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September 19, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Trumbull economic development cruising along

60 Commerce Drive in Trumbull was once home to Pilot Pen Corp.

Story Copyright Westfair Communications

There’s a lot of stuff going on” in Trumbull, according to the town’s Economic & Community Development Director Rina Bakalar – and the activity backs up her claim.

Make-A-Wish, whose Connecticut headquarters occupies 5,000 square feet at 126 Monroe Turnpike Foundation, is in the midst of moving to 60 Commerce Drive, where Bismark Construction is renovating its three floors, totaling 15,000 square feet, with an eye on opening next spring.

“Right now we’re in a traditional office,” Make-A-Wish Connecticut President and CEO Pam Keough said. “There’s really no room for activities or for volunteers. I’ve had to turn volunteers away because we don’t have the space.”

The nonprofit’s new headquarters – once home to the Pilot Pen Corp. of America – will include meeting space on the first floor for both internal and external uses.

“We’ll be able to have as many as 200 people in,” Keough said, as well as a walking path and pond.

“The idea is to expand all of our programs,” she said. “Children will not only get their wish, but they could spend a day or even a week here, depending on what that wish is. They can meet with each other and use it as a place to give back.”

“It’s an area that we have been looking to expand,” Bakalar said. “Make-a-Wish will be conducting events like its (fundraiser) Walk for Wishes, and bringing in more families and kids will bring more energy to the area.”

Keough noted that Make-A-Wish Connecticut has been based in Trumbull for “about 33 years, which I don’t think a lot of people realize. This will change that.”

The decision to remain in Trumbull was driven by familiarity, existing relationships with town officials and its central location, basically where Route 8 and the Merritt Parkway come together, Keough said.

Trumbull’s location also played a key role in Gold Fish Swim School’s decision to open a facility at 100 Hawley Lane. Steve Marszalek – who also owns a Gold Fish franchise in Norwalk and plans to open another in Stamford this winter – said the Trumbull school will be a little over 9,000 square feet, with a 25-by-75-foot pool whose depth tops out at four feet.

“Our mission is to teach safety and swimming to children from 4 months to 12 years,” Marszalek said. “With traditional places to learn how to swim like YMCAs closing, there’s a real need for what we bring.”

Marszalek is going through the permitting and zoning processes. He hopes to open in December or January.

The former D.M. Read’s warehouse property at 7120 Main St. – 114,000 square feet on 10 acres that has been vacant for about a decade – is in contract to what one source described as “a big, Fortune 100 company,” although further details were not available.

Bruce Wettenstein, partner at Westport commercial real estate firm Vidal/Wettenstein, said the building will remain in industrial use. Although Vidal/Wettenstein has been promoting the property as ripe for expansion, Wettenstein said, “at this time, the size is fine, with no expansion on the horizon.”

48 Monroe Turnpike. Photo courtesy Madison Hawk.

Uncertainty still surrounds 48 Monroe Turnpike, the long-vacant, 253,000-square-foot office building and a separate 145,000-square-foot parking garage that finally sold last year for approximately $3.4 million. Empty since 2015, when United Healthcare decamped to Shelton, the 17.6-acre property was acquired by Senior Living Development LLC and Silver Heights Development LLC with plans to build a senior housing community for individuals age 55 and over.

However, the required zoning change granted by the town in January, from business/commercial to industrial/residential, has been challenged by three residents of the Woodland Hills condominium complex on the opposite side of Route 111, who maintain the new development will have an adverse impact on property values and traffic.

Representing the plaintiffs is Timothy Herbst, an attorney with Cohen & Wolf who served as Trumbull’s first selectman from 2009-17. He stepped down from that office to launch an unsuccessful campaign for governor. Herbst’s father, Mike, is running against incumbent First Selectman Vicki Tesoro this year.

A separate appeal, also over traffic impact, has been brought by Old Mine Associates LLC, which owns 90 Monroe Turnpike, where a Home Depot stands.

“The fact is that the proposed uses will generate traffic at a much lower rate than office or retail,” said attorney John Knuff of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff, which represents Senior Living Development and Silver Heights, “and the claim that an assisted living/senior housing development could negatively impact commercial property values is inconsistent with everything known about real estate valuation.”

The destiny of 48 Monroe Turnpike is of significant importance to Trumbull, representing over half of the available space in the town. Bakalar said the town estimates the property could bring in $2 million a year in additional tax revenue once it is returned to the town’s grand list.

Rendering of the plan to add residences to the Westfield Trumbull mall.

Also in limbo is the Westfield Trumbull mall’s controversial plan to add 260 apartments to its property at 5065 Main St. Bakalar said a formal application has yet to be received by the town.

“We don’t have anything to announce at this time, but it remains part of the long-term vision for the property,” said Westfield Trumbull Marketing Director Katherine Bolas.

A 55-and-older facility consisting of 132 units is being constructed at 101 Oakview Drive, vacated by Sacred Heart University and the adjacent 109 Oakview Drive by Resort Lifestyle Communities, a Nebraska-based company. Bakalar said leasing offices should be open by September and hopes are that its first residents will start moving in by year’s end.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place in June for the Long Hill Village development at 6540 Main St. That development — modified from its original 23,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet — will include one full-service restaurant, a drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts and several other commercial establishments to be determined. The existing 10,000-square-foot structure, which housed Cast Iron Chop House and the former Marisa’s Restaurant, is being demolished.

Almost $1 million in grant money has been secured to implement five projects in the Long Hill Green & Village District Enhancement Plan, which in addition to the construction will include improvements to safety, traffic flow, walkability and green space, according to Tesoro.

The Learning Experience, a national chain of day care and child care services, is on track to open its second county location, after Newtown, at 2285 Reservoir Ave. Louay Akil, who serves as TLE’s east coast zone developer, said Trumbull appealed to TLE due to “its demographics, the high level of education and the need in the marketplace.”

Plans are for the Reservoir Avenue location to open in April, “but we’re hoping to do even better than that,” Akil said.