Analysis shows Fairfield a strong draw for new residents

First Selectman Mike Tetreau, left, talks with local developer Michael Schinella prior to the start of a meeting on transit-oriented development.

First Selectman Mike Tetreau, left, talks with local developer Michael Schinella prior to the start of a meeting on transit-oriented development.

Genevieve Reilly / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Like the famous “Field of Dreams” line says: “If you build it, (they) will come.”

That’s what those who braved the rain Tuesday night learned at the second transit-oriented development meeting, hosted by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission.

Ben Carlson, of GoodyClancy, the consultants hired to help TPZ and the Economic Development Commission develop the studies, said a market analysis shows if there were available rental units, about 900 people a year would consider moving to town near either the downtown or Fairfield Metro station.

Of course, Carlson said, there aren’t that many units available, and it’s not likely there is enough space to develop that many units. “This is simply how many people would like to live here, regardless of what the supply is,” he said.

The TOD study is looking at areas around the downtown and Fairfield Metro stations, with an eye toward walkability and how residents would like to see them developed. The goal is to recommend potential updates to town regulations.

Carlson said the two biggest generations right now are baby boomers and millennials. As a generation with a lot of student debt, he said millennials are not looking to buy property, particularly in towns like Fairfield, where it is difficult to amass the money needed for a down payment.

“Millennials overall are showing a trend toward renting, rather than owning,” Carlson said. Their households are usually just one or two people.

Rents in Fairfield range from a low of $781 for 500 square feet to $5,695 for over 2,300 square feet.

“It’s a very wide spectrum,” Carlson said. And almost 50 percent of new residents are coming from within Fairfield County. “Fairfield is a strong draw,” he said.

Only about 10 percent of the town’s housing is multifamily, according to Planning Director James Wendt.

“These numbers are just looking at the people who might want to move here,” Carlson said. “That demand profile is very strong.”

If the town wanted to take advantage of those potential households, he said, it would mean paying attention to transit-oriented development.

The office market in Fairfield outperforms other municipalities in the county, with a low vacancy rate.

Some attendees were concerned about the cost to town services if more people were to move to town. Carlson said the bulk of people looking for rental apartments do not have children. He said they assume developments would be similar to the Trademark, which is a mixed-use building. In some areas, he said, commercial development would be more appropriate.

At the October meeting, Carlson said, they will discuss the fiscal impact of transit-oriented development on the town.; 203-842-2585