The Fairfield Metro Center is finally near completion. First Selectman Kenneth Flatto and Gov. M. Jodi Rell held a joint press conference Thursday morning to announce that Black Rock Realty LLC, the developer, will complete the public infrastructure portions of the project. This part of the development encompasses the train station, its parking lot, a walking bridge over the tracks, a public access road and an improved drainage system to protect Ash Creek. They expect to finish within 15 months.
The new train station will help the state economy by making businesses more likely to come to Fairfield County, said Rell. She also hopes the station will alleviate congestion on Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway, saving fuel and reducing pollution. “It’s often been said that we cannot get people out of their cars and into the train unless we give them a good, clear, safe parking facility, and good, clean trains on which to ride,” she said. “We’re making headway with that today.”
The town, the state and the developer first reached an agreement in 2003. But Black Rock has experienced financial difficulties recently, facing foreclosure proceedings in January. About the same time, Black Rock CEO Kurt Wittek said the state Department of Transportation reassured him they wanted the project to move forward. The state government authorized $19.4 million toward the project, the town added the remaining $5 million it had set aside for the development, and Black Rock Realty will contribute $5.4 million toward the public portion.
Flatto said the number of entities involved made this a complex project which is why it’s taken so long to move forward. “Everybody worked hundreds of hours to make this a reality,” he said. “It is now a final reality…all the pieces are in place.”
The Metro Center’s most prominent feature is the town’s third train station. Black Rock Realty also plans to include about one million square feet of office space, a 181-room Hilton hotel and retail stores. Wittek said they have no major tenants lined up because they “are at the mercy of the economy right now.” He is hopeful, though, that finishing the public developments will draw businesses and he will begin looking for tenants in earnest as Black Rock finishes construction.