Bass Pro Shops: Disneyland Of Outdoor Sporting Retailers

Bass Pro Shops

City, state and federal officials today (Sunday) will formally announce Bass Pro Shops as a major anchor tenant for the Steel Point development area on the East Side. Nancy Hadley, who served as director of economic development during the John Fabrizi mayoral years, was a key figure in the city gaining control of the land area in 2007. She shares her perspective on what the Bass Pro Shops announcement means.

This is a strong first retail announcement! Destination retail has been one of the important components of the development of the peninsula. So is the 3000-foot public boardwalk that has all of the required permits in place. BPS attracts other top-shelf retailers. BPS isn’t like REI in Fairfield; not even close. BPS is the ‘Disneyland’ of outdoor sporting retailers; real destination quality.

Given all the public money that has gone into the peninsula already, the yacht club and slips must be open to the public. Pequonnock and MOVE were private clubs unwilling to become public. As for the Oyster Company, they needed to be tucked under I-95. Who would want to walk around a 3000-foot boardwalk with shops and concerts in the plaza and be next to a huge pile of smelly oyster shells? Yes it’s expensive but so was the creation of Baltimore Inner Harbor and Boston Faneuil Hall.

It is very sad that several neighborhoods were destroyed on the peninsula to make way for 50 acres of job and tax generation. Urban Renewal will always leave a hurtful set of memories. Please remember, 2007 was the year when the City actually got control of the entire peninsula. It took the DPUC to order the condemnation of the seventeen acres UI controlled valid before the developer could be held accountable for performance. Therefore the last five years has been the crucial period for real focus on development which spanned the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. So Sunday is a big deal!

Floating the Tax Increment Bonds will be the next huge milestone to achieve. There is lots of infrastructure work that needs to be done on and under that 50 acres. The TIGER II money will construct the realignment of Stratford Avenue including the separation of the storm and sewer lines across the peninsula. Step by step.

I will be there Sunday afternoon with a huge smile and lots of pride. Congratulations to the Mayor and Governor. Welcome also to David Kooris–a great time to take the helm of OPED! It is finally Bridgeport’s time!

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29 comments

  1. What I find odd about the response to this announcement on this webzine is City Hall Smoker didn’t post a comment. Could it be he/she was smoking Bass and forgot to post? There were some postings that raised the question of whether BPS will be paying taxes. Some haven’t been paying attention! The developer would have been responsible for the taxes–property that is–but it has already been reported the city will not be generating any taxes for at least 25 years. BPS will be leasing the building from the developer and is not responsible for paying the property tax on the building at least. The sales taxes generated is to go towards payment of the bonding for the project. One cannot ignore the fact if nothing is developed, there won’t be any kind of taxes generated. I’m concerned whether there is a strong enough market to generate the necessary sales to pay the bonding cost. Who will be left holding the bag if it fails and those responsible have gone to Disney World? I believe strongly in what Alex Conroy said many times in meetings back in the mid ’90s. “In order for this project to work, it must be big.”
    Back then, “big” was $900,000,000. If in 2012 Market Analysis showed these type of projects can succeed, I’m sure there would have been much more development taking place and developers knocking down the doors of City Hall.
    Bridgeport needs to build up to the sky. When Bridgeport has at least one 50-story structure, then I’ll say we are moving up. If any OIB poster on the negative side of the BPS announcement is wondering what Finch would say about it, I’d guess he’d say: Kiss my Bass.

    1. Joel, I don’t know enough about this deal to comment. However, if we give Bass Pro Shops a 25-year no-tax deal, then don’t we have to offer the same deal to every tenant over there? Will they all pay a special tax like the DSSD or will we have to cover their garbage pickup, snow removal, added police presence, etc. which will end up costing us more money?

      I grew up on Pleasure Beach and I want that area to succeed as much as anyone. I simply don’t trust the Powers that Be to do what’s in our best interest. Their #1 agenda is to serve themselves. Where’s John Marshall Lee on all of this? Did Adam Wood finally catch him and lock him in the basement?

    1. I’ll be at The Greeks before the ceremony. I’ll get you a Delta Kappa Cuppa before the Fish Fry! Make sure to drink plenty of water, or in your case Kool-Aid, today.

  2. Nancy,
    REI is in Norwalk. Metrically speaking, what do you project, notwithstanding the tidal pull of this project, the ROI to be and what net effect will this have on our taxes? Not just Bass but overall project.

    Speaking of the Magic Kingdom! Will Magic Johnson and Tain’t George be attending or will we have to Wait ‘Til Kingdom Come?

  3. Look peeps, things stay the same until they change. Although I can understand the trepidation regarding things “Finch initiated.” For me it just makes for a better version of the day to think this particular project might be the catalyst. It’s big, it’s appropriate to the space and it could be far reaching. Natural laws dictate what goes up must come down and it works in the reverse as well. My view remains; Bridgeport’s abyss just can’t be that deep; it’s statistically impossible.

  4. Grin,
    REI is in Norwalk. I bought a few things there on my way back from my offices in Stamford last week. Thanks for the correction.

