Much of the public debate in Fairfield recently seems to be about stopping things. We think it’s time to start something. We want to create a new neighborhood in Fairfield.
Our vision for Fairfield Metro Center is to create a new neighborhood that offers the best of all worlds; a walkable mini-urban enclave with offices, shops, restaurants, a hotel and apartments all infused with the vibrancy and energy usually found in cities, set in a beautiful coastal Connecticut suburban town.
We believe if you provide companies with cool places for people to work and combine it with appealing places for people to eat, drink, socialize, visit and live and put it all within easy walking distance of each other at a new train station it will change how people live their lives for the better. It will bring them together in new ways. It will nurture and encourage innovation and activity. It will get people out of their cars and walking and using mass transit more. We believe passionately that Fairfield Metro Center can serve as an example to the rest of the region for this type of smart growth economic development.
The first building we want to build at FMC is a 197 unit luxury apartment building. We believe doing this will provide much needed momentum and life to the overall project. It will help generate the investment capital required to construct our first office building. There’s a strong demand for rental apartments in Fairfield County, especially those that are within walking distance of a Metro North train station.
We don’t want to change the character of Fairfield. We’re not talking about changing downtown Fairfield, Greenfield Hill, Southport or most of the rest of the town. We do want to change the limited industrial area around the new train station. We do want to take what was for decades an underutilized and decaying site and create a place with offices where progressive companies want to be, apartments where young professionals and empty nesters would want to live in, a hotel where people can celebrating weddings and bar-mitzvah’s and where people can socialize, shop and dine.
We believe in acknowledging reality. People, companies and jobs have been leaving Connecticut for years. Property taxes have increased dramatically. Town expenses are rising. Area employment is flat. While the rest of the country enjoyed a booming economic expansion from 1993 through 2007, our region has been largely stagnant. In 1990, total employment in Fairfield County was approximately 409,000. In 2012, that number has shrunk to 401,000. Employment drives demand for commercial space and housing. Talented young college graduates are leaving this state in droves for places like New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Austin, Los Angeles, Tampa and San Diego. They want to live and work in vibrant and dynamic places. Connecticut hasn’t enjoyed the same economic recovery as New York. We need to do whatever we can to reposition our region to compete for talent and employment.
We have invested more than $40 Million in this project since we acquired the property in 2000. This includes paying $120,000 per year since then in property taxes to the Town. There’s seems to be a misconception that we have somehow taken advantage of the Town financially. This is completely false. With the exception of the State’s investment in the train station itself, which is up and running and for which people are receiving the benefit of, no one has invested more money into this project over the last 12 years. For the record, we haven’t made one dime of return on our investment. If that isn’t commitment to this project and this Town we don’t know what is.
There’s another misconception that the apartment building project we’re proposing will increase Town expenses and therefore raise property taxes. The opposite is true. It will generate more than $1 Million in property tax revenue to the Town net of expenses. We designed our apartment building to specifically appeal to young professionals and empty nesters. It will only offer one and two bedroom apartments with luxury finishes and amenities and rents from $2,700 to $3,500 per month.
Families with school age children typically live in single family homes (75%) or larger apartments (three or more bedrooms). Studies on this subject conducted by institutions including the Joint Center For Housing Studies at Harvard and The Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research all conclude that most one and two bedroom rental apartment units are not typically occupied by families with children and fewer families with children occupy new high end apartment projects.
We conservatively estimate that our residential building will have .10 school age children per unit or roughly 20 children. It costs $12k per year to educate each child, or $240k for an estimated 20 kids. We anticipate our apartment building alone will be assessed for property tax purposes at more than $53 Million. At the current mill rate of $23.37, this will generate $1.24 Million in property tax revenue. Subtracting the cost for estimated school children, the project will still deliver to the Town $1 million in property tax revenue per year. This number will only increase as we build future phases of the project. We anticipate the entire project will deliver in excess of $5 Million in property tax revenue each year.
An apartment presence at Fairfield Metro Center is good for the overall health and vibrancy of Fairfield. Right now, older people who want to sell their homes but remain in Town have few choices if they want to downsize to a smaller home with a more walkable lifestyle. Young people who grew up in Fairfield also don’t have many appealing options in Town for the kind of apartment living they seek.
197 apartments is good for the economic health of the Town. It means more people shopping in local stores and markets, going to the dentist and doctor, working out at gyms and going out to dinner. Some of these people may even become your friends and your neighbors.
Adding an apartment building to this project is in keeping with the best practices of Transit Oriented Development. Residential use on this site was in fact envisioned by the Town as part of the new Transit Overlay Zone (which includes Fairfield Metro Center), adopted in 2010 after an extensive study by the Regional Plan Association. The zone encourages the development of affordable and market rate housing in a walkable setting to reduce automobile use and traffic congestion.
A residential component will also help attract office tenants to the project. On-site apartments are considered an attractive amenity by office tenants who find it difficult to secure transitional employee housing and prefer to maintain apartments for visitors and traveling executives.
Fairfield Metro Center was conceived to be a model of a relatively more dense and urban style development that will create the places that young people and forward thinking companies want to be. We believe that dynamic projects like Fairfield Metro Center are the best hope for the future vitality of this region.
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