Fairfield/New Haven Retail Market

The retail development market in Connecticut’s Fairfield and New Haven counties is hot right now. There is a lot of activity throughout the area, predominantly concentrated in downtown districts in various cities.

“Retail development in Fairfield and New Haven counties is highly focused on creating designs that work for the urban landscape,” notes Al Mirin, first vice president at CB Richard Ellis’ Stamford, Connecticut, office. “We’re seeing more and more multi-story facilities built on smaller parcels of land. The reuse of existing structures is also becoming more common as cities look to put space to highest and best use.”

According to Mirin, the downtown or central business districts are seeing the most new development because they are the only areas with available property in the size most stores desire.

In Fairfield County, Stamford is experiencing heavy retail activity throughout its downtown. Target is nearing completion on a six-story property on the corner of Broad Street and Washington Boulevard. The retailer is opening shop in a building in the heart of downtown that for years was underutilized. Down the street from Target, Burlington Coat Factory is renovating an old Caldor’s store that closed several years ago.

“In addition to fulfilling a need for discount shopping, like Target, the new Burlington Coat Factory also reinvigorates an embarrassing eyesore in the middle of the city’s most vibrant commercial corridor,” says Mirin.

Also in Stamford, another multi-story retail and residential building is being planned on the corner of Tresser Boulevard and Greyrock Place. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club have made tentative commitments to the current plan, although the developer has not filed for any approvals yet.

There have been significant leases signed in Stamford as well, with LA Fitness leasing 60,000 square feet at the Ridgeway Shopping Center and Stop & Shop signing for 75,000 square feet of a building under construction at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and U.S. 1.

The city of New Haven is also experiencing an increase in retail activity.

“Downtown New Haven is currently in the midst of a major rebirth,” notes Mirin, “due to renewed corporate interest in the area around New Haven Green; the activity of municipal, state and quasi-government organizations; growth in the biotech sector; and the ongoing expansion of Yale University.”

One major project is the renovation of a string of buildings on Chapel Street, including the Chapel Square Mall (a now-defunct retail center), the former Strous-Adler factory and an office building at 900 Chapel St.

According to Mirin, “Revitalization of this area will include the realignment of the mall so that all stores face outward, thus creating a pedestrian-friendly environment, and residential units will be built on the second floor of the mall and in a portion of the 900 Chapel St. tower.”

On Sarget Drive, IKEA recently moved into the warehouse portion of the former Armstrong-Pirelli Tire building in the city’s waterfront district, which had been vacant since the tire company relocated several years ago. The office portion of the building is under renovation.

One market expected to experience increased activity in the near future is the city of Norwalk. New office development continues to bring more people to the area, and the local government is aiding the expansion of the city’s retail community. The development of a new transportation center housing a retail component in the town of Fairfield should also lead that area to encounter significant activity.

Demographics are a key reason the retail market performs so strongly in the area. As Mirin explains, “Above-average income levels have made the area less vulnerable to the economic forces pulling down consumer spending in other places, thus making them highly desirable locations. Retail vacancy is very low in non-mall locations, ranging from approximately 3 percent to 5 percent. Low vacancy rates will continue to push up both lease rates and sale prices for these properties.”

©2004 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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