An owner of the Nauti Dolphin hopes to expand his business in the Fairfield Railroad Station's eastbound terminal beginning this fall if he and the town's Parking Authority come to an agreement on a new lease.
"If things work out, we're hoping to get something going in the next 30 days," Greg Roberts said Saturday. "We're going to acquire an additional 440 square feet of space and we're talking about adding 20 seats." The 15-year-old pizzeria now occupies 554 square feet at the downtown depot.
Roberts said Nauti Dolphin would make improvements to the eastbound terminal, such as power washing bricks and landscaping, as part of its expansion. "We just want to keep it vibrant and nice and clean," he said. "The building deserves a nice fresh look and some good vibes coming out of it."
"For a lot of people, it's going to be the first and last place they visit" in Fairfield, Roberts said of the train station.
Nauti Dolphin currently pays rent of $1,200 a month, not including a payback on construction work to the building in 2004 that the Parking Authority paid for, according to Cindy Placko, the authority's director. Nauti Dolphin has another year and one-half on its lease, plus a 10-year renewal option. The pizzeria would like 10 years added onto that so the lease would expire in 2034, according to Parking Authority member Trudi Durrell.
The authority on Thursday night came to a consensus on terms of a new lease that called for Nauti Dolphin to pay $1,000 a month plus the construction payback in year one, $1,500 a month plus the payback in year two and then a 2 percent increase in year three or fair market value, whichever is greater, with that same rate for years four and five. Another 2 percent increase would take effect in year six and that amount would remain for years seven through 10. Over the next 10 years, the 2 percent increase would apply in the same years as the first 10.
Fair market value on the expanded space totaling nearly 1,000 square feet was $3,000 a month, according to an appraisal that the Parking Authority had done.
The authority, however, did not formally vote on those lease terms, and Roberts and Scott Hartley, another owner of Nauti Dolphin, have yet to officially receive word of the proposed terms.
Roberts said he expects to discuss the proposed terms with town officials soon.
"I'm glad they were able to come up with something. Next week, we'll talk to them and hopefully get everything worked out," he said. "We hope whatever agreement we do come up with the Parking Authority that it doesn't bog down in the state." The authority previously endorsed the expansion of Nauti Dolphin, but the state Department of Transportation, which owns the building and leases it to the authority, wanted an appraisal done on the expanded space and a new lease with the pizzeria before it would act on the expansion plan.
Meanwhile, the authority also discussed the owners' request for a lower rent for the coffee shop, Chat N Chat, on the westbound side of the Fairfield Railroad Station, based on what the owners say has been fewer customers after the new Fairfield Metro train station opened in December across town.
The authority decided to keep Chat N Chew's rent the same until December, when it plans to request financial statements from Barbara Stern, Chat N Chew's owner, for the authority's December meeting. The authority on May 31 had lowered the rate to $480 a month, not including a construction payback.
An appraisal done on Chat N Chew's space called for a base rent of $1,600 a month, which is lower than the $2,000 monthly the coffee house had been paying before the rent was lowered. Chat N Chew, like Nauti Dolphin, also is paying back the Parking Authority for improvements done to the railroad station building it occupies.
Nevertheless, Durrell said she was "floored" that the appraisal for Chat N Chew's space was that high, saying if the authority charged fair market value, Chat N Chew, which isn't open nearly as many hours as Nauti Dolphin, would be paying more rent than Nauti Dolphin for a smaller space.