    Bridgeport has not received the Hartford largess like Hartford (the multi multi million dollar grants for the Four Pillers) Waterbury ($50 million grant to completely redo the Palace theatre) and the like. So Bridgeport is using the tax increment financing route. I didn’t follow the last legislative session extension of the bill that permits the Real estate TIF for Bridgeport. I don’t know if there will also be a sales tax TIF. We are talking about catalyst here; big-time catalyst. Game changer in the way people and investors view Bridgeport. This is not a silver bullet. It has to lead to other investments. That is when the NOI makes sense to calculate. That is why the Downtown Village District Zone was created with lots of input from David Kooris in 2005-7. When the pointe has construction cranes and bulldozers working hard, the former dog track becomes investment ready. So does the rest of the former Father Panik site. So does the former Mechanics and Farmers/Trefz site and the Bob’s sport site When the pointe marina is built my bet is we will see something substantial at the former Remington shaver site especially with the fantastic growth of UB. Big boats burn lots of expensive fuel so the economics of deepwater marinas is tricky.

    The key is momentum. Bridgeport has to also be seen as a ‘City That Works;’ that it knows how to review and process the land use petitions efficiently conveying confidence despite the 41.1 mil rate. We need base hits, doubles and triples. Lots of them with lots of publicity. This announcement is a big jump in Bridgeport’s confidence meter. OPED has a lot of work to do to make that happen. In my opinion the right way to look at NOI is to do the build-out calculation on the DVD zone and take a percentage based on updated market information.

    1. And why do you suppose Bridgeport is being treated as a stepchild? Simple answers … corruption, the perception of corruption, stupid leadership, inept management, too many do-nothing jobs, too many favors owed.
      You can’t put lipstick and earrings on a pig, and Steel Point is a poorly thought out plan done by naive “development persons.”
      Bridgeport has extraordinary assets and has been milked dry by the powers that be for the past 50+ years. And the inept management who keep patting themselves on the back have absolutely no clue how to generate positive revenues for Bridgeport.

    2. Nancy,
      Thanks for the great analysis. I steal hope this will lower my taxes. I moved here from Baltimore 33 years ago and worked Stamford in the Columbus Needle Park era. I guess it is true God May Delay but He Does Not Deny!

      Do you know something about the Shoreline parcel I don’t know?

      1. Grin,
        Almost 45% of Bridgeport’s tax base is tax exempt for a variety of reasons. Of the remaining taxable land about 80% is residential so the 41.1 mil hits the residential property owners the hardest. In order for that mil rate to start trending downward private capital has to start investing in Bridgeport’s Expanded Downtown where the permissible densities are the highest. The fact all of the transportation modes converge within a short walk of downtown should make the pitch to transit-oriented sustainable developers an easy sell. BUT it’s all about investor confidence. Private capital will flow when there is investor confidence in the City. All eyes will be on the City come Sunday at 2:30pm. They are announcing BPS will open in time for the December 2013 holiday season. Everyone needs to keep their eyes on the goal and deliver. Welcome David Kooris. He has to have the resources to make sure the City delivers on their part of the partnership.

        1. Nancy,
          I am glad you are excited about this. Must give you some sense of satisfaction knowing how much time you spent trying to get this off the ground. On behalf of many, thank you for your past and continued support of this great city.
          Steven.

          1. Thanks Steve.
            I joined the Fabrizi Administration in February 2004. On the top of my to-do list was the five new pre-K to 8th grade schools and get Steel Point moving. New Haven was building new schools all over the city yet Bridgeport had spent five years trying to get the first school built on the West Side (now Cesar Batalla). As for Steel Point, it took me 24 hours to realize the developer wasn’t the problem. The City moved all the homes and small businesses but hadn’t finished acquiring the UI, Pequonnock, MOVE and Oyster Company sites. That was almost half of the peninsula. It was impossible to blame the developer for the City’s lack of follow-through.

            So Mayor Fabrizi made the very hard decision to stop the ten-year-old discussions with UI and let the court decide. The new developer partner, MidTown Equities helped immensely with this effort. Not only did the court have to decide on the fair market value but the CT DPUC had to open a docket, have a series of hearings and approve the price so the ratepayers were protected.

            In 2007 in a small hearing room in New Britain the decision finally came down from the DPUC the condemnation was approved. Title to the land would pass to the City.

            The other three properties had a final round of negotiations and then a push through the court to get to a conclusion. Mayor Fabrizi accomplished the critical acquisitions that allowed the zoning approvals to happen. The Planning and Zoning Commission under the leadership of Pat Fardy made sure the Planned Design District zone petition had all of the detailed studies and backup to justify that approval. This was also critical because the TIF bonds require City approval that what was to be contained in the bond underwriting was approved by the City. Finally the Mayor sent a revised Land Disposition Agreement to go to City Council prior to the end of his term in 2008 that reflected the new scope of the development. The City Attorney’s staff and OPED staff worked very hard to make this day happen. Their efforts are to be appreciated as well.

  5. Nancy Hadley’s right. This IS good news for Bridgeport and its impact as a catalyst should not be underestimated.

    Bass Pro Shops is more than just another big-box store; it’s a destination retailer with a business model that works, and has a record of picking profitable, new locations on a national basis.

    Time will tell if this is the commercial jump-start the city desperately needs. But at a minimum, it raises our profile with developers and investors and underscores the legitimacy of putting capital to work in Bridgeport.

    Add the jobs and economic vitality it’ll bring to the city, and even perennial pessimists should find some reason to cheer.

  6. Bruce Hubler’s posts are infrequent but wise. I’m capable of being persuaded. His friendship with yahooy shines a different light on my current nemesis.

  7. *** Maybe they can make a Bass Pro Shops commercial with the Mayor “fly fishing” at Seaside Park’s Mummy Pond during the Vibes, no? *** IT’S JUST AN ILLUSION? ***

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