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Costco Looks to Compete with Bank, Gas Station

With BJ's moving in down the road, Costco doubling down.

In an apparent effort to maintain its competitiveness along the southern corridor of Federal Road, is seeking to “renovate and expand” its current wholesale location by 15,186 square feet by demolishing the nearby bank and having it relocated to a neighboring building.

In its application, dated June 2, to the Zoning Commission, Costco wrote that “certain aspects of the site design and building have become outdated” since it began operations at 200 Federal Road about 20 years ago.

The company stated that under its proposal the existing building would expand to 141,685 square feet and add a gas fueling station.

Economic Development Commission (EDC) Chairman Hal Kurfehs said Costco’s current Brookfield center is smaller than many of its other locations, even though it ranks high in New England in sales among wholesale outlets.

This last April, the Zoning Commission to build a 124,560-square-foot commercial center in the north section of the Kohl’s shopping plaza, near Costco. That 28.8-acre parcel, which includes the former Fine Arts Theater, has been vacant for years. The zoners also approved an adjoining 3,200-square foot restaurant.

BJ’s Wholesale Club officials have said they hope to start construction next spring and be open for business by the spring 2013.

“Costco knows that BJ’s will be the first location that people will see coming off the highway, so Costco knew it had to do something dramatic to build volume at the location,” Kurfehs said of the traffic that would be coming from Super 7 near the intersection of Candlewood Lake and Federal roads.

“I think that they both will be able to exist, in fact in a lot of towns, there is a Costco and a BJ’s right near each other,” First Selectman Bill Davidson said.

The Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on Costco’s application July 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the town hall.

“This is the Zoning Commission’s decision, but I am very supportive of what Costco wants to do,” Davidson said. “I’ve seen the plans and they are going to make major improvements that will be of benefit.”

Staying at 200 Federal Road

Costco had sought to build a larger wholesale center on the 37-acre cornfield, but withdrew its application to the Zoning Commission in February 2009, just months after it had been submitted.

Company officials indicated at that time that they didn’t believe the commission would approve the project.

Several residents objected to the application at the public hearings, which were held in the Brookfield High School (BHS) auditorium, saying that the increased traffic would make nearby country roads unsafe and disrupt activities at the churches and nursery schools on Junction Road.

Kurfehs, a local commercial Realtor, said this week that after Costco withdrew its application to the Zoning Commission he showed the company a site in Danbury that they considered for “six to nine months.”

He said they opted not to pursue that option.

“It is hard to find locations in this area and they wanted to protect their investment in Brookfield,” Kurfehs said.

Municipal officials had been concerned that Costco, which is one of the Brookfield’s larger taxpayers, might leave town since the company had said it had outgrown its current operations. They have said that Costco also has donated to several local organizations.

“I spoke with senior officials of Costco the first week I was in office in December 2009 and encouraged them to stay in town and to let them know that in my personal opinion it was unfortunate that they weren’t approved for the cornfield parcel,” Davidson said. “The Federal Road corridor between Costco and Stew Leonard’s, which is located just over the border in Danbury, generates a huge volume of traffic, which has grown over the last 15 years as several furniture stores have opened.

“Both Costco and BJ’s want to make improvements to Federal Road and address the flow of traffic,” Davidson said. “Their projects are going to generate more tax revenue and help the other businesses on Federal Road by attracting customers. The additional traffic is something that we are going to have to address. Nothing comes for free.”

Costco wrote in its application that “the location of the existing [Union Savings Bank] building creates a less than optimal pattern within the site.”

“With the existing entry drive to Costco, located south of the bank, the main parking field is split in half and circulation around the bank is awkward,” the company stated.

The company also stated that it would seek to make improvements to Federal Road and provide better access to its site.

There is a large volume of traffic along that section of Federal Road, particularly on Saturday when many shoppers from outside the area visit Costco and the furniture stores.

The “new site access will feature a new signalization intersection that will provide better access to the site, as well as a safer design on Federal Road (which will address state-identified safety issues on Federal Road,” Costco wrote in its application.

The proposal will also have to pass the State Traffic Commission (STC) before it is implemented.

Kurfehs said the combination of BJ’s Wholesale Club’s move and the proposed expansion of Costco will boost business for smaller stores along the southern corridor of Federal Road.

“You start with an anchor,” he said.  “You will have two terrific anchors in Costco and BJ’s.”

