Trumbull rebranding efforts led by Long Hill Green development

By Kevin Zimmerman

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“Green” is the watchword in Trumbull these days, both in terms of ongoing beautification efforts and where much of that action is taking place: its Long Hill Green section, a roughly 25,000-square-foot area comprised of 11 new businesses and nine apartments.

Funded by $6 million in private investment as well as several state grants, Long Hill Green now “represents the best opportunity for Trumbull to rebrand itself and be cultivated as a commercial center,” said First Selectman Timothy M. Herbst. “I think we will ultimately surpass a lot of other commercial centers in lower Fairfield County.”

Trumbull Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar and First Selectman Tim Herbst review Long Hill Green plans.

The 7,200-square-foot Long Hill Marketplace at 6528 Main St. houses the Mex on Main restaurant and Trumbull Pizza Co., while the 9,000-square-foot Village at Long Hill Green at 10 Broadway Road includes Uncle Louie G’s bakery, Greenleaf Café and Mici Asian Bistro.

Broadway Road has also been the center of the town’s greening efforts, with new grass being planted and updates to signage, benches and aging features like a gazebo and flagpole undertaken.

Trumbull Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar said a master plan will be developed for the area this year, with input from businesses, area residents and town board and commission members. The planning will take into consideration improved bicycle and pedestrian access to the area, information from a recent traffic study and parking needs. The plan will guide the use of several improvement grants for the area, including a $475,000 Connecticut Department of Housing Main Street Investment Fund program grant and more than $100,000 in environmental protection 319 funds to address storm water management there.

“Long Hill Green is totally leased,” said Bakalar. “We have a great diversity of businesses,” which also includes Trumbull Pharmacy, Kenny Z’s Salon and Wet Paws Dog Grooming. Construction of an approximately 4,000-square-foot dental office is underway, which will be the new home of Jason Oberhand Family Dentistry, currently located at 105 Technology Drive.

“This represents the evolution of a traditional bedroom community to a modern suburb,” Bakalar said. “If millennials leave the cities for the suburbs, they want to have things to do and places to walk to. That’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

Bakalar has been in charge of Trumbull’s economic and community development for less than a year, having spent 25 years in a number of similar roles, including as director for central grants for Bridgeport and co-chair of Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s economic development transition team. In an email sent to residents upon her appointment last April, she called Trumbull “a well-run town with tremendous potential.”

Speaking in the first selectman’s office at Town Hall, Herbst and Bakalar noted another major development, Madison Village. At 4244 Madison Ave., the 15,400-square-foot development and is home to luxury goods store Pure Poetry, liquor store Ninety 9 Bottles, Sitting Duck Tavern and Upper Crust Bakery & Café.

Herbst noted that many of the new businesses are owned by Trumbull residents, “which really excites me. That helps emphasize how Trumbull is a real community.”

In addition, comparatively low taxes – Herbst has cut taxes twice during his seven years in office – and a strong education system are helping to draw “both empty nesters and young couples who are looking to save money by renting before they invest in buying a house – which hopefully will be in Trumbull,” he said.

The first selectman also noted that Long Hill Green is designed for mom-and-pop stores. Big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Target and HomeGoods occupy the town’s two malls, Hawley Lane Mall and Westfield Trumbull, which are located away from the downtown area.

Herbst said the town is having difficulty keeping up with the demand for office space. Bakalar said that with Trumbull fast running out of developable space and largely lacking brownfield properties that could be cleaned up for new construction, redevelopment will be the key to future growth.

Asked how he has managed to get so many different departments to work together to streamline the development process, Herbst replied, “I broke a lot of china to get here. It was like a Greek wedding.”

“When I took office, planning and zoning was very dysfunctional, the engineering department was not consumer-friendly, and we only had a part-time economic director. I came in and explained that the better we all work together, the better the public is served.”

More recently, this month the first selectman made news by helping to push Roger McGovern out of his role as chairman of the town’s police commission in the midst of an ethics commission investigation, and ordered Democrat Town Treasurer Anthony Musto to abandon his Town Hall office so that the Economic and Community Development Department could use it as a conference room. Talk persists that Herbst, who narrowly lost the 2014 election for state treasurer, may try another run for state office – possibly for governor.

Still, he insisted that he’s not in the business of butting heads but of working together.

“It’s not just about the quarterback – you need the whole team,” the son of former Trumbull High School athletic director Michael Herbst said. “It’s my job to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.”

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