A local development firm wants to construct an approximately 30,000-square-foot mixed-use building at the current site of Woodbury Hall at Fairfield Hills, which would include a combination of retail uses, office space, and rental apartments.
The concept for such a project surfaced in an August 3 e-mail submitted to an electronic mailing list by Advantage Commercial Realty, which was promoting the concept for developer Claris Construction Inc of Newtown.
The mailing, however, overstated the status of the project, claiming that the developer has an application pending for the project before the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which it does not.
Mike Struna, the Advantage Commercial Realty owner/broker who sent the e-mail, said August 7, “It was truly a mistake on my part” in terms of some erroneous information in the e-mail.
A key component of such a project would be rental apartment space, which the current zoning regulations do not allow at Fairfield Hills.
The town Economic Development Commission (EDC) recently recommended to the P&Z that the zoning regulations be modified to allow such rental housing at Fairfield Hills.
George Benson, town director of planning and land use, said this week, he expects the P&Z would hold a public hearing sometime before the end of this year on the EDC’s regulatory proposal.
Allowing housing at the town-owned Fairfield Hills core campus has been a controversial proposal in the past, with the concept drawing stiff opposition from opponents.
In 2004, the town paid the state $3.9 million for the 185-acre core campus, plus many buildings, at the facility which formerly was a psychiatric hospital that had housed several thousand patients at its height.
In June 2012, Claris dropped plans for a 30,000-square-foot retail/office redevelopment project at the site of Woodbury Hall, not having been able to come to terms on the project with town officials.
Private redevelopment projects at Fairfield Hills need to receive approvals from the Fairfield Hills Authority, the Board of Selectmen, and the Planning and Zoning Commission, other others.
Philip Clark, Claris president, said August 6 said that there is no application pending before the P&Z for a mixed-use project, noting that that the newsletter overstated the matter. The e-mail misstated the facts and had not been approved by Claris before it was sent out, Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark said that if the zoning regulations should change and rental apartments are allowed at Fairfield Hills, Claris would pursue such a mixed-use project. Such apartments would have one bedroom or two bedrooms, he said.
Claris would have its offices in about 7,500 square feet of space in the office section of a such a mixed-use project, he said.
Mr Clark said he expects that the proposed mixed-use building would be a good place for a child day care center.
It is less likely that Claris would pursue a mixed-use project without a residential component being allowed by the town, he said.
In the current commercial lending atmosphere, lending institutions want assurances that a given property will generate income, so they seek to have a residential component in such development, Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark noted there currently there is an abundance of office space in the region.