There is construction aplenty in Trumbull, but one topic seems to supersede all the others: 48 Monroe Turnpike.
That’s the onetime home of United Healthcare, which has been vacant since the company exited in 2015 in favor of more up-to-date accommodations on Research Drive in Shelton. The 253,000-square-foot space represents 52 percent of all the vacant space in town, according to Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar.
Echoing First Selectman Vicki Tesoro — who in February told the Business Journal that Trumbull has received “a lot of interest” in the property — Bakalar said there is “some strong development interest” in the site, though she declined to provide specifics.
Even with the open question about what will happen at 48 Monroe Turnpike — and when — Bakalar said the town is enjoying strong interest from developers in the retail, residential and office sectors. Considering that Cushman & Wakefield’s first-quarter analysis of Fairfield County’s office leasing activity found Trumbull’s vacancy rate the highest in the county at 41.1 percent — an improvement over fourth-quarter 2017’s 44.4 percent, but still well behind the rest of the county — that is good news indeed.
The most significant transaction of recent vintage was the January sale of the former Canon USA headquarters at 100 Oakview Drive to Continental Properties for $4.5 million. The three-story, 79,000-square-foot space is being demolished in favor of a six-building, 202-luxury unit complex to be called Oakview Apartments. An independent living, 55-and-older complex consisting of 128 units has also been proposed nearby.
Another former corporate headquarters, that of the Pilot Pen Corp. at 60 Commerce Drive, is also being redeveloped. Washington Trust’s Commercial Real Estate Group recently provided $6.6 million to CH Commerce Drive Associates LLC and City Park Commerce Drive LLC for refinancing and tenant improvements at the 14-acre property, which consists of two interconnected buildings totaling 83,193 square feet.
In addition, construction is underway at a 10,000-square-foot medical building at 123 Monroe Turnpike, to be anchored by Firgeleski Chiropractic Center, now at 2 Daniels Farm Road; there will also be a few other tenants, Bakalar said. Educational Playcare is completing its ground-up construction of a 16,800-square-feet facility at 111 Merritt Blvd., which along with a 16,788-square-foot building in Newtown at 2 Saw Mill Road, is expected to be open in time for the fall school season.
A new retail center will be built at 965 White Plains Road, to be occupied by a CVS, Starbucks and a one or two other, to-be-determined retailers.
At 6540 Main St., the longtime home to Marisa’s restaurant, developers Sound Development of Trumbull and Cerreta Builders of Bridgeport are hoping to move forward with plans to create a 20,000-square-foot plaza to be called Long Hill Commons. Pending approval by Trumbull’s Land Use Department, expected in July, the plaza will have room for “at least one new restaurant,” Bakalar said. New England-style stucco and a sidewalk to connect the plaza with surrounding buildings are part of the plan, she said.
While all of these projects will improve Trumbull’s vacancy rate, another proposal under discussion could alter the town’s landscape significantly. French commercial real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco, which acquired Westfield Corp. last year for $15.7 billion, is looking for a zoning amendment to allow the construction of 290 apartments on the 76-acre Westfield Trumbull mall at 5065 Main St.
Bakalar called the proposal a “reimagining” of the property, being undertaken as part of the general mall trend to reinvent themselves as destinations that offer something beyond standard retail. The mall owners originally pitched 580 units, she said, something the town shot down.
According to a Westfield statement: “By broadening development opportunities available to Westfield, the property can far exceed its current economic contribution to Trumbull, while also bringing new, exciting offerings to the town. This would include residential developments that were previously not possible, without deviation from current regulations.”
Even if the zoning board approves the proposal, Bakalar said, Land Use must still weigh in.
Bakalar said all the activity is reflective of Trumbull’s reinforced commitment to being business-friendly and its continued fiscal stability. “Our tax increase this year was kept to a minimum — 1.89 percent — one of the lowest in our recent history, as well,” she noted.