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Fairfield Housing plans give way to mixed-use development

September 6, 2018

Developers of a proposed 24-unit apartment building that would have included affordable units at Fairfield’s Metro Center have changed their plans.

John and Timothy Philbin have now received approval from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to build a new mixed-use building on an empty lot at 1427-1443 Kings Highway. The revised proposal would bring 3,500 square feet of ground level retail space and three apartments near the Fairfield Metro train station.

Original plans for the site called for 24 apartments with eight set aside as affordable.

“We decided to pull the plug on it and redesign it,” said co-owner John Philbin, who said he and his brother found they couldn’t make a profit on their initial plans.

They’ve owned the property for the last 40 years, running a landscaping business on the site prior to proposing the apartment complex.

“After we put it out to bid, the building was so expensive to put up that it didn’t make sense monetarily,” he added.

The duo submitted their first proposal under the state’s affordable housing statute, which would have allowed them to put up more units than would otherwise be locally permitted. As a result, four apartments were to be reserved for tenants making less than 60 percent of the statewide median income, and four for those making less than 80 percent.

“It was so expensive to build that we would’ve had to back-fund the mortgage every month,” Philbin said.

Original plans would’ve cost the pair around $4.8 million to build out while the mixed-use project is expected to cost a third of that, he added.

Though it is a loss of affordable housing units, town officials say Fairfield is well-suited with roughly 500 units of housing in development, many of which include feature affordable components..

“We could certainly use more affordable and mid-range housing opportunities here, but this site in it of itself won’t move the needle much one way or the other,” said Mark Barnhart, director of economic development. “I think the site just penciled out as a mixed-use site with some retail and either residential or office on the second floor.”

Developers are looking to break ground in coming weeks with completion projected for the spring.

Prospective tenants for the ground-level retail space have already expressed interest in either of the 900-square-foot store fronts, according to John Philbin, who said they are in discussions with a coffee shop owner.

The development coincides with the town’s vision for the area, which has gained interest in recent years from developers.

“It’s a modest sized development, but the uses and the design are in keeping with what we were hoping would be developed there,” said James Wendt, director of the Planning and Zoning commission. “We think it will be complementary to the other developments.”

Jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com

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