More than six years after the Stratfield Market shut its doors, it may reopen again -- this time, however, as a day care center.
Ken and Pat Johnson, owners of Child's World Academy, have been quietly meeting with neighbors, hoping to get support and defuse potential opposition before submitting an application to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission for a special exception permit.
"I'd love to have our old grocery store back, but that's not going to happen," said Josh Garskof, who represents the Stratfield area on the Representative Town Meeting from District 5.
"This is the applicant we have. ... Overall, they look like they will be good neighbors, and probably serve the children in the neighborhood, and I would welcome that."
Since the market at 1280 Stratfield Road closed in 2006, neighbors battled retail pharmacy giant Walgreens both on the local level and in the state's highest courts.
Pickets, boycotts and petitions were used by the Stratfield Village Association to keep the chain store out of its neighborhood.
The building has sat empty since the IGA maket lost its lease, often prompting complaints about deterioration and blight to town officials.
"Right now, it's an eyesore," said state Rep. Kim Fawcett, who said she is pleased about the potential investment by the child care center into Stratfield.
Both Fawcett and Garskof were at a meeting with the Johnsons and their lawyer John Fallon, and agreed that most questions voiced by the small group of neighbors centered on traffic.
"The owner did a good job of trying to explain that this isn't like a school, where everyone is getting dropped off at the same time," Fawcett said. "People come and go throughout the day. I think that helped."
She said the reaction from that group of neighbors, estimated at about 20 to 30 people, was mixed.
"It's a very well-thought-out plan," Fawcett said. "A lot of research and development went into this."
Garskof said the building would be completely renovated, inside and out, but would not be expanded.
Fallon, who represented Walgreens in its fight to open a pharmacy at the former grocery store, said the child care center would sublease the building from the retailer.
Walgreens had entered into a 20-year lease with the Samuel Lotstein Realty Co. in Stamford, the property owner, in 2006.
"We've been having very constructive meetings with the neighbors and we want to make sure they move forward and conclude favorably toward us," Fallon told the Fairfield Citizen on Thursday. He said they hope to file the zoning application by the end of the month.
The Johnsons own three other Child's Word Academy facilities in Monroe, Trumbull and Peekskill, N.Y. The husband-and-wife team opened their first center in 1994.
They did not return calls for comment by deadline.
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