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City Reviewing Proposals To Revitalize Vacant Downtown Theaters

March 6th, 2017 · 26 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning

Majestic

Inside the Majestic

The city has received four responses to a request for proposals for the historic Poli Palace and Majestic theaters, the nostalgic Downtown venues shuttered for more than 40 years. Economic Development Director Tom Gill says advancement of Downtown North redevelopment projects spurred interest in the twin gems, once a magnet for Broadway’s theater and pageantry.

Architectural historians and preservation professionals have touted the theaters restoration as keys to a Downtown renaissance while skeptics have asserted for decades they must be demolished for a more pragmatic development approach.

Development officials will spend the month of March reviewing the proposals, followed by interviews and likely selection of a developer in May. The city hopes to execute a 12-month pre-development agreement in June. The city, citing confidential business information exempt from disclosure under Connecticut freedom of information laws, is withholding specific details of the proposals during the review process. OIB has asked city officials for the names of development entities that responded.

Majestic

Another view inside

The city is not obligated to release the names of business entities at this stage of the process, according to Connecticut Freedom of Information regulations, but may do so per authority of a community’s chief executive officer. From CT FOI Act:

“Responses to any request for proposals or bid solicitation issued by a public agency or any record or file made by a public agency in connection with the contract award process, until such contract is executed or negotiations for the award of such contract have ended, whichever occurs earlier, provided the chief executive officer of such public agency certifies that the public interest in the disclosure of such responses, record or file is outweighed by the public interest in the confidentiality of such responses, record or file.”

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.

According to the city’s request for proposals “With respect to the historic theatre/hotel complex, the City is not requiring that the theatres be restored as theatres per se. However, the City is requiring that the building be restored in whole or in part in a way that preserves its historic character and highlights the structure for the landmark that it is.”

Majestic external

Back in the day when theaters hummed.

The city received development responses based on the following criteria.

A. PURPOSE

OPED is issuing this Request for Expressions of Developer Interest in order to identify an appropriately qualified Developer with which the City would propose to enter into  a Pre-Development Agreement of not greater than twelve months pursuant to which the Developer would finalize a redevelopment plan consistent with OPED’s vision for the parcels described herein. Under this Pre-Development Agreement, the Developer will be expected to conclude feasibility studies as to the cost and economic viability of the specific plan proposed, to seek and secure necessary public approvals, to conclude specific tenancy agreements as needed, and to secure financing for the project. Upon completion of the Pre-Development period, the selected firm will be expected to be ready to begin construction of the project.

B. PROJECT AREA DESCRIPTION.

This 6-acre Project Area in Downtown Bridgeport centers on 1335 Main Street, which is the combined address of the former Poli Palace Theatre (3600 seats) and the former Majestic Theatre (2200 seats) and the former Savoy Hotel (100 rooms), which comprise together in one 80,000 square-foot building a signature piece of architecture at the entrance to the center city. Designed in the Beaux Arts style by architect Thomas A. Lamb in 1922, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. To the north of the historic theatre/hotel building, the Project Area includes approximately 3 acres of vacant land straddling both sides of Main Street. One block to southeast of the theatre/hotel building, the Project Area consists of two vacant parcels totaling 60,000 square feet. (See attached Project Area Map.)

The Project Area represents one of the best transit oriented development locations in Connecticut. It is within four blocks of the Bridgeport Intermodal Transit Center, which serves Amtrak, MetroNorth, Greater Bridgeport Transit, Greyhound, and the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry. It is convenient to Interstate 95, located within five blocks of the two highway exits serving downtown. The redevelopment site runs roughly parallel to the nearby Pequonnock River and to a developing Pequonnock River Greenway. This immediate area currently has four redevelopment projects underway, which represent approximately $50MM in combined investment.

C. REDEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES

The site is suitable for mixed-use development with a heavy residential component.  Market-rate residential projects have been very successful downtown, both in the conversion of historic structures and in the development of new construction. Given the strong market absorption of units to date, and given the proximity to multiple transit options, the City views the vacant land in the site as capable of supporting dense residential development of over 1000 new units.

