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FAIRFIELD, CT-Construction of the Fairfield Metro Center project here is now about a year off, according to the developer. The $300-million project cleared a major hurdle when the Fairfield Town Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special permit for the development.

Kurt Wittek, a partner in Black Rock Realty LLC of Westport, CT, the developer of the proposed mixed-use project, estimated that construction of Phase I of the development could begin by July 2006. Black Rock is a joint venture of Wittek Development LLC of Westport and Rugby Realty LLC of Teterboro, NJ.

The Metro Center, being built at the former Bullard Foundry site, calls for the construction of approximately one million sf of commercial space as well as a new Metro North train station. The first phase will include a 175-room Hilton hotel, 200,000 sf of office space, 30,000 sf of retail and restaurants, a fitness center and spa, conference facility and a 60,000-sf Pavilion building for office and retail banking. The total cost of the first phase, as planned, has been estimated at approximately $100 million. Construction on Phase I will take 18 to 24 months to complete.

The state has completed the design and earmarked the necessary funding for the new train station, platform, pedestrian overpass and new bridge. That project, along with projected track improvements, is expected to cost approximately $30 million. The town has committed to building a 1,500-space parking lot, some land acquisition and road intersection improvements in the area that has been estimated at approximately $12 million. Also part of the project, being built on a 35-acre site, is a 10-acre nature conservation area.

Officials with Black Rock note that further approvals are required before the project can proceed including go-aheads from the State Traffic Commission, the State Department of Environmental Protection as well as other local, state and federal agencies.

The project’s site in northeastern Fairfield County is attracting a good deal of tenant interest, according to Wittek. He notes that Black Rock is currently in negotiations with tenants interested in leasing about 300,000 sf of space at the project. Leases are also out with a number of “food type” retail tenants, Black Rock Realty officials say.

Wittek adds that the office component of the first phase will be built on spec. If for example, half of the 200,000 sf of office space is committed for prior to construction, Wittek says he will probably build additional office space than it currently has planned for. In addition, having its own Metro North station on site, the development will encourage workers to commute by train rather than by single-occupancy vehicle.

“This is a Smart Growth development in its truest sense,” Wittek says. “Fairfield Metro Center has the potential to become the model for future development in the region.”

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