Mike Fitzpatrick, the project manager for the proposed BJ’s Wholesale Club and adjoining restaurant in the north section of the Kohl’s shopping plaza on Federal Road, said now that the projects have been approved by the town boards, an application would be submitted within days to the State Traffic Commission (STC) and construction could start by next spring.
“Everybody we dealt with on the town commissions had positive feedback,” he said in an interview Thursday night after the Zoning Commission unanimously approved the application for the 28.8 acres located from 84 to 140 Federal Road.
Brian McCarthy, the civil engineer for the project, said it would include a 124,560-square-foot BJ’s Wholesale Club and a 3,200-square-foot restaurant.
Robert Nagi, the traffic engineer for BJ’s, said the wholesale center and restaurant would generate a combined 5,700 additional vehicle trips to the parcel.
In response to a question from Zoning Commission Chairman Bill Mercer during the public hearing, Nagi said to improve the traffic flow a left turn lane would be added along Candlewood Lake Road to get to Federal Road and a right turn lane from Route 7 onto Federal Road.
Nagi said the timing on the nearby signal lights also would be changed to ease traffic congestion in the area.
The Inland Wetlands Commission approved BJ’s application this last Monday and Richard Papenfuss, the chairman of the Water Source Site Plan Review Committee for the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company sent a letter to the Zoning Commission this week stating that the panel is “very satisfied” with its plans for fire suppression at the site.
McCarthy said “a new pump house” would be built and connected to the existing 200,000-gallon water tank.
He told the Zoning Commission that three existing buildings would be razed in the north section of the shopping center, which was built in the 1960s to house Caldor’s, which for many years occupied the site where Kohl’s is now located on the southern portion of the parcel.
“It will be totally redeveloped in terms of parking and landscaping,” McCarthy said during the Zoning Commission’s public hearing. “The drainage will be revamped.”
He said plans for a new sewer line that would connect to the system on Candlewood Lake Road would be submitted soon to the Water Pollution Control Authority.
Landscape architect Abigail Adams, of CCA in Brookfield, who is representing BJ’s, said “shade trees and shrubs” would be added to the parking area.
Fitzpatrick said the STC has up to six months to make a decision after an application is submitted, but that it can act in a shorter period of time.
Nagi said BJ’s has had a pre-approval meeting with the STC and “no questions of contention” were raised by the members of the commission.
Fitzpatrick said if BJ’s application is approved, the company would finalize the purchase of parcel with “the seller” and hopefully have construction underway next spring.
He said it would take about 12 months to build the wholesale center.
“It’s a good area for retail,” Fitzpatrick said of the southern corridor of Federal Road, which already generates a steady traffic flow from Costco and several furniture stores.
Lowe’s Home Improvement had considered building a store on the parcel some years ago but instead opted for a location in Danbury.
The owners of smaller retail centers along the southern corridor of Federal Road have said they get many out-of-town customers who come to the area to shop at Costco and the furniture stores, as well as Stew Leonard’s in Danbury.
Economic Development Commission (EDC) Chairman Hal Kurfehs said his panel plans to make a recommendation on BJ’s proposal next Tuesday and he anticipated that it would be favorable since the members have made “very positive comments” about the application.
He was the only person to speak in favor of BJ’s proposal during the Zoning Commission hearing. No one spoke in opposition.
“This is good use of an area that has been wasting away for years,” Kurfehs said of the property, which once housed a movie theater and several small retail stores.
First Selectman Bill Davidson has said he has been impressed with the preparation that BJ’s has put into its application.
Town officials have been seeking to expand the town’s commercial tax base, which has stood for years at about 14 percent of the overall tax revenue.
In addition to the BJ’s Wholesale Center, the town is seeking to develop the 198 acres in the Town District Center along the northern part of Federal Road into a pedestrian-friendly retail streetscape.
Town boards also have approved a retail center on the 37-acre cornfield along Junction Road.