Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here's a look ahead to 2011 in Fairfield development

Here's a look ahead to 2011

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | | January 08, 2011 00:24

At the beginning of each year, we use our first Economic Notes column to prognosticate what will happen during the New Year. Will Fairfield see significant office, retail, industrial, or residential development? Will Fairfield's business attraction efforts pay dividends?

Well, the economy still faces major issues, but things may be looking up.

Here's our view of what to look for in 2011.

New retail: In 2010, several large vacant Fairfield retail spaces were filled. Forever21 took 44,000 square feet of space on the top floor of the former Mervyn's building. Driven Raceway leased more than 33,445 square feet of the former Circuit City building and Sheet Metal Workers' Local 104 and Bay Area Industry Training Fund purchased the 43,000-square-foot former Camping World building at 4350 Central Place. That means that of the approximate 196,000 square feet of vacant 'large footprint' big box retail space available in Fairfield in 2010, more than half (61 percent) was leased or purchased and occupied.

Could the remaining space be gobbled up as well in 2011? It's very possible.

We understand there are multiple parties interested in leasing the first floor of the former Mervyn's Department Store. Brokers have also reported interest in the Linen's space but there are few retailers searching the suburbs for 32,000 square feet and dividing this particular space for two or more users would be costly. And, we will see construction of the Lowes Home Improvement Center in 2011 on Dickson Hill Road.

The Fairfield Auto Mall made a strong comeback in 2010 and we expect the vacant former Chrysler and Dodge buildings to see activity in 2011. With the opening of Walmart on North Texas Street at the end of 2010, their former store on Chadbourne Road became surplus property. Brokers have reported interest from users desiring to occupy the building in 2011.

New restaurants: Wing Stop and Buffalo Wild Wings are two of the national franchises that entered the marketplace in 2010. Chick-fil-A was also approved for the former Marie Callender's space and Panera Bread is scheduled to open in the former Jos A. Bank clothing space.

Will the former Hungry Hunter (Waterman and Hillborn roads) and Applebee's buildings (Green Valley Road and Business Center Drive) see action in 2011?

Well, building location, access, size, vehicle traffic count and surrounding demographics play a key role in where a new restaurant (national franchise or private owner) desires to locate. While both aforementioned buildings have highway exposure, potential restaurateurs have passed on the respective buildings because of size, access and location. These two buildings may be better suited for alternative uses.

Westfield's renovation at the mall to create a food court area (500-plus seats) is scheduled to open in April. The city's economic development staff is continually courting potential new restaurateurs for several different locations so our guess is this year will bring announcements for new restaurants in town.

New industrial/office: It will be hard to top the statewide and national buzz Frank-Lin Distillers' new building on Huntington Drive in Tolenas Industrial Park provided for Fairfield in 2010. But the company is planning a second phase -- hopefully for 2011. Solano Business Park is also expected to see some new development activity this year. And North Bay Plumbing is planning to construct a 32,000-square-foot facility in Horizon Business Park.

We don't anticipate new speculative office space development in 2011 simply because of the abundance of available existing space. The third and fourth quarter of 2010 did show some signs of life in the office sector with the leasing of smaller spaces, and we believe this will continue in 2011.

Housing: New housing construction will continue at a relatively slow pace by historical standards, with most activity concentrated in northeastern Fairfield (Paradise Valley) and Southbrook/Garibaldi Ranch. One possible project in the works: expanded senior housing in Paradise Valley. The city is also anticipated to see rehabilitation of existing housing in the PACE (Pennsylvania, Alaska, Cunningham, Eton) neighborhood near Westfield Solano mall.

To sum it all up: we don't see 2011 as a return to the boom years. We do see steady absorption of commercial space and industrial buildings, continued residential development, and slow recovery in the office market. We also see 'creative' reuse of existing buildings and spaces as the paradigm for 2011

-- and perhaps beyond.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at kdumas@fairfield.ca.gov or bkmiller@fairfield.ca.gov.