FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Black Rock Realty managing director Kurt Wittek wants to persuade Fairfield residents to support changes in his construction plans for the Fairfield Metro Center. The developer will make his case in a public forum Tuesday night.
“Much of the public debate in Fairfield recently seems to be about stopping things,” Wittek said in a statement explaining his plans. “We think it’s time to start something. We want to create a new neighborhood in Fairfield.”
Black Rock Realty was a part of the original three-party agreement to build the Fairfield Metro train station, along with the state and town governments. The developer contributed $5.4 million to the station’s construction, in exchange for the rights to build a 1-million-square-foot retail and office complex connected to the station.
The developer’s revised plans include a residential space featuring 197 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The Plan and Zoning Commission initially approved only commercial uses for the complex.
Adding residential space at the Metro Center would help limit Connecticut’s “brain drain” by offering young professionals living space within walking distance of a Metro-North stop, Wittek says. Restaurants and shops would also be part of the complex.
“Talented young college graduates are leaving this state in droves for places like New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Austin, Los Angeles, Tampa and San Diego,” Wittek’s statement says. “They want to live and work in vibrant and dynamic places.”
Black Rock Realty has faced criticism over its handling of the Fairfield Metro Center project. The state paid out $19.4 million in construction costs to restart the project while Black Rock Realty faced foreclosure proceedings in 2010. Many in town government said Black Rock should have contributed to the cost overruns that the town paid to finish the project in 2011.
Alexis Harrison, a member of the group that sued the town over the removal of the town’s conservation director from the Metro Center project, also said changing portions of the space to residential would result in lower property tax gains for the town. Apartments “cost more in tax dollars than they bring in,” because of a “budgetary drain” on town services, she says.
“[Black Rock Realty] has benefited greatly from Fairfield’s elected town officials, taxpayer dollars, and its private land has been cleaned up and a new access road and train station built adjacent to its newly cleaned up land,” Harrison wrote in a letter to the editor. “Isn’t that enough?”
The apartments would be too small to attract large families, which use more town services, because the space is designed for young professionals and retirees, Wittek said. The complex would be worth more than $1 million in property taxes to the town each year when done, he said.
Black Rock Realty has scheduled a community forum to explain its position to Fairfield residents and officials. The event begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Quick Center for the Arts on Fairfield University’s campus.