With respect to the historic theatre/hotel complex, the City is not requiring that the theatres be restored as theatres per se. However, the City is requiring that the building be restored in whole or in part in a way that preserves its historic character and highlights the structure for the landmark that it is. The City is not dictating the specific proposed reuse. However the City will expect that the Developer demonstrate the economic viability of any proposed reuse. By way of discussion and description, but not as specific guidance, we note that the hotel component of the building, given its layout, naturally lends itself to renovation as a new hotel, or more generally to residential re-use. As to the theatres themselves, the City is open to creative approaches to the re-use of these spaces, if not as performing venues exclusively, then as spaces used in ways that are related to the arts, or to educational or institutional or civic use, or for any variety of commercial or retail use that would be compatible with the downtown and would provide vitality to this northern end of Main Street.

D. SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

a) A cover letter identifying the firm or team, the name of the firm or team’s representative(s), and his/her contact information (including phone and email);

b) Conceptual Development Plan and Implementation Plan–A depiction via rendering and site plan, with accompanying narrative, of the respondent’s conceptual development plan in a manner conforming with the City’s Redevelopment Objectives. A pre-development and development schedule with milestones and objectives that delineates the developer’s plan for implementing the project.

c) Conceptual Financing Plan and Budget–A general order of magnitude capital budget with a general breakdown of the sources and uses of capital.

d) Statement of Qualifications–Listing of Principal Members of the Development Team, and a detailing of the Development Team’s directly relevant development experience, including its completion of projects similar in scope to this redevelopment opportunity.

e) Statement of Financial Capacity and Administrative Capacity–Detail the amount of developer equity or developer capital that your team will invest in the pre-development work during the twelve-month due diligence period for the Project. Detail the specific staff and administrative capacity your team will devote to this work.

E. Responses Due–Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 2 pm EST

Responses are to be submitted electronically to the administrative office of the City’s Office of Planning and Economic Development at max.perez@bridgeportct.gov.

F. City Review Schedule (Approximate)

March 2017 Administrative Review and Initial Interviews (if necessary)

April 2017 Short-List and Follow-Up Interviews

May 2017 Selection of Developer

June 2017 Execution of 12-month Pre-Development Agreement

NOTE: These dates may be altered for the City’s convenience, to accommodate holidays, etc. so long as such changes do not materially and adversely affect the process or its fairness to all Respondents.

G. EVALUATION CRITERIA:

1. Specialized Experience, Technical Competence, and Administrative Capacity: The evaluation will consider relevant experience in the development of projects of similar size and scope. This evaluation will further consider the organizational and team structure assembled to perform the work, as well as the demonstrated capacity of the firm to meet the project’s requirements, to execute the work on-time and on budget. (33.3% of the Evaluation)

2. Soundness of the Concept and the Implementation Plan Proposed: This evaluation will consider the extent to which the Respondent’s concept corresponds to the City’s Redevelopment Objective and will evaluate the feasibility and thoroughness of the implementation plan proposed. (33.3% of the Evaluation)

3. Financial Strength: This evaluation will judge the Respondent’s financial strength as a development entity. This evaluation may involve the confidential review of Financial Statements (should the City so request); but at a minimum shall involve the City’s evaluation of the Respondent’s ready financial capacity to compensate the City with an earnest money deposit of approximately 5% of the Property’s Current Assessed Value. (33.3% of the Evaluation)

I. TREATMENT OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

Financial statements, proposals and other business confidential information may not be subject to disclosure under the Connecticut Freedom of Information law, Section 1-210(b)(5)(A) of the Connecticut General Statutes (FOIA), if such information constitutes “trade secrets” as defined therein. If a Respondent desires certain information to be protected from disclosure under FOIA as a trade secret, the Respondent should clearly identify such information, place such information in a separate envelope appropriately marked, and submit such information with its response. Such information shall be retained by OPED in confidence, shall only be viewed by City employees and consultants having a “need to know,” and shall be returned to all unsuccessful Respondents, or will be destroyed, upon the conclusion of the City’s selection process.

If such information is sought to be disclosed, OPED will afford notice to the party or parties whose information is being sought so that each has an opportunity to dispute disclosure in a court of law at such party’s sole cost and expense. The City shall protect information from disclosure or refuse to disclose such information unless it (i) is already known; (ii) is in the public domain through no wrongful act of the City; (iii) is received by the City from a third party who was free to disclose it; (iv) is properly disclosable under FOIA; or (v) is required to be disclosed by a court of law.

J. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT RFEI

Firms may seek additional information or clarification as to any aspect of the RFEI by submitting questions in writing to OPED’s administrative e-mail at Jennifer.Edwards@bridgeportct.gov.

