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A Search For Building Occupants-FFA Authority Weighs Marketing Strategy



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A Search For Building Occupants—

FFA Authority Weighs Marketing Strategy

By Kendra Bobowick

Before an executive session locked doors on discussions Monday, Fairfield Hills Authority members publicly speculated about the former state hospital grounds’ appeal to would-be developers and tenants.

Specifically, the members are in preliminary discussions about how a Request for Proposal (RFP) document, “could look,” said authority member Amy Dent, who led discussions.

Walter Motyka explained proposals eventually “go to firms who look for land for other people,” he said. “To find a perfect fit is almost impossible but we’ll find a developer who’ll sell it to their customers.”

Ms Dent later explained, “We’re trying to do this as efficiently as possible and spend as little of the taxpayers’ money as possible.”

Already some soil remediation work has taken place around some buildings on campus. Additionally are the architect’s assessments of damage done to certain structures. For example, although Shelton Hall was initially eyed as an ideal location for a new town hall, past month’s assessments concluded that repairs would be extensive. Bridgeport Hall is now the likely home of a new town hall.

In light of the RFP documentation, still a long way from final drafts, Ms Dent explained, “We don’t want to start spending a lot of money repairing or abating if someone else comes in,” she said.

A future tenant may demolish a building, for example.

Current efforts are meant to “stabilize structures,” where bricks may be falling from damaged buildings, she said.

Ms Dent wants to fine-tune an eventual proposal. She posed the question, “How will we market the RFP? We need to work on that.”

Mr Motyka picked up Monday’s conversation and explained how the process works.

“If I had a client — a developer looking to put up a facility in a nice community — I identify the need and someone with an interest,” he said. “If they’re looking for land, those are the kind of people you want to reach, people looking for places to put business.”

Fairfield Hills campus presents some complications, as Mr Motyka described. “There are so many buildings, spaces, and sizes,” he said. “It will be very hard to find someone that says, ‘That’s perfect for our operation.’”

He mentioned approaching a broker as one scenario.

“An RFP would go to a broker with a lot of clients, he is the matchmaker,” said Mr Motyka.

The RFP process is not without potential drawbacks, however. Mr Motyka said the process is “hit or miss.” Essentially the authority wants to catch the attention of those interested in occupying the buildings and available land not marked for municipal or town use.

Chairman Robert Geckle noted that “a developer can see [the RFP] and can respond to all or part,” of the proposal. He also noted that the authority could then consider accepting responses for part of the property mentioned.

“There are a lot of possibilities here,” he said. “Let’s focus on the near-term on the buildings we think we can do something with. I want to talk about near-term. I think there are phases and priorities,” he said. Noting certain buildings, Mr Geckle suggested, “Let’s see if we can get some interest in that and move from there.”

The Possibilities

The authority can only work toward redevelopment per the plan’s outline.

Again mentioning that the key is finding “a fit,” Mr Motyka said, “The [master] plan already establishes what we want to do.”

Monday saw authority members looking over paperwork for Fairfield Hills, specifically a revised plan summary dated December 27, 2004.

This document states under future use that certain buildings “are envisioned as buildings to meet community needs including the Senior Center, cultural programs, recreation programs and special community events or assemblies of people such as the Friends of the Library Book Sale.”

Further, the document states, “Depending on the success of reuse of the buildings listed below, there may be the opportunity for in-fill of new buildings within the core area of campus…this would not mean a more intensive development. It is an approach that…may involve some new construction rather than reuse of existing buildings.”

Listed in the document are the different Fairfield Hills halls and houses with preferred reuses (per the 2004 document) including demolition, private use, office, educational space, retail, museum, assembly, and community.

Another document circulated to authority members, “Amendment to the Zoning Regulations” pertaining to Fairfield Hills Adaptive Reuse, adopted in January of 2005, lists the following amendments:

“The Fairfield Hills site possesses unique circumstances that shall require multiple steps and approvals for the reuse of the campus…”

The Master Plan for Fairfield Hills, dated in January 2005, was also distributed in part Monday night.

This paperwork explains permitted uses as including office space, medical or dental offices, restaurant including takeout but excluding drive-through, outdoors sports fields, town offices and programs.

The document also lists “not preferred” spaces, including assisted living, laundry service, light manufacturing, wholesale businesses, bulk storage and warehousing, and more.

Ms Dent explained the authority’s positions saying, “The land is controlled by regulations, but we are controlled by the master plan.”

She also mentioned land use, explaining conversations she has had in past weeks with Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Kasbarian.

Members feel that a final draft will not occur immediately, and that the public can anticipate a wait of at least one year.

Members adjourned to executive session to discuss information having to do with structuring how the RFP will describe a leasing proposal.

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