More Fairfield U apartments come to beach neighborhood
FAIRFIELD — A local developer is looking to transform the beach neighborhood with brand-new Fairfield University housing.
While many are excited about the boost this will bring to the area, some neighbors are wary of more students moving in.
PPG Properties, a family-owned Fairfield business, began acquiring beach area properties after 2012 Hurricane Sandy. With many houses left in damage and disrepair after the storm, the company developed a plan to demolish and rebuild the neighborhood.
With a special focus on Reef Road, the developer envisions a uniform lineup of new townhouses framing the entrance to Jennings Beach. All their houses will be essentially identical, with five bedrooms each.
The houses will all be built on elevated piers, per flood zone regulations. PPG worked with town planner Joe Bienkowski to ensure compliance with these regulations, which FEMA increased after Hurricane Sandy.
Bienkowski sees the developments as a positive for the flood zone, as new houses will bring the neighborhood up to modern zoning codes that protect against the kind of destruction caused by the 2012 hurricane.
“I think the town’s moving in the right direction for resiliency,” Bienkowski said.
These houses, said PPG President and CEO Bryan Bowser, are largely intended as rental housing for Fairfield University students. Two houses at 1033 Reef Road and 1039 Reef Road now nearing completion are already rented to students for the next two school years, and other properties being acquired on Reef Road and neighboring streets are intended for the same.
While Fairfield University guarantees undergraduate housing, students can apply to live off-campus through a lottery system. Every year, the University releases about 400 students to live off-campus, many of whom occupy the beach neighborhood.
The company has worked with the University in the past, which made the process of getting the housing approved and advertised to its students a smooth one.
Bowser said that the new developments will be a boon to both the town and neighborhood, as they’ll raise neighbors’ property values and increase the town’s tax revenue.
Some residents, however, are less than thrilled to be getting more neighbors from the University.
Charles Abercrombie, who serves as president of the Fairfield Beach Residents Association, believes the neighborhood has already reached its capacity for student housing.
“While any community benefits from a mix of rental housing and permanent resident housing, we believe at this point that we’ve reached a maximum level,” he said.
Abercrombie said student housing creates many issues for permanent residents, including noise, litter, overcrowding and parking problems. Particularly when the streets fill with students coming and going from parties, he said, residents with work and children are disturbed.
“That creates a lot of stressors on the neighborhood,” Abercrombie said. “No one objects to you having a party as long as you’re respectful to your neighbors. That, however, is not always the case.”
In response to these concerns, Bowser said that PPG Properties is committed to being a good neighbor.
“We take everything into consideration, as if my family was living here,” he said.
He noted that PPG’s developments will be free of the parking issues that Abercrombie cited, as each house will include five parking spots off the street - enough for every tenant. Bowser hopes that this will help mitigate tension with neighbors.
Moreover, Bowser said that he, too, doesn’t want his tenants throwing rowdy parties. PPG takes steps to hinder such activities, such as including strict lease clauses and monitoring the houses regularly.
“We are very detailed in our leases, which details to the tenants that there’s not going to be crazy parties,” he said. “We’ll terminate a lease if tenants are out of control.”
Bowser added that he and the residents actually want the same thing; it is in PPG’s best interest not to have their houses damaged by parties. There will always be renting in the neighborhood, he said, but PPG can work to control students’ activities.
Abercrombie said that the Fairfield Beach Residents Association has not been in touch with PPG Properties about their developments.
Fairfield Police Capt. Robert Kalamaras said the Department, residents and University administration have improved their relationships over the last few years.
Notably, the University and police began working together to control the annual Clam Jam party on Penfield Beach. With new surveillance efforts and capacity restrictions, recent parties have garnered fewer complaints than in the past.
Kalamaras said the Department also takes a proactive approach to engaging students and residents in the area, holding a meet-and-greet at the beginning of each year for residents and students to get to know the town’s rules and regulations.
Jennifer Anderson, a spokesperson for the school, emphasized Fairfield University’s commitment to maintaining a healthy relationship with the town.
“Fairfield University values the community of Fairfield and engages collaboratively in a wide range of community initiatives throughout the year,” Anderson said.
After completing its two current Reef Road student apartments, PPG will start construction on recently acquired properties at 983, 995 and 997 Reef Road. PPG plans to continue along on this same timeline, acquiring and demolishing two to three houses in the area at a time for the foreseeable future.