From the Chamber / 2017 was a big year for the Fairfield Economic Development Commission
As the calendar year draws to a close, it’s often customary for organizations to take stock and reflect back on the year that was. For the Fairfield Economic Development Commission, 2017 was truly a momentous and impactful year.
This spring, the commission completed work on an economic development strategy and long-range plan aimed at supporting the town’s existing business base, creating opportunities for new business investment and expanding the commercial component of the town’s taxable grand list. In the months since the plan’s adoption, the EDC has worked with staff to prioritize specific action steps to help grow the commercial grand list by capitalizing on Fairfield’s assets and strengths, while not compromising its strong sense of community and quality of life. This work continues with strong support and input from the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and broader business community.
The EDC recognizes the pivotal role that strategic investments in infrastructure oftentimes play in facilitating economic development and growth. With that in mind, the EDC was instrumental in securing a $750K grant from the state to upgrade an aged, undersized and deteriorated section of sewer main in the Commerce Drive area to resolve longstanding maintenance issues and to remove an impediment to future growth. The Water Pollution Control Authority subsequently appropriated an additional $1.75 million for the project, which is in design, with construction planned for mid-2018.
Similarly, the EDC worked with town and regional planning staff to secure $375K in grant funding for the Black Rock Turnpike Safety Study. Working with key community stakeholders, this project aims to identify strategies to improve safety for all users of this vital business corridor, with recommendations due early next year.
Several projects that enjoyed EDC support and that are central to efforts to grow the commercial grand list attained significant milestones this past year. In September, Benchmark Senior Living celebrated the public unveiling of Sturges Ridge of Fairfield, an 88-unit assisted-living residential community, one of three such facilities under construction in Fairfield. Collectively, these three projects, which will provide additional housing options, particularly for those requiring specialized care, represent a capital investment of over $55 million.
The fall also witnessed the opening of Trademark Fairfield, a new five-story mixed-use development and the first project of its kind to be built within the transit-oriented development overlay zone surrounding the Fairfield Metro Center station. The co-developers of that project have already announced plans for a phase II development to include 160 apartments, with structured parking and ground floor retail. And economic activity is not limited to the Commerce Drive area. In the downtown, construction work is well underway on a new three-story, 9,000-square-foot mixed-use building, while plans are proceeding for a 90-unit residential high rise on the former Knights of Columbus site, just steps from the Fairfield train station. In Southport, work is nearly complete on a project to renovate and expand the former Southport Athletic Club for a new Equinox Southport fitness club.
While Connecticut may be known as the land of steady habits, some communities are banding together in new and creative ways to pursue common objectives. The Fairfield EDC is working collaboratively with its counterparts in the neighboring communities of Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Westport as part of the Fairfield County Five, a first-of-its-kind regional initiative aimed at attracting new businesses to Fairfield County. The group recently conducted its first business recruitment visit last month, with plans for additional events next spring, all of which are focused on touting Fairfield County as a great place to live, work and grow a business.
As we look back on this past year, there is much to celebrate and a solid foundation on which to build for an even more prosperous 2018.
Mark Barnhart is the town’s director of Community & Economic Development, and is the treasurer of the Connecticut Economic Development Association.