All questions will be summarized by OPED, which will provide prompt written answers via e-mail to the principal of each team or firm. In order to receive written answers, each potential Respondent must notify OPED of its interest and provide OPED with e-mail contact information. All firms are obligated to become familiar with such questions and answers and to submit or revise their responses accordingly. The City assumes no responsibility for a firm’s failure to read questions and answers and to revise their responses accordingly. Contact information and questions should be sent in writing via e-mail to Jennifer.Edwards@bridgeportct.gov.

K. ACCESS TO THE SITE

Access may be arranged for accompanied site visits by calling Max Perez at 203-727-2707 or by e-mailing Mr. Perez at max.perez@bridgeportct.gov.

L. PROPERTY OF CITY OF BRIDGEPORT

Except as otherwise stated in Section F of this notice, any information or materials submitted as a response to this RFEI shall become the property of the City of Bridgeport and will not be returned. All submitted materials will be available for public review.

M. RIGHT TO REJECT SUBMISSIONS

The City of Bridgeport may reject any and all proposals and cancel this RFEI, without liability therefore, when doing so is deemed to be in the City’s best interests. Further, regardless of the number and quality of responses submitted, the City shall under no circumstances be responsible for any firm’s cost, risk and expenses. The City accepts no responsibility for the return of successful or unsuccessful responses. This RFEI in no way obligates the City to select a firm.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Halstead

    The jury is still out.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    The only proposal is one that states the cost of demolition.

  • Stringfellow

    Just looking at the hoops in this article, it will take years just to put a shovel in the ground. By that time something else will come up or the project will be scrapped.

    Does anyone know if there is a plan for the Ocean Sea Grill building? That place is just as bad an eyesore as the theaters. That could be a restaurant once again. The big problem is parking unless the land between the building and the home for the elderly could be the parking lot.

    There is a plot of land where Ethical Pharmacy was that could serve as a parking lot too.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    The Ocean Sea building was taken over by former mayor Paoletta and his crew. They moved Ocean Sea Grille to the 7th floor of a commercial building where it went out of business. The old Ocean Sea building is still standing and thankfully Paoletta moved out of town.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    What happens to the Klein Memorial if these two shows are reopened?

  • Stringfellow

    Current city records shows the building 1336-1338 Main Street is owned by a party who lives in Jackson Heights New York.

    Assessment: $ 118.480

    Appraisal: $ 169.250

  • Jimfox

    The last time I was in the Majestic theater was in 1956 and I promised myself I would never go back to those movie theaters as long as I live.
    I was 12 years old at the time, sitting with my two brothers. It was the annual Christmas Show at the Majestic, for the price of a movie ticket you got to see a Tarzan movie and three cartoons and all the free popcorn balls you could eat, but that wasn’t the main reason I and my bothers were there. We wanted to win the grand prize, a new boys and girls Columbia bicycle Christmas give-away.
    The Majestic was packed with screaming kids from every part of the city. I ate more flucking popcorn balls that day, I swear I still have a few popcorn shells between my teeth.
    They had clowns, a juggling act and some fat whore with her flucking dancing dogs.
    We wanted to win that Boys Bike so bad we could taste it!
    Mayor Jasper McLevy came on stage to pull the winning tickets for the Boys and Girls bikes. The place was going nuts, as one of the clowns started to turn the ticket tumbler, while the fat whore and the juggler held polluted Jasper up by his flucking arms, as he reach into the tumbler, talk about three sheets to the wind! So Jasper reached into the tumbler and the dumb fluck pulls out about a hundred flucking tickets at once, then someone yells to him only pull one ticket out! Jasper than puts all the tickets back in the tumbler just to make it fair and he closes his flucking eyes, nearly falling off the stage and into the orchestra pit!!!
    Thank goodness the fat whore with the dancing dogs was holding on to old Jasper’s belt!
    Just then the fat whore grabs the winning ticket from Jasper, and yells out the winning numbers, something I’ll never forget!, #24065 as I reach into my pockets, “I can’t find my ticket!” I yell. She calls the number out again! The whole place goes silent, No answer!
    As the fat whore calls for the last time #24065! Again no answer, this time she pulls a new number.
    Until this day my rbothers keep giving me the business, you see they had numbers #24064 and #24066. I heard some flucking kid from Brooklawn Ave won. Two days later I found that ticket in the cuff of my dungarees. So tear those flucking theaters down and make a nice metered parking lot!

  • Stringfellow

    Mr. Fox, that is one hell of story and it is something kids these days cannot relate to. Just like a wall phone and a TV with only 13 channels and no remote control.

