-square-foot free-standing retail pavilion and three additional 200,000-square-foot office buildings are expected to be ready, depending on commitments from tenants. Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting, Finance Board and Board of Selectmen have approved the project.

The architect, Timothy Johnson, a principal at NBBJ architects in New York, said the project would be built in a way that is sensitive to environmental matters. "The five-story office buildings will be ecologically advanced," he said, "in the use of ceiling tiles recycled from newspaper pulp, concrete pavers recycled from torn up highways, operable windows, outlets for hybrid and electric cars, and building materials that will be manufactured within a 500-mile radius to minimize road traffic."

Approval of the station by the Connecticut Department of Transportation was a pivotal step in getting the project moving. It was feared that without rail access, the office buildings would not attract tenants and that the developer, Black Rock Realty L.L.C., would return the site to industrial use, as it is allowed to do under current zoning.

Fairfield's office space has remained flat at 1.6 million square feet for years, but when the first phase of the project is completed, "the location will be compelling," said Kurt Wittek, head of Black Rock Realty in Stamford, the project's developer in partnership with Aaron D. Stauber of Rugby Realty in Teterboro, N.J.

The two companies paid $5.9 million in 2001 for the weed-strewn site on Black Rock Turnpike that holds a derelict foundry. They first named the project Black Rock Park, then renamed it Fairfield Metro Center. Across the turnpike is a 125,000-square-foot BJ's Wholesale Club, converted from another defunct foundry, and two multiplex cinemas.

New restaurants and small businesses have been sprucing up surrounding streets, and a residential condominium of 70 luxury units is under construction near the Metro Center site, the first such development in the neighborhood.

Some town residents and real estate agents have expressed doubts about the viability of the project; they worry that the commercial portion the largest ever attempted in Fairfield will never be built. Others say the station is a mere convenience, relieving parking at the central Fairfield station, where the waiting list for permits is 1,500. Only Stamford has more than Fairfield's 2,500 daily commuters.

Some real estate professionals have been skeptical that Fairfield, zoned 90 percent residential, can lure major office tenants, although General Electric and a number of other large companies settled there. But Richard Redniss, president of Redniss & Mead, Stamford land use and zoning consultants, applauds the effort. "Transportation-related office is really the only office we should be seeing in Fairfield County," he said. "It's the smart growth alternative that we should be looking at to keep cars off the road and yet keep growth in the region."

Project costs for Metro Center are distributed among three participants. The state is paying $25 million to build two 1,200-foot-long station platforms and two bridges over the tracks and to raise power lines.

One bridge will be for pedestrians; the other will start as a four-lane road just off Exit 24 of Interstate 95, taking motorists directly into the project, bypassing local streets, arching over the tracks and proceeding into the commuter parking lot. Some 12 intersections off site will be reconfigured to ease traffic flow, paid for by a $4 million federal grant.

The town will spend $6 million to buy the 10-acre parking area from the developers, clean up the contamination and build the lot. By selling off 10 acres, the developers are accommodating the town's wish to own the lot, manage it and collect parking fees. They have also reduced the total square footage that they are proposing for offices.

Kathryn L. Braun, a local lawyer who represented some 20 residents during public hearings before the Fairfield Conservation Commission, challenged the town's planned remediation process as inadequate.

A 10-acre conservation area bordering Ash Creek is to be taken down to its original ground level by excavating all vegetation and casting sand, replacing them with clean soil and plantings. The sand, used by the foundry and discarded on site, is considered to be solid waste rather than hazardous material by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. As such, it can be used as fill for impervious surfaces like roads and parking lots. Any contaminants that may be present are sealed by encapsulating the sand.

Ms. Braun's petition indicated that encapsulation rather than cleaning the sand was not acceptable, but it was rejected by the commission in January.

When the conservation area is reconstituted, a system of artificial estuarian "ponds" will receive rainwater in a shallow marsh at the north end, salt water from Ash Creek in a tidal marsh at the south end and an estuarine wetland between them, restoring the acreage to pristine condition, inhabited by wildlife.

Demolition of the foundry is to begin this month; a site plan will be submitted in August; remediation will begin in the spring of 2005; and construction by the state Transportation Department and the developer are to begin in November 2005.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

December 2nd, 2005, 10:42 AM
Ive been looking around and have found nothing. Does anyone know whats started construction if anything? Somehow I dont see this working

December 2nd, 2005, 11:29 AM
It looks like the train station portion has begun. They were doing work at the site last week (I was on a Metro North to New Haven).

December 2nd, 2005, 11:35 AM
This is an ideal development spot. Always struck me how desolate it was for how weathly the area is. Now to do something about the absurdly depressing projects in Bridgeport...

December 2nd, 2005, 12:00 PM
Fairfield County is an expensive place. Public Housing is desperately needed, especially in a city like Bridgeport. Bridgeport is again growing and has a very visible rise in Mexican immigration. The city is definitely getting much better.

December 2nd, 2005, 12:18 PM
Fairfield County is an expensive place. Public Housing is desperately needed, especially in a city like Bridgeport. Bridgeport is again growing and has a very visible rise in Mexican immigration. The city is definitely getting much better.

Too true, but the projects just past the station towards Farifield (at least from the train) are the worst kind of blight that just deepens the cycle of poverty. Public housing shouldn't get like that - especially in the richest state in the country.

April 11th, 2008, 11:36 AM
Here is a StationStops story about the local politics flaring up around the Metro Center project (http://www.stationstops.com/2008/04/11/fairfield-metro-center-development-project-mired-in-embarrassingly-ugly-local-politics-video/)...

February 6th, 2012, 06:51 AM
Its a shame it took so long to build that station....and they built it so cheaply...