By Nicole Hennessy
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of ongoing stories looking at Fairview Park and its process for keeping the city’s master plan up to date.
In Fairview Park, about 6.5 acres of land sit vacant. Here, Coffinberry Early Education once stood.
Having been rezoned to allow for residential development, still the Fairview Park school district owns and therefore mows the lot so as not to end up with an unruly meadow. It’s not a lack of agreement between the two entities that’s holding up the progress, it’s a matter of money.
“With the downturn in the economy, the value of the land has decreased,” Ward 1 Councilman Brian M. McDonough pointed out. “The school district wishes to eventually sell the land to a developer, but right now it is not in a hurry to do so.”
McDonough remembers, back in 2004, Fairview’s Master Plan Steering Committee proposing a few ideas.
“One idea was to have about 15 single-family homes with a green space,” he said. “An alternative proposal would be to have multifamily townhouses.”
As Mayor Eileen Patton pointed out while going through the entire 2005 master plan update, the city is planning to move forward with the development of single-family homes.
She said it made more sense than townhouses or apartments, as the Coffinberry neighborhood is highly residential.
In planning, Patton said, “We had a lot of neighborhood meetings” at which the existing residents were asked, “‘What do you guys want? You guys live here and it’s your investment,'” she explained. Having done that, “our goal is to build 12 to 15 homes on the biggest lots possible.”
In 2004, when new development was first discussed, McDonough said, “The average price of a home should be somewhere around $300,000. Unfortunately, at this time, the market would not bear that out.”
So, in trying to maximize the value of the land, there is nothing that can be done but to wait, something the city understands, as its biggest concern is the quality of the eventual development.
McDonough pointed out that in the meantime, the school district allows the St. Angela Merici football team to use the land for practice, so the land is being used in some capacity.
“Still,” he said, “I would love to have a temporary playground installed there” – emphasizing the word love. “It would give residents someplace to take their kids and grandkids,” a need that the school’s old playground used to fill.
Then, he added, once the land is at the point where it is ready to be developed, the playground could either become permanent or it could be relocated within the city.
Part of the city’s Gemini Project, the Garnett School and Coffinberry consolidation made way for the renovation of the new Gilles-Sweet Elementary School located on 200th Street.
“We get periodic calls from developers that are interested,” director of service and development, James M. Kennedy, said of the Coffinberry property. But, like everyone else, he quickly reverted to the topic of poor economic conditions affecting the market value of the land.
“Everyone knows the condition of our economy,” he said.