Southport developer repurposes commercial property in strong market

By Kevin Zimmerman

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The commercial construction market in Fairfield County “has always been extremely strong,” according to Felix T. Charney, founding president and CEO of Summit Development LLC in Southport.

In fact, Charney said, it’s so strong that “it can be impossible to find sites” for new development.

Summit is a privately held, diversified real estate investment, development and management company that has developed more than 60 projects representing more than 5.5 million square feet of commercial space and over 1,000 residential units, primarily in Connecticut, New York, the Boston area and Florida.

Properties in such perennially popular areas as Greenwich, Westport and Darien “are extremely valuable, and the returns associated with them are significant,” Charney noted. “To find development sites along Post Road or the Route 7 corridor, there just are very few if any opportunities.”

As a result, some creative repurposing of existing facilities is necessary. In 2003, Summit and Greenfield Partners in Westport purchased a former factory site at 1770 Kings Hwy. in Fairfield for $8 million. After what Charney called “an extremely protracted process involving environmental damage and cleanup,” the property was reopened in 2011 as the Kings Crossing retail complex, anchored by a 45,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market.

Summit and Greenfield teamed up again in Westchester County for a $50 million retail development at Chappaqua Crossing, which will also include office space and luxury and affordable housing on the former Reader’s Digest campus in the town of New castle. Eleven years after the partners first proposed their mixed-use redevelopment of the publishing company’s former headquarters to town officals, ground was broken in March. A 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods will anchor a 120,000-square-foot retail space along with a 40,000-square-foot Life Time Fitness facility.

The developers are also making improvements to the Horace Greeley High School driveway in New Castle and creating a roundabout at the intersection of Route 117 and Roaring Brook Road to improve traffic flow near the Chappaqua Crossing entrance. Charney said the redevelopment project will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the town and the Chappaqua Central School District.

One of Summit’s latest projects is the construction of a three-building, 18,000-square-foot commercial property at 74 Newtown Road in Danbury in a joint venture with The Grossman Cos. of Quincy, Mass. Announced in April, the development is already 100 percent leased, said Charney, with tenants including the Texas Roadhouse and Popeye’s chain restaurants, Aspen Dental, T-Mobile and Doctor’s Express.

“It’s a very successful retail area, a great community, and the traffic amounts are fabulous,” Charney said.

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