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Second act in the works for Fairfield Community Theatre property

Jordan GriceMay 28, 2019

Fairfield’s long-shuttered Community Theater will entertain residents once more.

Sacred Heart University announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Kleban Properties to give the defunct movie theater, which has been dormant for almost a decade, a facelift.

SHU recently signed a 10-year lease with Fairfield-based developers negotiating the purchase of the property at the corner of Post and Unquowa roads.

“We plan to turn this into a contemporary venue for the university and the community while maintaining much of the classical features that have been part of downtown Fairfield for 100 years,” said SHU President John J. Petillo in a press release. “That we can breathe new life into this building after years of dormancy is truly exciting.”

Developers will turn the theater into the Sacred Heart University Community Theater, an arts and education site that will provide a range of events including high-profile lectures, author talks, unique films, concerts and performances to students and the community.

Kleban Properties will handle the redevelopment based on Sacred Heart’s specifications, according to a press release. The Fairfield-based developers already have several holdings in Fairfield —among their national portfolio — including the Brick Walk plaza downtown.

“What we plan…is going to be absolutely transformative,” said Albert Kleban, chairman of Kleban Properties. “This is going to change Fairfield’s center dramatically.”

Preliminary plans call for a full-scale renovation of the former movie theater, which opened in 1920 and closed in 2011. The theater will have at least 400 seats.

SHU vice president for finance Mike Kinney said in an email to Hearst Connecticut Media that Kleban Properties will provide “white box renovations,” while Sacred Heart University will outfit the building to create a state-of-the-art theater for the university and the community.

“Plans call for a retrofitted art deco design that will be a nod to the theater’s history,” he said, adding that costs for the project, including all parties, is estimated between $3 to $5 million.

Town officials said they are thrilled about the theater revival after years of working to attract a new operator.

“I think it’s a great day for this iconic landmark in the center of our downtown, but also the town as a whole,” said Mark Barnhart, director of economic development for the Town of Fairfield.

The constant throughout this process has been Kleban Properties, according to Barnhart, who said the developers had been a potential suitor for the project since the theater became available for sale in 2017.

Barnhart called the new lease and plans a “home run” for the town, especially in conjunction with the Fairfield Theater Company and The Quick Center also providing live entertainment.

“I think this is going to be very complementary and will further cement Fairfield’s reputation as a destination not just for fine dining but for the arts and culture as well,” Barnhart said.

Jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com

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