Fairfield looks to accomplish this year what it could not over the past 40 years: the redevelopment of Riegert Square.
City Council allowed the staff to get development agreements signed for the 10 property owners and two ground leaseholders that make up Riegert Square, a shopping plaza that had been developed piecemeal in the 1960s and 1970s. Fairfield had unsuccessfully tried multiple times since the early 1980s to create some uniformity and improve safety at the plaza.
But it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that the stars began to align.
“The timing was really good where it all came together,” said Development Services Director Greg Kathman. “The community wanted it, the plan was developed, and the timing worked out with the funding source.”
The redevelopment project started in earnest in December 2019 when the city approved its comprehensive plan called Fairfield Forward. Kathman said the plan called for several things along Pleasant Avenue in front of the shopping plaza, including increasing vehicular and pedestrian safety, improving corridor aesthetics, enhancing the image and quality of the city’s Town Center, and creating a healthier environment for business growth.
“It’s an impactful and an important project for the city,” Kathman said, “and I think it will be recognized as a good project for a long time. This is a project that’s 40 years in the making.”
Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaeilin said this project would take $1.25 million of the city’s ARPA funds to eliminate all of the curb cuts that access the plaza, and then provide only four ways into the plaza. One access will be via driveways at the KFC and in the middle of the plaza at the 5110 building, which is owned by the city. There will also be access points at Glenna Drive, which bisects the plaza, and the traffic light at Patterson Boulevard.
“It’s a fairly complicated project as there are so many parties engaged, but we think we have them all at the table now,” he said.
Fairfield staff in the city’s development services and public works departments say the overabundance of curb cuts places pedestrians and motorists in danger.
From 2019 to 2021, a significant percentage of the 37 crashes were because of vehicles exiting the shopping plaza, and a dozen were injury related, according to the city. City Engineer Nick Dill said many of those accidents were preventable due to driver confusion exiting the plaza.
This project will be complemented by the reconfiguration of Pleasant Avenue, which design for that new lane formation is underway.
Kaelin said the project will repaving and restriping the parking lot, which would include improved drainage; adding a 3-foot strip of grass at the curb, a 5-foot sidewalk, and 7-to-9 feet of a landscape bed, as well as pedestrian lighting; and several monument signs that would have room for every business at Riegert Square. Not all businesses currently can advertise on the pole signs by the roadway.
“It should be a massive improvement when you’re driving down Pleasant Avenue,” Kaelin said. “We hope that this improves the health of the shopping center and the town center in attracting better tenants and improving the overall aesthetics.”
Once the project is completed, the property owners and ground leaseholders will be responsible for the maintenance of their portions of the parking lot, and signs. The city will maintain the grass by the curb and the landscape bed.
Fairfield staff is now working on getting the agreements signed, and the goal is to have the project bed before the end of April in order to have City Council consider a bid in May. If that happens, Kaelin said they could start construction, pending the timing of the contractor, this summer.
If that timeline holds true, Kaelin said he believes “we can still achieve major completion before the end of this year.”
About the Author