Fairfield Metro Developer: 'It's Time to Build Something We Can Be Proud Of'

Fairfield Metro Center Project Developer Kurt Wittek defends proposal for a 197-unit apartment building on one part of the Metro Center site.

As the developer of the Fairfield Metro Center project, I understand community opposition to new projects. I’m willing at all times to submit to the facts, and let those facts guide decisions regarding the project. I’m not willing to let people who oppose this project distort the facts to suit their own agenda. I believe this is a disservice to the decision-making process and an open public discourse.

To clarify the record:

1. Our proposal to build a 197-unit apartment building on one part of the site is not an attempt to gain “accommodations and concessions” from the Town or request anything that would “cost the taxpayers again” but is simply a matter of us following the normal procedures required to obtain the necessary approvals to build-out a part of the project.

2. Our proposed apartment building could by itself generate up to $1 million in net positive revenue for the Town. We designed it to appeal to young professionals and empty nesters. Extensive research and empirical evidence overwhelming shows that families with school age children do not occupy luxury one-bedroom apartments in large numbers near train stations (66% of our units will be one bedroom). We estimate that less than 20 school age children would reside at the project.

3. No town money has been spent “enriching developers.” Blackrock Realty has invested more than $40 million in the project without receiving one dime of return. This is not enrichment.

4. We believe a residential component at Fairfield Metro Center is good for Fairfield. It will add economic activity to the Town by having more residents shop in stores, dine in restaurants and use local services. Most importantly, it will help create the vibrant sense of place and activity that we envision for the overall project and surrounding neighborhood.

Fairfield has the highest mill rate of any coastal town in the county. The actions of the so-called “concerned” citizens, has been to discourage development wherever possible to retain the status quo. Unfortunately, the status quo in this case has created a town with very little commercial development, very little diversified housing stock and high and rising property taxes for its residents.

Connecticut and Fairfield are grappling with the effects of near zero job growth, a brain and talent drain, an aging population and an economy that was heavily reliant on the financial services sector, which has undergone a radical restructuring. The real issue we face is that if we don’t do something to attract and retain companies, jobs and talented young people to Fairfield our current system is unsustainable and will lead to further financial consequences. It’s time to start something. It’s time to build something in Fairfield we can be proud of and that will be good for the Town.


