The owner of the Hyundai vehicle franchise in the region has taken a major step in establishing permanent residency in Fairfield with the acquisition of a parcel on Commerce Drive.

David Cartwright, the Korean car manufacturer's dealer principal and owner of Central Auto Group in Plainfield, has bought 386 Commerce Drive from Burns Kevin Successor Trust for $1.65 million with plans to move his Hyundai Fairfield dealership to the 1.23-acre site from 2269 Post Road, where he has been leasing a facility since 2011.

Plans call for the under-utilized 18,300-square-foot building on the parcel to be razed and replaced by a Hyundai dealership constructed to the car manufacturer's specifications.

The timing for the project was right, according to Cartwright, owner of D&D Realty, which purchased the site that nearby car dealerships had used for vehicle storage.

"Given the low-interest rate environment, it made sense to acquire a property versus leasing long term. The Hyundai brand has been well received in Fairfield, and we are committed to servicing this market going forward," Cartwright said in a prepared statement, adding that he likes the idea of being located near other vehicle dealerships. "With the assistance of Angel Commercial, we found a property in an ideal location, on Fairfield's `Auto Row.' We wanted to be in close proximity to similar businesses for customer convenience. Our aim is to build our own dealership facility with the Hyundai prototype style for sales and service and expect to break ground in the not too distant future."

He was unavailable for comment Friday.

Over the past 10 years, Commerce Drive has been redeveloped and is now the home for automobile dealerships including Audi, Porsche, Infiniti and Mercedes. Other developments on the street include the recent completion of a six-story, 127,000-square-foot self-storage building, as well as a planned medical center in the former Syms retail clothing store.

Fairfield-based Angel Commercial worked with Cartwright in securing a location, and its president, Jon Angel, said his firm is representing the Post Road site and is talking with several potential dealerships that are interested in leasing the space.

He said Commerce Drive is becoming a mecca for automobile shoppers.

"The addition of another automotive dealership on Commerce Drive will strengthen the street as a destination automobile retail hub, continuing to make it attractive for additional dealerships in the future," he said.

The town has not given final approval to Cartwright's project, said Mark Barnhart, Fairfield's director of economic and community development, but he predicted that its prospects are good.

"The property has sat vacant for a number of years. This is great news for the town," he said, and an indication that the local economy is improving. "I think we've turned the corner. We're seeing people willing to invest and re-invest in Fairfield. We've seen an uptick in the last six to 12 months."

Fairfield's business climate is improving, according to Beverly Balaz, executive director of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, who said she has seen a surge in the start of small businesses, stores and restaurants. or 203 964-2236