Ten Minutes with Albert Kleban
Fairfield real estate developer with a lot of retail space on Black Rock Turnpike, Post Road, including the Brickwalk
photo // stan godlewski
Albert Kleban is founder and chairman of Kleban Properties, which owns and operates office, retail, and mixed-use properties in town centers, principally in the Northeast and on the Gulf Coast. In Fairfield, much of the retail space on Black Rock Turnpike and the Post Road, including the Brickwalk, is managed by Kleban Properties and its partners. We talked with the family patriarch about Fairfield real estate.
What was Fairfield like many years ago?
I am 86 and can remember Fairfield back when I was a child. It was a sleepy town with very little outside of the Community Theatre and the Fairfield Store, and no exciting nightlife or restaurants except for Larry’s Diner.
What do you think is the biggest change from then to now?
We changed Fairfield dramatically when we remodeled and brought in the Gap and Old Navy stores, introducing national tenants for the first time. We also made substantial changes to downtown Fairfield, demolishing buildings, remodeling others, and adding outside dining.
With GE leaving how do you feel about Fairfield’s future?
The loss of GE was a devastating blow. However, GE’s property will now be occupied by Sacred Heart University, and together with Fairfield University this brings new levels of excitement and intellectual opportunities to the community.
Can you share any news of tenants coming to town?
I can’t say at the moment, but we are confident that 2017 will bring some new properties and energy to Fairfield—from downtown to the area near the new train station.
Have you ever thought of revitalizing the Community Theater?
My son Ken and my grandson Evan and I have tried many times to purchase the property and invest substantial funds to revitalize it. We would refurbish it—even at a loss—because we want this property to be made into something all Fairfielders can be proud of. We envision a performing-arts center as one possibility. We are going to keep trying and haven’t given up yet!
You brought Molto into the Brickwalk and it has been a rousing success. Any more plans to bring in hip restaurants?
We have several offers for similar restaurants to go into the Citibank space on Black Rock Turnpike. I want to see more outdoor dining. We need the town—from the board of appeals to the zoning commission—to remain flexible with their rules and regulations to help us keep improving Fairfield in this way.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I—we’ve been together 62 years—have an apartment in Trump Tower and go to the city often for opera, music, and theater.
Do you ever bump into our new president at your apartment?
I certainly do, and I am an acquaintance of President Trump. He has asked me to golf with him but I always refuse—principally because I don’t want to embarrass myself—I am a lousy golfer!
What is your motto?
Absolute integrity and fairness in all our dealings.