An increasing number of real estate projects are moving forward in Trumbull as the town continues its mission to become a major commercial hub in lower Fairfield County.
The activity “follows an uptick in getting development plans through the process faster, which means they can come to fruition faster,” said Trumbull Economic and Community Development Director Rina Bakalar. “We’re in a position now where interest is turning into actual projects. We expect a very busy spring.”
Central to the town’s move forward is its Long Hill Green section, a roughly 25,000-square-foot commercial area. Funded by $6 million in private investment as well as several state grants, Long Hill Green now includes the thriving 7,200-square-foot Long Hill Marketplace at 6528 Main St. and the 9,000-square-foot Village at Long Hill Green at 10
The latter’s latest tenant is Insurlynx Insurance Group LLC, which held a grand opening ceremony Oct. 19 to formalize the relocation of its headquarters from Shelton.
“The energy and neighborliness of Village at Long Hill Green is a perfect new home for Insurlynx,” said the company’s president and owner, Cindy Hartsburg, who called Trumbull “a vibrant community.”
Meanwhile, the 79,000-square-foot building at 100 Oakview Drive, vacant since Canon Solutions America relocated to Long Island last year, is in the process of being torn down by Continental Properties. The Woodbridge, New Jersey-based real estate development and management company plans to turn the site into a 202-apartment complex, a $30 million project that will be completed in three phases over four years. Work is expected to begin in March, according to the company.
Expected to receive planning and zoning approval by year’s end is a proposed redevelopment at 6540 Main St. The property, converted from longtime Italian eatery Marisa’s into the Cast Iron Chop House in 2016, will be redeveloped as a 20,000-square-foot commercial plaza featuring at least one restaurant. Bakalar said the Chop House will not reopen in it.
The project developers, Sound Development LLC of Trumbull and Cerreta Builders of Bridgeport have been granted a needed zoning change that expanded the town’s business-community zone to include the Main Street parcel. Pending site plan approval, construction is expected to begin next year.
Big changes are also in the works for Westfield Trumbull, the mall at 5065 Main St.
“People are moving to online retail more and more,” Bakalar said, noting that Amazon posted 25 percent year-over-year revenue growth in its most recent quarter.
“That’s having a drastic impact on fashion and department stores, which are the traditional anchor tenants in malls.” As a result, traditional retail outlets are increasingly looking to make themselves “destinations” where the focus isn’t solely on shopping, she said.
That is happening at Westfield Trumbull, said Patrick Madden, Northeast district manager at Westfield Corp. the mall’s Australian owner. The mall “has been in a transformative process for the last several years,” he said. “One of the key focus areas for us has been the addition of more food options at the mall.”
He said the addition of The Cheesecake Factory in 2014 “helped establish Westfield Trumbull as a dining destination,” as presumably will Connecticut’s first Wahlburgers, the suburban Boston-based restaurant chain run by actors Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their is chef brother Paul, which due to open this month.
Another important element is customer convenience and amenities, Madden said. In addition to its Westfield Family Lounge — featuring comfortable furniture, children’s movies playing on a big-screen TV, toys and games, private restrooms for parent and child, nursing mother’s area and diaper changing stations — the mall has added a customer lounge for shoppers to rejuvenate themselves.
“That area is popular with folks who wish to plug into their mobile devices and maybe get a little work done while on the road,” Madden said, noting that the mall has three other areas dedicated to mobile device recharging.
Westfield has also developed an app that provides customers with access to the mall and its stores via their phone. Madden said Westfield Trumbull in the next few weeks will launch its partnership with Uber, “providing a dedicated pick-up and drop-off spot for Uber drivers, as more people opt for the convenience of Uber versus driving themselves.”
With electric cars becoming more prevalent, “Another convenience that you’ll see coming soon to Westfield Trumbull includes electric vehicle charging stations,” he added. “And as driverless cars become the norm, with less need for large parking fields, there will be an opportunity to convert the excess parking areas into other uses.”
Not all of Trumbull’s development projects have gone smoothly, however. A controversy that’s now some five years old involving a property on lower Main Street may be coming to a satisfying conclusion, Bakalar said.
At issue is a planned 8,500-square-foot urgent care office at 4950-5010 Main St. Developer Dr. Rahul Anand, irritated by the protracted approval process, had said he would build an affordable housing development on the property if his medical office was denied.
That “raised a lot of concerns” among residents, Bakalar said. Additional concerns about how the building, on a gateway
property on the Bridgeport border, would fit into what is a residential area were
also voiced. “The plan now is to have something that looks more residential in nature,” she said.