Listen And Learn: Seeking Fairfield Hill’s Future
It has been 15 years since the official purchase of the Fairfield Hills campus from the State of Connecticut for $3.9 million, and it has been 15 long years of surveys and tweaking a Master Plan to determine the best use for the sprawling acreage and its many architecturally beautiful — but deteriorating — buildings.
While it is still a painful crawl toward an indeterminate finish line, we cannot overlook the improvements that have occurred since 2004, when selectmen cautioned that without an actionable plan for already compromised buildings, the campus would not be a “pretty sight in five to ten years.”
The NYA facility has been an attractive addition to the core of the campus, as has the new building housing the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Both were designed in keeping with the architectural style of the original Fairfield Hills Hospital facilities. The renovation of Bridgeport Hall into our Newtown Municipal Center was a successful reuse of the 1930s structure. The guard house near the Wassermann Way/Trades Lane entrance has been repurposed as the Center for Wellness and the Social Services offices. The Newtown Parent Connection has found a new home in a redeveloped building on Washington Square. The owners of the soon-to-open Newsylum Brewery realized the value in restoration of Stratford Hall. And most recently, townspeople celebrated the opening of the Newtown Community Center and Senior Center on Simpson Street, a long-awaited space for recreation and gathering for residents of all ages.
Volunteers tend a community garden on the property, and winding past it from Mile Hill South Road to Keating Farms Avenue is the fruit trail, another volunteer project that connects to other walking trails encircling the campus. The open spaces of the High Meadow and East Meadow have been maintained, inviting visitors to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the cluster of buildings old and new.
What remains a conundrum, committee after committee, survey after survey, is the focus for the remaining pieces of this parcel. Development is a necessity, but attracting developers while respecting the expressed wishes of residents is difficult.
How can dreams meet reality in continuing the revitalization of Fairfield Hills? In the swirl of 15 years-plus of proposals and an ever-evolving Master Plan, who is clear on what is rumor and what is not?
The Town of Newtown will offer clarification in the coming weeks, beginning with this Monday, September 23, when First Selectman invites the public to the first in a series of sessions concerning Fairfield Hills, in the Newtown High School auditorium, from 7 to 8:15 pm. (See related story on page A9 of this issue.) The office of the First Selectman has solicited questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to First Selectman’s Office, 3 Primrose Street, Newtown CT 06470, with hopes of addressing all questions by the end of the series. This first program will focus on the history of Fairfield Hills from 2004 to present day.
Here is an educational opportunity. Without understanding its history, without understanding the costs, it is not possible to successfully pursue the future of Fairfield Hills.