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October 14, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Nonprofit Stratfield Village Association nearing monetary goal for improvement projects

A rendering of what Stratfield’s Four Corners could look like once the SVA’s beautification project is completed. Courtesy SVA.

The Stratfield IGA market — and the original Stratfield Village Association — may be gone, but they are hardly forgotten, as a pair of residents are leading the charge to beautify and re-energize a key area within the Fairfield village.

The Stratfield Village Association (SVA) was originally formed in 2006 by a group of people fighting against Walgreens moving into the Stratfield Market at 1280 Stratfield Road, a cornerstone building of the neighborhood’s central Four Corners area.

After the SVA’s efforts at rebuffing the drugstore chain’s desire to take over the supermarket space succeeded — Fairfield adopted new zoning regulations disallowing big-box companies of such size to open in its villages — it disbanded in 2012.

The 9,612-square-foot, 2-story Stratfield Market property continued to stand vacant, having closed in 2006. As a result, residents Jamie McCusker and Dylan O’Connor revived the SVA about three years ago, with its original primary mission of addressing the dilapidated property.

“The only thing we have in common (with the former SVA) is the name,” said McCusker, who serves as the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization’s co-president with O’Connor. “The idea was to see if we could get the ball rolling to rebuild the neighborhood.”

“And that started with the IGA market,” O’Connor affirmed. “We want to beautify the Four Corners, and the way to make that neighborhood look good was to deal with that building.”

The commercial property has had quite a journey since the grocery closed in 2006. The property was first purchased by Samuel Lotstein Realty, which finalized the 25-year lease with Walgreens. After that deal collapsed in 2011, Greenwich-based Urstadt-Biddle Group Inc. acquired it for $3.055 million in 2017 with an eye toward keeping it a supermarket, but ended up selling it to developer 1280 Realty LLC for $1.2 million that same year.

After 1280’s plans to remediate the site also went nowhere, Summit Development LLC acquired it in January for $1.45 million and almost immediately signed preschool franchise The Goddard School to a 15-year lease there.

Although McCusker said the SVA and a number of residents had hoped to preserve the property as a supermarket, “this is a way better alternative than what was there. They’ve cleaned it up and made it look nice.”

At the same time, the SVA has been working on the Four Corners Beautification Project, aimed at improving the Stratfield Road-Fairfield Woods Road intersection by making it more physically attractive and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The SVA received a $650,000 grant from the state of Connecticut in support of the project, but needs another $250,000 to complete it.

As a result, the organization hosted its second annual “Party in the Park” fundraiser at Fairfield’s Owen Fish Park — another example of the SVA’s rehab efforts — on Sept. 21. Although the tally of money raised from that event had yet to be finalized at press time, O’Connor said indications were that it was “pretty close” to making its target.

McCusker noted that various government officials — from Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart to state Sen. Tony Hwang and state Reps. Brenda Kupchick, Laura Devlin and Cristin McCarthy Vahey, “who’s been leading the charge on the state level” — have been supportive of the SVA’s efforts.

The group received a $100,000 grant from Sacred Heart University, while “Party in the Park” sponsors included assisted living facility Sunrise of Fairfield and real estate firm Hines Interests Limited Partnership.

The SVA expects to host other efforts, such as a holiday tour of historic homes in the area, which McCusker said was a great success in its inaugural edition last year, and an engraved-brick sale.

Its latest efforts include trying to establish a farmers market in the neighborhood, along with further beautification efforts such as planting flowers in its traffic circles.