Fairfields Commercial Disricts how Downtown and Black Rock Turnpike have Changed over the Years

Once upon a time, there was The Fairfield Store where Victoria’s Secret no longer piques moral sensitivities, and on top of the hill at the corner of Stillson and Black Rock, the restaurant of choice was the Black Angus Steak House with none of the competition that exists today.

Old King’s Highway was largely light manufacturing where Home Depot now stands and a truck stop favorite near the I-95 overpass and circle has vanished while the motel with some major remodeling and under new management reclaimed its vitality as a safe place in which to stay while visiting in Fairfield. Commerce Drive is still exploding with the promise of a new commuter stop within a major redevelopment project that is now in limbo for a shortage of funds. On lower Black Rock Turnpike headed towards Bridgeport’s Black Rock, what was once the site of heavy industrial manufacturing of industrial machinery, a pair of movie houses straddles Ash Creek, the demarcation line between city and town, and BJ thrive.

Grasmere has its strip stores, restaurants, businesses and shops. The Southport end of town anchors its own attractions where most have been given renewed life after remodeling and an influx of new businesses. Greenfield Hills still has its shops tucked in the fork of two main arteries, and Southport leads an isolated but happy life with its own zip code.

From Kune’s Corner to Samp Mortar Drive, Black Rock has grown into a premier shopping area for the north side of Fairfield and the Stratfield area of town, which used to have its own Stratfield market as anchor.

Once upon a time, downtown Fairfield was the center of town. Now, there are diverse centers, each exerting their own pull upon the town, but two stand out. The magnet of Black Rock Turnpike attracts some, others by the Boston Post Road with its key structures, The Library and the Community Theatre attracts others. Find these two and you can find everything else up and down the old thoroughfare running between Eastport, Maine and Key West Florida.

Downtown has changed because it’s axis runs along Boston Post Road. Were it perpendicular to it, the situation could be different, if the turnpike had bypassed town by swinging further north, the town might have survived as a much smaller entity. In other parts of the country, major highways wiped out the downtowns left and right as it moved people on by in their vehicles who had no reason to stop other than to seek a quick overnight stop before going on their way, and the business was largely drawn out of town to accommodate the driving public near exits.

Out of town but still within town limits, new shopping districts burgeoned where smaller ones stood because the town experienced the booms associated with suburbs as communities that sheltered commuters whose homes and retreats were in the suburbs at night and weekends. Malls have come and gone, while others in outlying suburbs grew, peaked and retrenched due to the economy, the price of fuel, and the increasing likelihood that with more fashionable, stand-alone outlets in town, people would more likely shop them than the malls. It seems to have worked.

For a long time resident, Fairfield is being seen anew for the rejuvenation of its downtown. It has been like witnessing a re-awakening of a downtown in the doldrums. It is very exciting to see its vibrancy on any clear day. It is brighter, more inviting for strollers with ample parking. It has that hometown feeling.

In a different way, Black Rock, too, has blossomed, but Black Rock is not for walkers, it is busy for drivers and their vehicles that have to safely move in and out of parking lots; drivers have to be patient or quick to slip into a parking spot in some lots. It’s a more frantic pace to maneuver with many options along the route. One has to know the ins and outs of the shopping areas, where stores are, where to drop off the car to grab a cup of coffee, or buy a bagel, or visit the shops, to stop at a bank, or to go to a new or favorite restaurant. But this is a complaint about a vibrant commercial district.

It cannot be said that Fairfield has not changed. Although problems associated with growth remain or are created anew in more challenging ways, Fairfield is changing; it is no longer the sleepy little hamlet locked in its history.