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A Majestic Development Plan For Downtown, Ganim: Main Street’s Bookends Of Progress Coming Together

June 20th, 2017 · 24 Comments · Development and Zoning, News and Events

Ganim, theaterdeveloper

Mayor Joe Ganim, right, chats with officials with Exact Capital Group including Managing Partner Craig Livingston, backed by a “Coming Soon” marquee.

Declaring “We don’t look at what it is, we look at what we want it to be,” the managing partner of the Manhattan-based commercial real estate firm Exact Capital Group joined Mayor Joe Ganim and other officials Monday afternoon to announce a $400 million redevelopment of the shuttered and nostalgic Poli and Majestic theaters Downtown that includes a performing arts center, entertainment and sports venue, preservation of the Savoy Hotel into 200 rooms, two 18-floor towers across the street, with retail and underground parking, that would become the tallest buildings in the central business district, and another 10 floors of housing units on Housatonic Avenue. Craig Livingston, the managing partner, projected a groundbreaking next summer for the first-phase theater restoration.

artist rendering Poli

Artist rendering of Downtown theater proposal.

Livingston characterized the real estate as “a remarkable, transformative project … an amazing location” with unparalleled access to mass transit, highway, rail and ferry. “It is a footprint for an engaging, walkable community.”

Before introducing Livingston to the media and a group of city and business officials curious about the details of the development proposal, Ganim said he viewed the development as “recreating the glory contained in these theaters … a rejuvenation and rebirth” for what he termed as the north bookend of the Downtown to complement the southern tier development that included the ball park at Harbor Yard and Webster Bank Arena constructed during his first tenure as mayor.

Exact Capital’s portfolio includes the ongoing $178 million redevelopment of Harlem’s Victoria Theater, that’s experienced its share of starts and stops. See recent details here.

tower rendering

Rendering of towers.

Sylvester Poli, a renowned sculptor in New York, launched Bridgeport as a respected theatrical community circa 1920 via construction of his architectural treasures that combined for roughly 6,000 seats. The biggest Broadway stars of the era such as Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson performed in Bridgeport. The 100-room Savoy Hotel, whose sign is still a feature on the vacant building, was part of the complex.

Shuttered for more than 40 years, a solicitation for development proposals was issued in January of this year. Economic Development Director Tom Gill said advancement of Downtown North redevelopment projects spurred interest in the twin gems. For old-time Bridgeport residents they represent an era when the city was a magnet for Broadway’s theater and pageantry. Others have wondered for decades, what was there and should they be demolished? Ganim on the 2015 campaign trail said he wanted to revisit restoration of the theaters to marry the redevelopment of Main Street’s southern tier that took place during JG1.

The initial plans call for preserving one of the theaters into a multi-amenity performing arts center as well as revitalizing the old Savoy Hotel. If the proposed towers across the street are completed on the roughly three acres owned by the city they will represent the tallest Downtown buildings surpassing the Richard Meier designed 16-story People’s United Bank headquarters that was built under the leadership of the now retired Chief Executive Officer David Carson. Livingston, the Manhattan developer, cracked jestfully, where we come from 18 levels isn’t so high. In all more than 500 units of housing are part of the plan.

Other details, according to the developer and mayor, include:

– The Majestic Theater will be renovated and reopen with 2,200 seats for use by local and regional performing arts groups that will be deeded by the City of Bridgeport

– Rehabilitate 3 first floor retail spaces for goods and services complementary to the renovated Savoy Hotel

– Renovate and restore the former Poli Palace entrance to original historic condition that will serve as an entrance to the renovated Savoy Hotel

– Use a portion of the Poli Palace Theater as gym or healthy lifestyle venue

– Use a portion of the Poli Palace as a ballroom or entertainment venue for hosting banquets, weddings, graduations, galas, conferences, etc.

– Rehabilitate Savoy Hotel to modern hotel standards

– Construct a new residential tower ranging from studios to 3-bedroom apartments with private terraces.

Directly across the street from the vacant theaters that the city does not control is the shuttered building that once housed the Ocean Sea Grill. Gill said it remains to be seen whether the parcel is incorporated into the redevelopment vision. Gill said the city is discussing future use with the building’s owner.

When asked how the project will be financed Livingston said funding will come from a variety of potentially private and state sources. Will Exact Capital Group seek a tax abatement from the city? Livingston parsed his response, saying they will be paying a lot in real estate taxes. Afterward, Ganim said “I don’t think there’s any talk of a property tax deal.”

Majestic external

The theaters back in the day.

Bridgeport Regional Business Council CEO Mickey Herbert attended the event. He was part of the initial 1998 ownership of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball team that plays at Harbor Yard. When asked where this development ranks on a scale of 1 to 10, if it happens, he said “a 22.”


