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Officials Look For Development At FFH In 2013

Published: November 23, 2012

KENDRA BOBOWICK

    Officials Look For Development At FFH In 2013

    By Kendra Bobowick

    The coming year may be luckier for Fairfield Hills economic development plans, officials hope.

    Director of Planning and Community Development Elizabeth Stocker said Monday, “We are seeing some encouraging signs out there – more activity, whether that’s tire kickers or actual projects remains to be seen,” she said. “Indicators are there.”

    One party has expressed an interest in converting Stratford Hall  – an open, high-ceiling space with smaller adjoining side rooms – into a restaurant. The building has also been on the receiving end of a past Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, which paid for remediation work inside the hall.

    Ms Stocker is scheduling a walk-through with the unnamed party after Thanksgiving.

    Could a restaurant work? “We have anchors on campus now with the Newtown Youth Academy and Newtown Municipal Center and the seasonal [sports] field use, so a restaurant would do well,” she said. The dining, along with commercial uses, “would be desirable.”

    While the interest in Stratford “seems genuine,” Ms Stocker said, “we are at the very preliminary stages.” She also indicated that the inquiry was local.

    With a new approach to marketing the campus on the table in past months, Ms Stocker, well aware that the past ten years have produced little commercial interest in the empty viable buildings, said, “The whole premise here is to entice and incentivize development.”

    She added, “We keep proceeding and keep reinventing things as we go … we hope to position ourselves for an investment to come our way.”

    The latest marketing plan is to offer the property at $1 lease for first 30 years, with the costs for remediation and demolition resting on the developer’s shoulders. The lease would be renegotiated after the first 30 years.

    “We have been communicating our concept to the [Boards of Selectmen and Finance] because we want to offer the campus for development in a format that everyone is on board with,” Ms Stocker explained. She is “very encouraged” by the two boards’ recent feedback. The proposal will go before the Legislative Council in December “and then we will hammer out final details,” she said.

    Seeking feedback, she said, “We are walking concept through now.” The most recent $1 lease plan will be drafted into a request for proposal (RFP). “It’s our way to present terms [to developers] for the campus.” Addressing concerns expressed at a recent Fairfield  Hills Authority meeting, she said, “[The RFP] does not mean that anyone will be selected if they are not appropriate for campus. All submissions will need to comply with zoning and the master plan.”

    A Planning and Zoning Document, a master plan for reuse exists for Fairfield Hills.

    Other efforts have seen a focus on the real estate community. “It’s often the brokers who are working directly with the end users; that’s why we targeted them for print advertising,” she said.

    The Economic Development Commission has been advertising the campus in various periodicals that circulate throughout the New York and New England areas.

    Ms Stocker and other town economic development proponents will attend “various events that provide opportunities to network in the region that would reach outward from Newtown into New Haven County, the Danbury region and Fairfield County,” Ms Stocker said.

    View a current developer’s package at FairfieldHills.org.