In recent conversations regarding relocation of the Town highway garage, both boards and residents alike have asked, “Why move the garage at all?” As mentioned last month, one of my top initiatives is to grow Suffield’s fiscal independence by developing the commercial tax base. Ffyler Place is a prime location. In 2012, the Town commissioned Camoin Associates to undertake a market analysis for the Ffyler Place property which determined that “the public garage must be relocated” to “attract the development envisioned and desired.”
While we could simply wish for a handsome developer to transform our threadbare property with the perfect fit of a glass slipper, this is simply a fairytale. The Town needs to control its own destiny and take a good look in the mirror. Looks matter. Developers will not seriously consider Ffyler Place for development – neither Town-owned nor private property – while it houses the garage.
For a potential suitor, predictability matters. As long as the garage remains, uncertainty exists. Will the garage be moved? If so, when? By whom? At what cost? Developers desire predictability to better plan, estimate costs and forecast projects. Uncertainty = time + money = risk. Developers look for a sure thing.
Follow the money. In order to receive State funding to remediate this site, a development project must be secured first. Landing a project requires a firm commitment to move the garage.
There’s no place like home. The key to commercial development is the residential component. Mixed-use developments with housing options are the most attractive to developers because of current housing demands by apartment/condo dwellers. Again, Ffyler Place is a prime location.
In February, the Board of Selectmen approved moving forward with negotiations for the Wicks Lumber site as the new home for the garage. This option will free up Ffyler Place and also improve a blighted property along the Route 159 entranceway to town. Stay tuned for further details of the deal and the date for the Town Meeting.
Relocating the garage and attracting commercial development to Ffyler Place goes beyond just finding new sources of revenue. While that initiative is crucial, there is a larger overarching strategy to capitalize on Suffield’s beautiful town center and make it a more livable and usable space for all residents to enjoy. Traffic calming measures are ongoing with new crosswalks and signage already implemented in key locations. The recently awarded Connecticut Community Connectivity Grant will fund a sidewalk from Thompsonville Road to Mapleton Avenue and connect with existing sidewalks along North Main Street leading to the Town Center. This effort, in combination with the Mountain Road multi-use trail currently in the works, will effectively enable residents to walk via sidewalk from East Street North/Thompsonville to Spaulding School/Bruce Park/Suffield High School. The Main Street Investment Fund Grant includes façade improvements, street lights, benches, landscaping and sidewalks that will further connect the town from:
• South Main Street to Bridge Street to the Senior Center and
• Mountain Road (south side) to CVS to Park View Glen with a crossing bridge at Muddy Brook.
The incremental progress we’ve made to improve Suffield – moving the garage, commercial development, traffic calming, sidewalk connectivity, beautifying – is due to the hard work of many. Residents like Roger Tracy, who recently stepped down from the Economic Development Commission after 25 years of service which included spearheading the “Welcome to Suffield” signs that grace our town. I am so grateful to people like Roger, our Town employees, commission members, business partners, state representatives – who invest their time and energy in the vision of an even more beautiful and prosperous Suffield. We do great things together!