Kurt Wittek

Fairfield Old Timer January 22, 2013 at 04:36 PM
mark January 22, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Look pete rose belongs in the hall a fame
Osborn Hiller January 22, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Fairfield county office space vacancy rates are already high, so I think the likelihood of getting any kind of office buildings at Metro Center are low in the foreseeable future. I think a residential building is better than a patch of dirt. What % of residents in Stone Ridge have school age children? May be a guide.
Restaurant Snob January 22, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I think the same people arguing against the proposal are the same people who argued against Walgreens going into the Stratfield Market space. Those people think they won that battle but look at how nice Stratfield Market looks now. A total eye sore which will be as it is for years to come! "An aging population" as noted in the article above is exactly what we have here in Fairfield.
R. Ludlowe January 22, 2013 at 06:50 PM
We should build a new school on the property
Patchy January 22, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Looks like Mr. Wittek is doing quite fine...maybe he can build something he can be proud of in Hayward, CA. How's everyone else's taxes? http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Joe-Montana-s-new-teammate-has-a-history-3294391.php
Patchy January 23, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Kurt Wittek has no right to tell us how our town should look or feel...he doesn't live here and has actually done quite well by changing the game and manipulating OUR elected leaders...everyone see the pictures of him in the paper with legislatures Brenda Kupchick and Kim Fawcett looking all smily with him and goo-goo eyed? Mr. Wittek should explain $40 million dollars since the State and the Town (that's you and me folks) constructed the road, commuter lot, station, drainage system, wetlands mitigation, remdiation, etc. What exactly has he done? NOTHING. and StoneRidge across the street that was designed for empty nesters and young professionals is half empty and most of the owners there have lost money on their condos.
Patchy January 23, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Wittek's track record of 'minor modifcations' http://www.ebcitizen.com/2011/03/minor-modificatios-made-to-south.html 'Minor' Modifications Made To South Hayward BART Project Friday, March 11, 2011 Steven Tavares 16 comments HOUSING UNITS WOULD DROP FROM 788 TO 346; NO RETAIL By Steven Tavares
Osborn Hiller January 23, 2013 at 01:39 AM
I understand that many here are leery of Wittek/Blackrock Realty's intentions. But I think the choice is going to be either some form of residential or nothing. More office buildings just don't make sense for Fairfield county right now. Steelpointe in Bridgeport and 95/7 in Norwalk are finding this out too. Let's look at the proposal on it's merits, and make a decision based on what is the best course going forward.
brian kelly January 23, 2013 at 01:47 AM
it sounds to me like he wants to build projects in the town of fairfield! the line between fairfield and bridgeport are becoming more and more blurred...
John Jameson January 23, 2013 at 04:51 AM
I believe he's talking about rents upwards of $2,000--that ain't the projects, my friend.
Steve Curtin January 24, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Faith, why do you keep insisting that renters at this apartment building, that will have mostly one bedroom apartments, would have otherwise rented single family homes in town and thus will "destabilize" the rental market? This makes no sense whatsoever. People who look to rent 4 bedroom homes don't magically decide to cram 5 or more family member into a one bedroom apartment if one becomes available. You answer your own question about young professionals. If they double or triple up to afford apartments in Stamford or NYC they'll do it Fairfield. They may work for GE, Sikorsky, one of the universities or elsewhere in the area. Why shouldn't they have an option for local rental housing besides renting your 4 bedroom house and having to find 4 or more roommates. You didn't agree to anything 10 years ago. You fought it for 7 years, just in time for the Great Recession when nothing got built. If you had supported it in 2003 something would have been built before then because financing was available.
Faith January 24, 2013 at 01:08 PM
A good majority of rental houses in Fairfield are 2-3 bedroom capes and ranches. The 4-5 bedroom large homes for the most part are not purchased as investment income. There are very few on the market. The competition that Black Rock Realty would be displacing would be those in 2-3 bedroom capes that may prefer a 2-3 bedroom apartment with pool, fitness center, theater room for the same rent. Additionally there is no upkeep with apartment living. So please don't try to muddy the waters by saying the apartments would draw a totally different demographic. If not the same, again who is coming to Fairfield without any new office space? No unless a new commercial base decides to plant itself in Fairfield it's basically a game of musical chairs (or musical rental properties).
Faith January 24, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Oh by the way Steve Curtin, please don't accuse me of fighting anything for the past 7 years. I was on the RTM in the early 2000's when this was originally presented as only a commercial property. I voted yes for it then and in the past years have not been a member of the group that fought against the illegal acts that cost the town so much money and took the director of Conservation off the project. The courts have made their judgement, so live with it. Those who fought won. I cannot take credit for being one of them, so don't throw your accusations around.
Beth Conte Swan January 24, 2013 at 01:41 PM
I'm glad someone mentioned that. Thank you!! As a daily commuter from that station, I'm baffled that someone hasn't opened a Starbucks there. There's no place to get coffee!! At a train station? Really? And just for the record - luxury apartments is the last thing Fairfield needs (coupled with pizza parlors, jewelry stores, and banks). A nice day-care facility would be great there. Some restaurants. A fitness place with a pool. Use some imagination. This space could be great. I hope they don't muck it up with apartments. We don't need them.
Amy Mezoff January 24, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Mr. Curtin you are neglecting a GLARINGLY obvious fact. The entire premise of Mr. Wittek's ‘new deal’ is that the economy tanked and he could not get national commercial chains to buy in - not even one anchor store. If it were the fault of the economy, why is it that right across the street from the BRR train station space with Whole Foods, Chase Bank, CVS, PetCo, Sleep Number, Five Guys and Chipotle - all of which was built, leased and then the property SOLD for $55 million during the time period BRR was unwilling or unable to clean up their own property or find ONE anchor?
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Mr. Teller, apparently you’re unaware of an important fact, as are many people in town, which is that Blackrock is expressly prohibited from having so-called anchor or big-box retail tenants at the site per the zoning regulations. The town put this in the 3 party agreement. As I'm sure you know, you don't get Five Guys and CVS as tenants without first having a large anchor tenant such as Whole Foods. Below is the actual language from the code, it is on the town’s website. 21.16.4 Prohibited Uses Reference is hereby made to Section 2.4 of the Zoning Regulations for the general principal applicable to prohibited uses. Notwithstanding said provisions, the following uses are explicitly prohibited in a Transportation/Commercial Park: Single occupant retail stores exceeding 30,000 sq. ft. of interior floor space where goods are sold primarily at retail.
