Economic commission to discuss empty office space Monday night

Ridgefield’s empty office space — and what might be done to fill more of it — will be the focus of discussion at a special meeting of the Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC) next Monday, Sept. 10, at 6:30 p.m. in town hall.

“Office occupants drive the economy. What we need to do is develop a strategy that is a compelling reason to lease space in Ridgefield,” said commission member John Devine.

Devine said some commercial landlords and other people involved in commercial real estate had been invited to join the commission for a discussion of “strategy to fill vacant office space.”

It’s a concern First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he’s discussed with the ECDC.

“We know that our vacancy rate for second floor office space is high — 14% or 15%,” Marconi said. “We meet once a month and that’s one of the things that’s come up, and one of the focuses they want to work on.

“It’s nice to have a group of volunteers who are constantly at work, addressing economic development issues and working to fill a void that helps residents in general,” Marconi said.

“Commercial property landlords certainly pay taxes. And the taxes landlords pay certainly helps reduce the burden on residential property owners in Ridgefield.”

The problem isn’t confined to Ridgefield.

Devine said ECDC member Gus Ryer of Ryer Commercial Realty had told him Ridgefield’s office occupancy rate “is actually pretty good for Fairfield County.”

Among the folks the ECDC has invited to join the discussion are: commercial property owner Wing Biddle of Urstadt-Biddle; developer, commercial landlord and Board of Selectmen member Steve Zemo; Bob Cascella, commercial real estate agent and a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission; Laura Rubinfeld, director of the Ridgefield Board of Realtors, and state Rep John Frey, who works in real estate.

Devine said the idea for the meeting came from a discussion he’d had with Cascella, who’d said the “the vacancy rate is in the high teens.”