Plans for burger bar and more detailed for former Post Office
Updated 6:06 pm, Monday, June 3, 2013
The proposal to expand the former Fairfield post office building to house a Plan B Burger Bar restaurant and four or five retail tenants encountered no opposition at a public hearing on the renovation plans for the downtown landmark conducted Tuesday by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.
William Fitzpatrick, the lawyer for the corporation that bought the 1262 Post Road building for $4.3 million in May 2012, touted Plan B Burger Bar's menu, which features "humane-raised beef," and filed with the TPZ letters in support of the restaurant and its owners from state Rep. Lawrence Cafero, the House of Representatives minority leader, and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Fitzpatrick said Cafero frequents a Plan B Burger Bar in Stamford, one of five Plan B restaurants in Connecticut, and described it as "a destination spot that attracts everyone." Segarra praised two Hartford restaurants -- Tisane Euro Asian Cafe and the Half Door -- owned by Plan B Burger Bar's owners that he said add value to the community and support local organizations.
"They've been successful," Fitzpatrick said of Plan B Burger Bar, which has restaurants in Milford, Stamford, Glastonbury, Simsbury, West Hartford and Springfield, Mass., and which plans to open restaurants in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. "I think they'll be a welcome addition to Fairfield."
Under the proposal, Plan B Burger Bar would occupy 4,600 square feet of the former post office building after it is expanded from 11,166 square feet to 15,000 square feet.
The remaining 10,400 square feet would have retail tenants that haven't been identified yet, Fitzpatrick said.
The town's Zoning Board of Appeals already approved a waiver of 14 required parking spaces for the development, he noted, and that the limited liability corporation, which identifies its principal as WCP Real Estate Fund III LP, on Danbury Road in Wilton, would lease 15 parking spaces in a parking lot by Sherman Green for restaurant employees. The restaurant also would have a 150-square-foot area for seasonal outdoor dining, he said.
Fitzpatrick said the front central façade of the post office building would be preserved, which was a requirement of the building's sale, and that a mural from 1938 bearing the phrase, "The times are changing and we are changing with them," already has been cleaned and moved to the second-floor conference room in Sullivan-Independence Hall.
"The colors are really vibrant, and you can see it close up," Jack Franzen, the development's architect, said of the Depression-era mural in its new setting. "As much as I like the portraits of the former first selectmen (that the mural displaced), this is a big improvement to that."
Franzen said the addition to the post office built in 1964 on the west side would be removed, and an addition would be built to the back of the building. The restaurant would occupy space that fronts on the Post Road, and the retail tenants would occupy space in back.
Two historic lights on the front of the building likely would be preserved as well, Franzen said. "I think we really should be saving those lights. They're gorgeous lights, and they're on either side of the door," he said.
Franzen said the proposed addition would have bricks that match the existing façade.
Michael Galante, the project's traffic consultant, wasn't able to attend Tuesday night's hearing, but Fitzpatrick presented a summary of his report and said the development wouldn't lower levels of service or significantly increase delays that motorists experience along that section of the Post Road.
He said the driveway that motorists would use to leave the development is controlled by a traffic light that also controls when motorists leave the Brick Walk shopping center on the opposite side of the Post Road.
The redevelopment of the building would be to the gold standard set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the building would be the first in downtown Fairfield to have that distinction, according to Kristy O'Hagan, a member of the Connecticut Green Building Council, who spoke on behalf of the LLC that owns property.
Fitzpatrick said the project conforms to the Town Plan of Conservation and Development, which recommends establishing new restaurants downtown to add to the business district's evening vitality, and that a mix of retail and restaurants is compatible with the character of Fairfield Center.
No one from the audience spoke in opposition to or support of the proposed development and the TPZ closed the public hearing. The TPZ, which is the only town land-use board that has to approve the development before construction can begin, has 65 days to make a decision.