    It’s stories like this that make us who we are. Sadly most places like this have gone the way of all flesh. Hold on to these memories as long as you can. Tell them to anyone who will listen, you want stories like this still being told long after you are gone.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Jim Fox, thank you. Your way of telling the story made me feel like I was there too. Tremendous!

  • Robert Teixeira

    Jim, let me get this straight. You and your brothers went to the Majestic Theater for their annual Christmas show with a bike giveaway contest. The price of the ticket was for one movie, three cartoons and all the popcorn balls you could eat. The mayor picks your ticket number to win the bike, and a FAT WHORE reads your number out, but your DUMB ASS can’t find the ticket. The FAT WHORE reads it again but your DUMB ASS still can’t find it. So the FAT WHORE reads it for a third and final time, but your DUMB ASS couldn’t find the ticket. Since your DUMB ASS couldn’t find the winning ticket the FAT WHORE picked another ticket, A NOT SO DUMB-ASS kid from Brooklawn Ave. wins the bike. Two days later your DUMB ASS finds the winning ticket in your cuff. Since that day you vowed never to go back to the Majestic Theaters. You may have not won the bike, but you’ll always be a fuckin’ WINNER in my book.

  • Steven Auerbach

    I have been to the sister theaters in Waterbury. Waterbury was smart enough to build the UConn Annex across the street. The two shows I had seen were sold out. The Klein will always host the Symphony and is a gorgeous theater. We are a large city suffocating from cultural deprivation. Can’t anyone visualize a thriving downtown Bridgeport in a few years? I still can though I may not be living here to see it.

    • flubadub

      Waterbury had hometown hero Governor “Johnny Boy” Rowland to push funding for its $30 million rehab.

    • Hector A. Diaz

      I’d like to know what is planned for the children’s jail. Nice, new building that is closed now. While I never advocate for “prison looking” schools because of the perception, I’m sure there are a dozen uses for this property that can benefit the city or region as a whole.

  • Ben Henson

    “The city, citing confidential business information exempt from disclosure under Connecticut freedom of information laws, is withholding specific details of the proposals during the review process.”

    Okay, but where are the non-confidential details? The language pulled from the advertisement clearly states Applicants must quarantine information they deem to constitute sensitive “trade secret” info in a separate filing, and that info MAY not be subject to FOIA. It does not say the City elects not to share any information with the public. The City is required to share this information with the public.

    If OIB or any of its readers think this information is important, you should just ask for it. If the City refuses, then something is wrong.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Ben, I have asked for it. Waiting to hear back from City Attorney’s Office. The city is not obligated at this stage of process to release names of companies, but may do so per authority of the chief executive officer. Here’s what the state FOI Act states:
      Responses to any request for proposals or bid solicitation issued by a public agency or any record or file made by a public agency in connection with the contract award process, until such contract is executed or negotiations for the award of such contract have ended, whichever occurs earlier, provided the chief executive officer of such public agency certifies that the public interest in the disclosure of such responses, record or file is outweighed by the public interest in the confidentiality of such responses, record or file.

      • Bob Walsh

        Lennie,
        Here is the problem with that. The mayor can do whatever he pleases. He can negotiate and play games with the proposals. He can play one against the other OR he can play everyone else against each other and leave the favored one out as the others drop by the wayside.
        There should be a requirement that once the proposals are due they should be made public. If the mayor wants to negotiate some more, fine: but let’s see where we are at the start AND at the end to make sure everything in between is legit, too.

      • Ben Henson

        This is an RFEDI, not an RFP or a bid solicitation. The City is simply choosing not to share information on the process. I’m not stomping my feet and saying they’re doing anything wrong; just pointing out they’re being unnecessarily coy with the information.

  • Truth Seeker

    Double thumbs-up on this initiative! We must preserve and repurpose as many city historical properties as possible!

  • Stringfellow

    Mr. Diaz, the children’s prison is still open for business, which there is no shortage of.

  • Frank Gyure

    I would truly hope these theaters are redeveloped. Frankly, it’s hard for me to see a need for two theaters. The whole thing remains a big question mark. The work on the Waterbury theater is breathtaking but was funded by “hometown” Rowland, as noted here by Steve Auerbach and flubadub. IMHO, we are a long way from anything happening. As a cynic, I may hold the view this news release is PR. Maybe it may be some type of movement or action with this site. The lack of info makes it all so suspicious.

  • Mojo

    *** Déjà vu all over again, without money or real support to see the project through ’til success! ***

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