FAIRFIELD — An historic piece of Fairfield continues to get new life as a $4.5 million investment into Fisher Park is nearly complete.
The investment incorporates several upgrades, the largest of which is the reconstruction of eight open “pit” areas, which were used by General Motors as a part of its Fisher Body auto chassis assembly line from 1947 to 1988, said Benjamin Crock, Plymouth Industrial REIT Vice President/Regional Manager.
The removal of the stamping presses created cavernous pit areas, and historically, Crock said, they have been un-leasable. In order to be able to lease them, structurally reinforced concrete needed to be installed. Each pit is 19,200 square feet (153,600 square feet in all) with more than 7 million pounds of storage capacity. Also, he said, each pit is serviced by a 30 ton overhead gantry crane.
“Local engineering teams ensured the finished product was to standard, compliant with local code, and suitable to service the industrial users that the property attracts,” Crock said. “Plymouth’s goal was to balance the benefits of modernizing the property while sustaining the core of the historic facility. Our objective was to retain rather than demolish portions of the property that make Fisher Park unique.”
Other improvements include 160,000 square feet of LED lighting upgrades and updated restroom facilities.
“Plymouth is focused on sustainable, green construction practices,” Crock said. “Plymouth removed and recycled over 450 tons of steel as well as 160 antiquated, inefficient sodium halide lighting fixtures.”
Everything but the restroom upgrades should be completed by the end of the year, and the restrooms should be finished by the end of the first quarter next year.
The city of Fairfield is “excited” to see the investment, said Fairfield Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaelin. For the first time since the heyday of the old Fisher Body Plant, “the full capacity of the building can be maximized,” he said.
“Fisher Body was a mainstay in the community for many years. While many former automotive plants end up being demolished or abandoned, investments by Plymouth and the previous owner have made the property economically viable again,” Kaelin said.
Tenants such as Gardens Alive, Metalworking Group, Deufol, and others thriving in the space, Kaelin said, and the city sees the building “provides flexible overflow space for some of our other industrial companies in Fairfield.”
Plymouth Industrial REIT took ownership of the former General Motors Fisher Body plant in October 2018, the fourth owner since 2005.
Plymouth CEO Jeff Witherell said they were initially approached by the previous owners about the property’s availability.
“We had known them for several years. After evaluating the transaction, we thought that as long-term owners we could invest the necessary capital to take the property to the next level,” he said.
Witherell said they were already a property owner in Cincinnati and wanted to expand the company’s footprint, and Plymouth continues to invest in the market.
“Fairfield checked on all the boxes ― easy access to interstates, strong blue-collar workforce, and affordable leasing rates,” Witherell said.
Crock said half of the redeveloped area, approximately 76,800 square feet, has been leased for six months or longer. All newly executed leases, he said, are with existing Fisher Park tenants.
“There are several ongoing conversations with both new and existing tenants to potentially lease the remaining areas,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic had forced many businesses early on to halt development and expansion. This $4.5 million investment comes nearly two years since the onset of the pandemic.