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FAIRFIELD, CT-The developer of a proposed $250-million project that will entail 1.36 million sf of new development and a new Metro North Train station has reconfigured some of the fine points of the plan to allow greater flexibility to respond to future market demand.

Kurt Wittek, managing director of Black Rock Realty LLC, says that it has decided to demolish all of the existing buildings at the 21 Black Rock Turnpike site, which totals 35.5 acres. Wittek notes that the firm will demolish all three existing buildings on the property including a 225,000 sf former Bullard’s foundry. Black Rock Realty, a joint venture of Wittek and Rugby Realty Co., of Teterboro, NJ, had planned to redevelop the Bullard’s property into a 450,000-sf office building. The joint venture purchased the property in January of this year from UPS Corp., for $5.9 million. The Bullard’s foundry building has been vacant for the past 16 years.

“The foundry building as well as the rest of the buildings on the property will be demolished,” Wittek says. “The (original) plan did not allow us the flexibility we might need.”

Specifically, Wittek noted that the floor plates would not suit today’s tenant requirements. Instead, the company plans to build eight office buildings of approximately 150,000 sf each as part of its 1.36 million sf plan. He adds that the office buildings will be undertaken in phases. “The new plan gives up greater flexibility to respond to market conditions at the time,” Wittek notes.

Financing for a new Fairfield Metro North railroad station at the site is being pieced together. Recently the state of Connecticut committed $16 million. The town of Fairfield is now in the process of approving $12 million in initial financing for the station. The town will also consider another $12 million in tax incremental financing for the project sometime in the future. The train station financing agreement has already been approved by the Town of Fairfield’s Economic Development Commission and will be reviewed by the Board of Finance, Board of Selectmen and the Representative Town Meeting.

The first phase of the project will involve the construction of a new Fairfield Metro North station and new infrastructure, including a new bridge to be built over the tracks. Black Rock Realty will be in charge of building the train station, which will also include approximately 6,000 sf of retail space.

Also part of the plan’s first phase will be one or two office buildings, a 150-room hotel and a 30,000-sf health club and day care center. Black Rock is also required to build a 1,200 car parking area. In the future, the parking area will be replaced by a 1,200 car enclosed parking garage. Wittek says that Black Rock is in negotiations with a hotel operator, however he did not divulge the identity of the hotelier.

Black Rock hopes to be able to obtain all the necessary approvals so that it can begin construction by the spring of 2002–about the same time the Connecticut State Department of Transportation is expected to begin the necessary infrastructure work for the train station. Wittek, notes that the Black Rock station would be the first new Metro North train station built in the state of Connecticut in the last 40 years.

While he admits that demand for office space has waned recently, the construction of a Metro North railroad station will provide “significant momentum” and serve as the catalyst to bringing potential office space users to the property.

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