Brookfield, a town of about 16,400 people, ranks in the top 25 percent in the state in sales tax revenue that it generates, according to Davidson, largely because of the commercial establishments along the southern corridor of Federal Road.

In its application, Costco has proposed demolishing the nearby branch of Union Savings Bank and relocating it to the nearby 3,200-square-foot and use some of the additional space to construct a gas fueling station.

The application stated that the owners of the property, Gary Michael and Dennis Michael, “will acquire” the Savoy Rug Gallery at 236 Federal Road “and incorporate it into the site.”

Kurfehs, who represents Savoy Rug Gallery, said he doesn’t believe that the company would relocate in Brookfield.

He said he would recuse himself from discussions and any votes when the Economic Development Commission discusses Costco’s proposed expansion at its June 21 meeting, as well as any other future sessions.

Retired June 17, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Wow...this is very revealing...Mr. Kurfehs tried to lure Costco away from Brookfield and move them to Danbury. No wonder Brookfield has a economic disaster commission.
Rob Gianazza June 17, 2011 at 12:29 PM
This has every possibility to be a win-win situation for Brookfield. Careful attention needs to be placed on the traffic-flow. With proper planning, this has the potential to be a very positive step forward in Brookfield's future.
Bob McGarrah June 17, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Between bringing Kohls to New Milford and BJ's/expanded Costco to Southern Federal Road, has Hal abandoned Four Corners development plans? Or will tax dollars continue to be spent on studies and "planners"? Seems all this took place without using STEAP grant $$ or other tax payer incentives. Maybe we can learn something.
Rob Gianazza June 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM
That's a totally unwarranted attack against Mr. Kurfehs. It was only after Costco's application was rejected by Brookfield that he showed them another property. After all, that is his livelihood as a realtor. Mr. Kurfehs has always been an advocate for Brookfield's economic growth and has recused himself from any conflicting deals.
Rob Gianazza June 17, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Interesting assertions? Correct me if I am mistaken, isn't the vision for the Four Corners area to be a pedestrian friendly boutique type shopping area with niche stores and restaurants to attract shoppers to spend their dollars in Brookfield? BJ's and Costco's seem to be quite appropriate for their proposed locations.
Veronica Erdmann June 17, 2011 at 05:11 PM
it's interesting to hear costco wanting to increase the size of the building (i am not opposed) and then take up the area (or maybe more) that the bank is in for a fueling station(i'm not too thrilled with that). two beefs: where are all the extra parking spots that costco always complains that they need and will certainly require with additional store space? if the bank were demolished and used for parking, that would increase the parking space available for the enlarged store. also, will the fueling station bring in trucks for fueling or only cars? we don't need this becoming a truck stop, there is no room for that in the lot or on the roads!
Jim Bob June 18, 2011 at 01:27 PM
Bob..How about submitting a specific action plan with every one of your negative comments. It gets frustrating reading all your negativity. Either get involved in every aspect of everything you have a comment about on a day to day basis, or GO AWAY..I hear North Carolina is nice these days!! Please, stop being so negative about everything, or start fixing all the issues that you complain about.. Mr Brookfield and friends
John Hawley June 18, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Excellent post! Spot on!!
BobCat June 18, 2011 at 06:49 PM
1000% behind what Costco wants to do. Build it! Anyone that has lived in Brookfield for more than five minutes knows the traffic issues on Federal Road. And anyone that has lived in Brookfield for more than 10 minutes knows how to get around them. The town needs this. The town needs BJ's. Four Corners has nothing to do with this. Stop the negativity. Stop with the personal agendas and attacks. Just do it!
Steven DeVaux June 30, 2011 at 10:16 AM
Retired, With retail demographics showing Brookfield's retail market to be at $300MM max, the pie pan will remain 12". The slices will all shrink a bit to make up for BJ's slice. Shoppers will switch from one to the other. Brookfield should know from it supermarket experiences. It will learn again but not soon enough. What is interesting is the Kohl's in New Milford. Very interesting.
Steven DeVaux June 30, 2011 at 10:17 AM
Retired, With retail demographics showing Brookfield's retail market to be at $300MM max, the pie pan will remain 12". The slices will all shrink a bit to make up for BJ's slice. Shoppers will switch from one to the other. Brookfield should know from it supermarket experiences. It will learn again but not soon enough. What is interesting is the Kohl's in New Milford. Very interesting.

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