Some hope to derail name of Fairfield Metro Center
Metro Center. Those two words, many believe, are far from representative of Fairfield, Connecticut, a town that is home to the Connecticut Audubon Society and was the first municipality in the state recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation as a "Tree City USA."
However, that is what Fairfield's third train station, set to open next year, has been called since it was first proposed as part of a large commercial development -- the rest of which is not being built -- nearly a decade ago.
That may be, but Flatto, as well as a number of town residents, want a name make-over.
Kathleen Griffin suggested in a recent letter to the editor of the Fairfield Citizen that new names for the rail depot be considered. The two names cited most often by respondents to her letter, she said during a phone interview Wednesday, are Ash Creek and Black Rock, in that order. Grasmere came in third and other suggestions include Fairbridge (a combination of Fairfield and Bridgeport) and Fairfield East. In addition, one person suggested renaming the Town of Fairfield to "Metro Center" to match the train station. Edgewood Place resident Maryann Garcia e-mailed the Fairfield Citizen on Thursday, saying that she favors Blackrock Harbor, Ash Creek or a name related to a historic individual.
Griffin said the Metro Center title sounds a bit cold, like a place with high-rise buildings and a condensed population.
The third train station, among other things, will have a walkway that spans the entire length of Ash Creek, which was previous off-limits to the public. The state, the town and Blackrock Realty all are partners in the project. Once the project is completed, the town will turn over the parking lot portion to the state and Blackrock Realty will retain about 20 acres, 10 of which comprise a conservation area that cannot be touched. The other 10 acres may be developed as an office park, as was initially planned.
Long before Griffin's letter was published, Flatto said he was lobbying the state Department of Transportation about the viability of a name change for the station complex, which will provide about 1,420 parking spaces for commuters. Flatto said that DOT Commissioner Jeff Parker said some months ago that he and Gov. M. Jodi Rell are open to revising the name.
The station represents a revitalization of the town's biggest brownfield, according to Flatto, and will ease the commuter parking backlog at the other two train stops in Fairfield.
The project has not been without controversy, particularly over removal of town Conservation Director Thomas Steinke and his staff from an oversight role after the developer threatened to sue the town over what it claimed was their "improper interference." Legal actions followed, including a lawsuit by a group of citizens to unseat Gary Weddle, who was hired as wetlands compliance officer by the Conservation Commission after Steinke was removed from his usual oversight role.
Griffin said there has been a lot of negative news associated with the Metro Center and her letter to the editor seeking name suggestions from the community was a way to try to refocus on a more positive, more appropriate name.
"I thought it would be a great way for all of the negativity to be put aside," she said. "It doesn't cost anything to talk about the name. People can have discussions over the dinner table and [at work]. It's about focusing on something positive as opposed to the negative."
A former member of the Representative Town Meeting, Griffin thought the renaming suggestion would begin to get people interested in talking about the station.
"I think naming is a very important part of marketing the town or any product, and I don't think Metro Center reflects this town," she said. "I don't think it describes the direction that we want that area of town to go in."
Those who would like to see the Metro Center name changed have about a year to lobby the DOT, since that is when the project will be complete and signs will need to be created.