Town officials on board with 'Fairfield Metro' name for new railroad station
Updated 8:10 pm, Friday, March 18, 2011
It looks like the name game over what to call Fairfield's third railroad station has hit the end of the line.
The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, after months of public debate over what to call the project that, since it was first proposed a decade ago, has been called Fairfield Metro Center settled on a name to recommend for the depot: "Fairfield Metro."
The action, however, is advisory only. The final choice will be made by the state Department of Transportation, which weeks ago posted signs declaring the station off lower Black Rock Turnpike as "Fairfield Metro."
The selectmen voted -- two in favor, one abstaining -- to support the Fairfield Metro name.
First Selectmen Kenneth Flatto, who said he favors a name for the station that would include "Grasmere," the nearby Fairfield neighborhood, said he decided not to cast a vote because he wants the DOT to make the final selection. He said he fears if he voted "no" the state would see that as a sign of a "dis-consensus."
The town, with the state's blessing earlier this year, conducted an online survey on a name for the station, with the overwhelming response favoring inclusion of the name Black Rock, the name of the abutting neighborhood in Bridgeport.
Selectman James Walsh, who lobbied strongly for Fairfield Metro, said he didn't think there should be any link to Bridgeport, since the city did not participate in funding or planning the project.
Walsh said it is important that the private, commercial portion of the project be successful.
"That's the name that was given 10 years ago," Walsh said, and it is the name that has been used as the project faced debate and delays over the ensuing years. "It's the name in the agreement" he said between the town, state and private developer.
The private developer Kurt Wittek of Blackrock Realty LLC, has made it clear he will be marketing the commercial space envisioned for the property under the name, Fairfield Metro, according to Walsh. "My goal is to rent out all that space over there," he said, "and make this project a success."
Selectman Sherri Steeneck agreed. "It is more important this project gets off the ground," she said, "especially the way the economy is now." She suggested, however, that perhaps the state should formally change the name of the downtown station to Fairfield Center in order to differentiate between the two stops on Metro-North's New Haven Line.
Wittek, in an interview with the Fairfield Citizen earlier this month, reiterated that he wants to at least keep "metro" in the station's name. That name was given to the project when it was first proposed, with Wittek proposing to build a large, multi-use commercial complex incorporating the rail station.
Financial problems, however, eventually forced the private sector into foreclosure.
But Wittek said in the interview he still plans to invest millions in the project, which he said will include 800,000 square feet of retail space and a 182-room hotel, slated to be a Hilton.
The Fairfield Metro name, he said, would make for "compatibility between my project and the station, a co-brand if you will."
That name, Wittek said, "ties the project to the station. To call it anything else takes away from that link."