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24 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    When asked how the project will be financed Livingston said funding will come from a variety of potentially private and state sources. Will Exact Capital Group seek a tax abatement from the city? Livingston parsed his response, saying they will be paying a lot in real estate taxes. Afterward, Ganim said “I don’t think there’s any talk of a property tax deal.”

    Again, Ganim said “I don’t think there’s any talk of a property tax deal.” There it is, Ganim doesn’t know, watch your tax dollars.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    When elephants fly shades of Magic Johnson and Tate George

  • Harvey Weintraub

    “Where the $400-plus million to get all three phases built will come from was not quite clear”….LOL,those theater buildings will be there until they burn down,this is big announcement is all bullshit…Joe really things we are stupid…

  • Steven Auerbach

    I am cautiously optimistic. Extremely excited and hopeful. This is exactly what the city needs . Between Steelepointe and downtown , the future looks hopeful for taxpayers. Next a Southern Ct State University and Uconn branch downtown and the city will have the basic building blocks to attract investors, entertainment and housing. The potential is great. Even the underutized , gorgeous boardwalk by the train station would become real plus for future tenants.

    The other side of the coin in our Mayor. There is nothing negative here. Joe Ganim will become a hero. He will be able to raise funds for his political aspirations simply because people will want to support a winning city and the man that has helped turn it around. This does not diminish at all Mayor Finch’s contribution. The Downtown theaters and housing is Bridgeport Holy Grail. The history of these theaters is rich and people are excited. This article made my day. A little positive energy is a good thing.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Anyone else notice that McCarthy no longer attends any of these “big announcement” press opportunities?..In fact,very rarely do you ever see Joe with Mcarthy anywhere.When Bill was mayor,McCarthy would be by his side for all press briefings…His absence speaks loudly about how he feels about Joe.

  • jo1986

    Took these guys six years to get a groundbreaking in Harlem on a smaller project. How are we supposed to believe they can get shovels in the ground on this project in 12 months?

  • Local Eyes

    Mayor Ganim aims for the moon and the stars; Mayor Ganim hits the moon and the stars. If this continues, New York and Boston might become Bridgeport bookends and that new dot on the map shows where all the investment dollars are going. Bullseye!

  • Tom White

    Sadly, just more renderings for the museum of wishful thinking.
    Let’s see if this is incorporated into Ganim’s campaign for governor as an example of how he is revitalizing Bridgeport.
    How is the high-rise project on the former Remington Shaver site coming along? Oh, that was a Finch rendering.

  • Local Eyes

    Due to poor attendance, The Tom White wing at the once-famous Museum of Wishful Thinking has been closed. After his legal shortcomings, visitors lost interest in his brand of negativity surrounding economic development in Bridgeport.

    • Ron Mackey

      Paul, now that’s funny.

    • Tom White

      The poster who labels himself ‘local eyes’ amuses himself with riddles that may be attributable to chromosomal abnormality or a delusional disorder. Perhaps he should create a blog ‘only in Trumbull’ and he can speak with authority since he knows little about the reality of living in Bridgeport.

      • Local Eyes

        I own digital office space in Boston and New York City. From there business leaders can connect with Bridgeport’s OPED. Adding value to Bridgeport is part of my digital DNA. Adding value in your backyard is something I’m good at, too.. If you’re ready to challenge me, I’m ready to prove it.

      • Local Eyes

        The backyard poseur walks streets of fire, understands local realities and made several web sites to demonstrate his position.

        • Local Eyes

          Because of my local internet assets, some people think anything within Bridgeport’s boundaries is part of my backyard. That’s not true.

  • Bob Walsh

    This is just more BS coming from the King of BS. Joe Ganim.
    This is why Tom Gill is there. No serious Economic Development Director could stand for this with a straight face.
    Ganim said there is no talk of a property tax break because he knows as well as anybody there is no way this is getting done in the next ten years.

  • Donald Day

    I don’t believe much that comes out of the mouth of JG2, but like Paul this would be great for the city. I first came to Bridgeport in 1965 and downtown was vibrant and alive. It would be great to see it like that again. I don’t believe, but if you can get this done

  • Tom White

    Poster ‘local eyes’ makes a strong argument that he is delusional by claiming his “local internet asset” makes him a part of Bridgeport and adds value to Bridgeport. Wow, he’s out there in virtual la la land.

  • Bob Walsh

    Donald Day
    I too would like to see the same but it ain’t gonna happen. At least not in the say it is being sold to the public.
    I’ve danced this dance before and come midnight Cinderella is nowhere to be found and we are left high and dry.

  • Bob Halstead

    Last time John Olson promised me paperwork about the City Downtown budget he pulled it back out of my hand because Brantley protested while chairman Scott remained silent. I’d love to see the financials. I could analyze them. Not having them, i assuume they are flawed

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Same bullshit, different administration…When Finch was trying to get re elected, he was promising developments downtown too.. lol

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