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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Letter: Distorting the facts on Metro Center

Published 10:35 am, Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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As the developer of the Fairfield Metro Center project, I understand community opposition to new projects. I'm willing at all times to submit to the facts and let those facts guide decisions regarding the project. I'm not willing to let people who oppose this project distort the facts to suit their own agenda. I believe this is a disservice to the decision-making process and an open public discourse.

In particular, RTM member Kathryn Braun and former RTM member Alexis Harrison, longtime opponents of this project, have a history of misrepresenting and distorting the facts relating to this project to suit their agenda.

To clarify the record:

1. Our proposal to build a 197-unit apartment building on one part of the site is not an attempt to gain "accommodations and concessions" from the town or request anything that would "cost the taxpayers again" but is simply a matter of us following the normal procedures required to obtain the necessary approvals to build-out a part of the project.

2. Our proposed apartment building could by itself generate up to $1 million in net positive revenue for the town. We designed it to appeal to young professionals and empty nesters. Extensive research and empirical evidence overwhelming shows that families with school-age children do not occupy luxury one-bedroom apartments in large numbers near train stations (66 percent of our units will be one bedroom). We estimate that less than 20 school age children would reside at the project.

3. No town money has been spent "enriching developers." Blackrock Realty has invested more than $40 Million in the project without receiving one dime of return. This is not enrichment.

4. We believe a residential component at Fairfield Metro Center is good for Fairfield. It will add economic activity to the town by having more residents shop in stores, dine in restaurants and use local services. Most importantly, it will help create the vibrant sense of place and activity that we envision for the overall project and surrounding neighborhood.

Fairfield has the highest mill rate of any coastal town in Fairfield County. The actions of the so-called "concerned" citizens, has been to discourage development wherever possible to retain the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo in this case has created a town with very little commercial development, very little diversified housing stock and high and rising property taxes for its residents.

Connecticut and Fairfield are grappling with the effects of near-zero job growth, a brain and talent drain, an aging population and an economy that was heavily reliant on the financial services sector, which has undergone a radical restructuring.

The real issue we face is that if we don't do something to attract and retain companies, jobs and talented young people to Fairfield, our current system is unsustainable and will lead to further financial consequences. It's time to start something. It's time to build something in Fairfield we can be proud of and that will be good for the town.

Kurt Wittek, managing partner

Blackrock Realty Group

Fairfield