Upgrade for Fairfield Inn planned by new owners

Photo of Hugh Bailey

The Fairfield Inn is due for an upgrade.

The 80-unit hotel at 417 Post Road changed hands last November in a deal arranged by Colliers International, a real estate agency based in Stamford. The property also includes the Circle Diner, which will not be changing.

The property was sold for $7.1 million to 441 Post Road LLC. Listed as the member of that LLC is FH Hotel Enterprises, LLC, and its managers are Clayton H. Fowler and Edward Gormbley.

The new owners plan a major investment in the hotel, looking to turn it into a top lodging option, said Louis Zuckerman, senior managing director with Colliers.

"They've hired really great designers, and are looking to put extensive capital into the property to reposition it as a higher-end hotel," he said.

The property's location is its top asset, Zuckerman said. "There's a sidewalk that goes directly to the water," he said, with Jennings Beach less than a mile away.

Local colleges also present an opportunity.

"Fairfield has two universities in town, and with sports teams and families and people visiting, there are people constantly coming and going," he said. "Right now, people won't stay at the Fairfield Inn. They have their requirements, and it didn't meet those requirements."

Fairfield's lack of competition in the hotel market will help, Zuckerman said. The Hi-Ho Motel on Black Rock Turnpike and Best Western on King's Highway Cutoff aren't at the level the new owners have in mind for the Fairfield Inn, he said, and the Delamar in Southport is more expensive.

"It could go up significantly in its average daily rate and the Fairfield Inn would still be way below that," he said.

There were a number of alternative uses discussed for the property, including assisted living or apartments. The prospect of a drawn-out zoning change led to the decision to keep the property as a hotel.

"There were offers for assisted living, maybe apartments or affordable housing, but that would mean a longer zoning process," Zuckerman said. "Things are never simple, and in that location someone might have come up to fight it."

The hotel is just off the traffic circle where the Post Road meets King's Highway, not far from Exit 22 off Interstate 95. It is in walking distance to other businesses and restaurants.

The Circle Diner, something of a local institution, will be sticking around. The restaurant, in a 6,800-square-foot building, has what's called a triple-net lease, an agreement that designates a tenant can control the property they are leasing. In exchange, the tenant will get a break on the rent, and will then be responsible for insurance, tax and maintenance on the property.

Mark Barnhart, director of Fairfield's Office of Community and Economic Development, said the diner is a local institution.

"There are only a few diners left, and this is certainly a central meeting spot for a lot of people," he said.

The hotel's location makes it a sound investment, he said. "It's been on the market, and there was some prior interest looking at it as assisted living, but that fell through," he said. "We've seen a lot of investment interest in town, and it's picked up quite a bit in the last year or so."