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 05:11 AM
By the way Faith Dillon, 2-3 bedroom cape and ranch homes aren’t in any way comparable to or competitive with one bedroom apartments. This assertion is disconnected from reality. Your other assertion that there will be 40, 50 or 100 new school age children at the proposed apartment building is without any factual basis. There have been a number of studies on this very subject conducted by leading academic and other institutions including the Joint Center For Housing Studies at Harvard, The Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research, the Connecticut Department of Community and Economic Development and private research firms that ALL document the fact that one and two bedroom multifamily rental apartment units are not occupied by families with children in significant numbers and that these figures are even lower for newly constructed more expensive apartment projects and are even further lowered when near train stations. Below are links to some of the research. Where’s your research or your market study? http://www.ct.gov/ecd/lib/ecd/connecticut_esp-final.pdf http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/jchs.harvard.edu/files/rr07-14_obrinsky_stein.pdf http://www.njmeadowlands.gov/eg/housing/docs/Who%20Lives%20in%20NJ%20Housing.pdf
Faith January 25, 2013 at 01:52 PM
According to zoning, Black Rock Realty is also prohibited from having residential apartment buildings, but that hasn't stopped him from his marketing campaign to the people followed by going to appeal to zoning to change the zone. If we could go back in time and question that RTM, BOF on which would they prefer, I am sure it would be to allow for big box stores and retail. We were very clear that residential was absolutely not under consideration.
Faith January 25, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Again Steve, less than 30% of Black Rock Realty's apartments are 1 bedroom. Originally he said months ago that it was to be 2 and 3 bedroom apartments. Now he says only 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. Somehow I don't know which to believe. Either way capes are 1200-1500 square feet. I'm sure his 2 bedroom apartments are comparable.
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM
We're interested in moving forward not "going back in time." We're not proposing "changing the zone". The zone is still a Transportation/Commercial Park zone. We're proposing modifying the use on the smallest development parcel on the site to allow residential because it would enhance the overall project's vitality, help induce commercial development and because the market for this type of product is strong. If you took the time to actually read the zoning ordinance you would know that residential is not a prohibited use in this zone. It is in fact an envisioned and encouraged use in the overlay amendment to the zone approved by TPZ in 2011.
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 02:30 PM
Faith, 66% of the units are one bedroom. You were at the meeting at Fairfield U where Kurt presented this. We posted the presentation online for anyone who wasn't there to see it - http://tinyurl.com/bkc48bh. It clearly shows the bedroom mix. We have records of architectural plans and zoning documents going back a year that show mostly one bedroom units and no three bedroom units in the design. If you want to have a rational discussion about the merits of the project we're always willing to engage in an intelligent dialogue. If you just want to make stuff up to suit your agenda you're just wasting everyone's time
TJC January 25, 2013 at 02:55 PM
i still dont understand what would motivate people to want to rent in that area. if you are a NYC commuter, you can get better deals that dont cost you an additional 350 dollar monthly pass to sit in a train that smells like 40 year old urine. is there research that says that there is a demand for this housing? or will it sit, unrented until the price drops and it becomes another father panick village?
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Yes, there is extensive research that shows strong demand for this type of housing. Younger people are delaying getting married, raising families and purchasing single family homes. Consumers are concerned about the high level of home prices and are renting in record numbers. Traffic volume on I-95 increases every year and the demand for quality housing within walking distance to a train station has consistently been in strong demand. Stone Ridge capitalized on this. What better deals are you referring to?
Faith January 25, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Perhaps Steve you need to make clear who the we is . At least Mr. Fallon introduces himself as Black Rock Realty's attorney. What's your agenda? Why are you part of the "we're not proposing". Don't act like you're just one of the taxpayers if you have an agenda. I admit I misread the 66% to be 66 one bedrooms. Now you will have to do your research and go back to see that the articles covering this last July stated there would be several 3 bedrooms. Now when Kurt Wittek says only several, we can take him at his word.
Steve Curtin January 25, 2013 at 04:16 PM
I work for Blackrock. We are a taxpayer in Fairfield. For the record we have been paying $120,000 per year in property taxes to the town for ten years. Our agenda is to revitalize the Commerce Drive district and build a mixed use office park development with a hotel, retail and residential components that will attract jobs and companies to the region and drive economic growth and tax revenue. As a result of our efforts, along with the State and the Town, there is no longer a dilapidated eyesore of an industrial building littered with syringes on a contaminated site. Instead there is a new train station and a new public waterfront park. What's your agenda?
Faith January 25, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I have always been forthright about my agenda. I volunteered for 10 years on the RTM to try to keep property taxes affordable so myself and my neighbors wouldn't be forced to move south in our not so golden years. I recently purchased an investment house in Fairfield for rental, to help subsidize my property taxes. Many like myself because of the 30% reduction in real estate values, and ever increasing property taxes are stuck waiting it out to downsize, yet not being able to afford the taxes due to lessening income.
Devilin January 25, 2013 at 06:33 PM
A letter touting facts, decrying distortions and clarifying the record is a worthy endeavor. It states:" Fairfield has the highest mill rate of any coastal town in the county." Fairfield's mill rate is 23.37. Statford is a coastal town in Fairfield County. Stratford's mill rate is 34.15. I question the quality of the research and analysis put forth by this writer.
Igor January 25, 2013 at 06:52 PM
I think we should sit back and see what with could put there. CVS,bank, pizza parlor, rifle range, abortion center, library or Starbucks, porno store. This way we can always find someone to argue with.
R. Ludlowe January 25, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Are you, personally, a fairfield resident? And lets not split hairs over your agenda. Black Rock's agenda is to make a profit like any other business entity. You'll have to excuse most of us if we question the overall process and situation that we went through for our new station. If the goal was to clean up the site, there are certainly more cost effective ways to achieve that.


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