The good news, Bass Pro is still in play. Brian Lockhart, CT Post reports:
Keep those $100 Bass Pro Shops gift cards in a safe place for at least another year-and-a-half.
The booty was distributed at July’s celebratory fish fry announcing the outdoor retailer’s move to the city’s Steel Point project in time for Christmas 2013.
But Steel Point developer Robert Christoph last week said the necessary utility and road upgrades are taking longer than anticipated, pushing Bass Pro’s grand opening back an estimated six months.
“We’re looking at Bass Pro opening sometime in mid-2014,” said Christoph, who is based in Miami. “The start for the roads has been further pushed back … probably to January.”
The city has been struggling for 30 years with partners in the private sector to transform the Steel Point peninsula into a waterfront mecca for businesses, residents and tourists.
Over the summer, Christoph, Mayor Bill Finch and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Bass Pro, a retailing giant headquartered in Missouri, had signed up as the first tenant in exchange for to-be-determined subsidies.
The city sought bids for road construction in the spring, with a goal of beginning the work by August and, weather permitting, wrapping up by spring.
Christoph blamed the current delay on ongoing negotiations with The United Illuminating Co. over relocating and burying electrical equipment.
“It’s like the chicken and the egg,” Christoph said. “All the major utilities have to be in place to form the ‘backbone’ … before the roads go over the top.”
UI’s Michael West said the developer and city, for aesthetic reasons, want the utilities installed underground.
“(That is) certainly something a lot of folks do. But the question here is about the costs associated with undergrounding,” West said.
He declined to provide a specific figure, but said the work can cost 90 percent more than above-ground installation, which equals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“What we cannot do is have the costs associated with that project now be paid for by all UI customers versus the beneficiary,” West said. “There have been multiple conversations–months of conversations, actually–about this project and how to get it done.”
West said the sides are closer to a resolution that may involve the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
“They are the ultimate decision-makers,” West said.
Finch spokesman Elaine Ficarra said the administration hopes the issue can be resolved for the infrastructure work to begin in January.
Christoph said Bass Pro has 400 days to complete construction after the utility and road improvements are complete.
Company spokesman Larry Whiteley was unaware of any changes in the original timeline for a 2013 opening. But he acknowledged it takes time to complete a new Bass Pro location.
“Because the stores are so big and uniquely designed to the area of the country, they do take a while to build, unlike non-descript concrete block buildings,” Whiteley said.
Christoph said he is still pleased with the momentum at the Steel Point site. The city and developer, for example, recently settled a two-year dispute with one of the last original property owners–the Pequonnock Yacht Club–over the condition in which the club left its California Street property when it moved to New Haven.
And Christoph said he and his staff continue traveling the country, meeting other potential tenants.
“Starting Sunday is the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in New York for the Northeast. That’s a big one,” Christoph said. “I know our leasing team has almost 20 to 25 different appointments set up … all of whom now know at least Bass Pro is going to be there.”
At the state level, closed-door talks over the details of the financial incentives offered Bass Pro are on schedule, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development. The agency offered no details.
Typically, state economic deals are announced after the numbers have been crunched and any loans and tax breaks are outlined for the public and lawmakers. That was not the case with Bass Pro.
Ronald Angelo Jr., a DECD deputy commissioner, in September said he had no concerns the deal might fall apart.
“We are engaged with them, talking on a regular basis,” Angelo said. “They’ve come out publicly with this and have a team on the ground spending time and resources on this project. I think they’ve got quite a bit at stake and making sure this project is complete on their end.”
Angelo added at the time, “DECD will continue to do a great deal of due diligence and make sure we have a financial agreement in place that is good for taxpayers of the state and very conscious of return on investment.”