Fairfield’s Stratfield neighborhood closer to becoming safer

FAIRFIELD — Plans to make the Strafield neighborhood more beautiful and safer for non-drivers took another step forward recently, after enough funding was secured and the state approved the proposal.

“We’ve reached our fundraising goals for the Four Corners Project and that’s going to break ground in the spring next year,” said Dylan O’Connor, the co-president of the Stratfield Village Association.

O’Connor said the state approved the plans last week, and the town will go out to bid within the next two months.

The Four Corners Project, named after the intersection of Fairfield Woods and Stratfield roads, began a few years ago. The goal of the project is both to beautify the area as well as make it safer for pedestrians and bikers.

“One of the biggest concerns in talking with the community is definitely around traffic safety,” O’Connor said. “I think the general feeling is that drivers in our neighborhood do not necessarily drive like they would if they were in their own neighborhood.”

The project includes larger brick sidewalks which will also increase outdoor eating space for the restaurants already there. It would add gas lamps similar to those on Post Road, and plant trees that would ideally bloom in the spring and could be decorated with lights around the holidays. Plans also call for adding sidewalks in the parking lot and better marked bike paths.

BL Companies was hired by the town to design the project.

While the town is coordinating the project, the SVA has handled the fundraising.

Jamie McCusker, the other co-president of the SVA, said the original quote for the cost of the project was between $600,000 and $1 million, and so the non-profit’s board aimed to raise the latter. Earlier this year, he had said approximately $900,000 had already been raised, largely because of a $650,000 state grant secured by the town’s state delegation.

The town itself has also contributed $100,000 toward the project, as has Sacred Heart University.

The SVA also raised money on its own through community events and fundraisers. One such program, which encouraged residents, businesses and organizations to buy an engraved brick that will be incorporated into the Four Corners design, raised more than $30,000.

As those price tags went up over time, McCusker said, they had to look for more funding sources. For that reason, he said, the SVA worked with town officials to secure $450,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, bringing the total collected to about $1.3 million.

O’Connor said the SVA has done everything its members said it would do in terms of bringing money to the table and awareness to the project.

“Now, we’re just eager to get the project started,” he said.

The Stratfield Village Association was formed around 2006 to fight a Walgreens from replacing the Stratfield Market, in an effort to preserve the small community feel.

The group successfully prevented Walgreens from moving into the building, but the market ultimately left and nothing replaced it until it was purchased by the Goddard School in 2019.

The association fell by the wayside several years later, but McCusker and O’Connor relaunched it in 2016, turning it into an official nonprofit organization. The pair surveyed the neighborhood on what residents would like to see and, while a local market was the top response, there was a large interest in making the area safer.

McCusker said the association would have liked for the project to have moved quicker, but going through the process with the Connecticut Department of Transportation — which has to approve the plans because they involve a state road — has been slow and deliberate.

“The town and the SVA and the designer of the project... we’ve all pretty much been on the same page since day one,” he said. “It’s just filtering everything through the DOT for their two cents... it’s been a very slow process.”

O’Connor said the entire project should take four to six months once it breaks ground.

While it is the organization’s flagship project, McCusker said the SVA would still have work to do even when Four Corners is completed. The SVA has also started up events including neighborhood parties, such as Lincoln Parkapalooza in September and a recent holiday party.

“We’ve done a bunch of other initiatives in the neighborhood, be it anything from our gardening committee doing landscaping, funding a ‘Welcome to Stratfield Village’ sign [or] donating money to our area schools’ PTA as well as CT United,” he said.

McCusker said the SVA recently held a neighborhood meeting in conjunction with the Fairfield Police Department in which pedestrian safety and the rise in graffiti were the main subjects.

“Besides trying to get this project over the finish line, I think it’s going to free us up to focus on so many other things in the neighborhood and initiatives in the neighborhood,” he said. “Both from a time standpoint and from a fundraising standpoint.”

O’Connor said he and McCusker function as a mouth piece for the residents of the neighborhood, and so when the Four Corners Project is near completion, the SVA will have another meeting to see what they want next.

“We want that kind of input from our community so that we know in which direction we need to send the organization,” he said.