WinnDevelopment Chosen For Fairfield Hills Mixed-Use Conversions
One of the two firms featured in a Newtown Bee webcast last October ahead of a referendum in which voters endorsed the mixed-use development of up to two former state hospital buildings at Fairfield Hills has successfully completed a months-long vetting process in its bid to undertake that work.
According to a release from the Office of Community and Economic Development, Newtown will continue discussions with WinnDevelopment about the potential mixed-use redevelopment of two key buildings on the Fairfield Hills campus.
This gives the award-winning, Boston-based residential developer the green light to complete its due diligence before presenting a formal proposal for the adaptive reuse of Kent House and Shelton House.
“WinnDevelopment proved to be the strongest candidate in terms of experience in similar adaptive reuse projects in Connecticut,” said Christal Preszler, deputy director of Economic and Community Development. “The step of agreeing to begin working together toward a mixed-use project is an important one.”
Preszler said the large original buildings on the campus are what give the property its character.
“The historic nature and design make Fairfield Hills, and Newtown, unique,” she said. “The goal of being able to reuse some of the largest buildings on the campus will hopefully allow many more generations to enjoy the grand structures when they visit the campus for sports, business, and family activities.”
The focus of the project will be Kent House, a 200,000+-square-foot structure built in 1940, and Shelton House, an approximately 90,000-square-foot building erected in 1933. Kent House is opposite the municipal center, while Shelton House is near the campus entrance.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to continue our conversations with the town about the future of these two magnificent buildings,” said Larry Curtis, president and managing partner of WinnDevelopment, and one of two company representatives who participated in the webcast, available on the newspaper’s YouTube channel. “Our goal is to preserve and transform Kent House and Shelton House in ways that advance the community’s vision for the future of this critically important property.”
The town issued a request for proposal for mixed-use development in March 2021 following an extensive, multi-year master planning process for the 185-acre site, which the town purchased from the state of Connecticut in 2004.
The property has numerous municipal, commercial, and cultural uses and has become a central gathering place where residents and visitors work, play organized sports, hike, and participate in a variety of increasingly popular community events.
Winn plans to engage the community in a process to share the proposed plan for development and elicit community feedback in the redevelopment scheme. In addition, Winn will work with the town to craft an outreach strategy that engages various stakeholders throughout the community to bring this vision to reality.
That outreach work will be among the first and highest priorities for launch, according to First Selectman Dan Rosenthal. The first selectman was quick to note that the referendum passage of an authorization to consider mixed use development passed on last November’s ballot 9,401 to 7,311.
“I’m still mindful of the margin of approval,” Rosenthal said, pointing out the ballot question, which read: “”Should the Town of Newtown consider commercial proposals at the Fairfield Hills campus that include a housing component, provided that a housing component would be limited to no more than two of the existing buildings, and that the renovation is consistent with the architectural vision for the property?”
The first selectman said he believes that Winn, now that it has been chosen as the likely developer, is anxious to begin community outreach and engagement activities. Rosenthal also expressed confidence in the Massachusetts based company, pointing out that it has a “large inventory of similar projects completed, and projects that they are managing.”
“I think WinnDevelopment has the skills, credibility, and knowhow to complete this project,” Rosenthal said. “Ideally, we hope to see the next step, which will be the community engagement piece start happening sometime in the fall.”
WinnDevelopment, the development arm of WinnCompanies, is the nation’s leading developer of historic and iconic buildings for residential uses, earning more awards for the sensitive renovation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings than any other company in the field.
The company completed its most recent adaptive reuse project in Connecticut in 2020, when it transformed the former East Haven High School building into mixed-income housing — an effort that earned multiple national awards for development, environmental sustainability, and community impact.
Watch the webcast on this topic that preceded the referendum:
Editor John Voket can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.