Inexact Deal–Despite Delays, City Extends Development Agreement On Downtown Theater Proposals For 30 Days

Majestic sooner-sign
Not coming soon. Marquee fronts vacant theaters. City had hoped it much sooner than later.

Exact Capital Group, the city’s selected developer, has been inexact in its promises to revitalize the long-shuttered Downtown theaters. Selection of the developer has justifiably had its skeptics and now with good reason as it has been unable to deliver on what it proposed to do such as a projected groundbreaking late this year for the first phase of the theater restoration.

The developer has failed to solidify financing for the first phase representing about $56 million.

Still, city officials on Thursday announced they are giving the development group 30 days to make progress on addressing concerns such as solidifying financial packages to move forward. No property has been transferred to the developer, according to Director of Economic Development Tom Gill.

“These are complicated deals to put together,” says Gill referencing the associated financing, environmental assessments and historic tax credits pieces that must fit together. “We will continue to work with them. We’re gonna do 30 days and assess certain things that must be accomplished. We want to move ahead.”

Ganim, theater developer
Ganim chats with Craig Livingston from Exact Capital in June 2017 about plans to revitalize Downtown theaters. Deal has gone sideways.

In June 2017 Craig Livingston, managing partner of the Manhattan-based commercial real estate firm Exact Capital Group joined city officials 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.

Joe Ganim made the theaters a key piece of his 2015 comeback campaign for mayor. Now he’s entering a reelection year with the development in limbo.

artist rendering Poli
Artist rendering of Downtown theater proposal.

Since the project’s announcement Livingston has been relatively media shy except to provide some broad-stroke platitudes. Earlier this year when OIB contacted Livingston to alert of his company website being down for a more than a week, creating questions about his company’s viability, he recoiled indignantly.

A look inside

Gill asserts Livingston has a track record. 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 details here.

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 2017. For old-time Bridgeport residents they represent an era when the city was a magnet for Broadway’s theater and pageantry.

Other details, according to the developer, 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.

The land disposition agreement was approved by the City Council but an extension is not required to go back to the legislative body.

Gill says his office will provide updates to council members about what’s expected in the 30-day extension. If progress is made another 30-day extension could follow and more, if necessary.



  1. A big joke trying to fool the people of Bridgeport. Just like the two unnecessary/unneeded two ice rink Guedes-PrimtoseGuedes Family Construction deal. It has gotten to the point where we can now say. JOE GANIM IS LYING TO THE PEOPLE OF BRIDGEPORT.

  2. Mayor Ganim would rather tell a lie for free than tell the truth for money. No one should be surprised that Mayor Ganim is practicing Trumpism’s, lie, lie and lie and hope that someone believes him.

  3. Good afternoon all,
    First, I am not muzzled and have to admit that I remain optimistic. I have to also admit that I am extremely disappointed. I think this 400 million dollar investment downtown is far better than sliced bread.
    A couple of weeks ago I was a guest that attended the Palace Theater VIP fundraiser in Waterbury. They have done an amazing job and I am proud to attend many of their shows. As you can imagine I was touting the project is Bridgeport. So, yes I am disappointed with this hopefully , minor setback. I will remain optimistic.

    Not being part of the Economic Development dept. I am not privy to the details. As a taxpayer and cheerleader of this City I am concerned. When Manuel Burgos held a number of meetings for the minority business’s in the city it was exciting and these folks were very hopeful. I am upset that meetings were hosted without any concrete plans. I can still see the notice,” The City of Bridgeport , Small and Minority Business Enterprise Presents, “The Majestic Development Forum” , Presented by Developer , Investor, Craig Livingston of Exact Capital.

    I remain optimistic and hopeful. I believe that if anyone can see this project through, it is Mayor Joseph Ganim. In the event this project does not move forward in 30 days- we all lose.

    400 million is a huge investment. Hoping for a failure is not an option .

    Happy New Years to all! Good Health and happiness to all.

    1. I may be wrong… but I believe that I read somewhere that this 30 day is not set in stone and it can be continuously revived by OPED and WITHOUT approval from the City Council. I will have to do some research unless some other OIB’er knows more.

  4. 10% of $400 M = $40 million.
    If OPED can’t have skin in the game, at least they should provide $40M in mezzanine financing to
    start the deal
    . If OPED cannot raise funds, what good are they? Mezzanine financing is the high-risk portion that enables bank’s participation and jump starts the process. It’s what OPED could bring to the table beside some silly selection process. I urge OPED to get off the sidelines and get in the game or create other options to meet the new deadline.
    It’s a fast world we live in.

    1. Local Eyes..why should OPED(and I am assuming The City of Bridgeport) provide any funds to this project since the project itself is highly dubious on many levels. First of all,it is waaaaaay to big. There is also the question of the theaters. A 2000 seat theater in Bridgeport will be hard pressed to fill those seats. The 2000 seats equal some of the great theaters such as La Scala in Italy,Carnegie Hall in New York. The home hall for the New York Philharmonic is planning a renovation which will mean seating less than 2000. In Bridgeport,we have the Klein Memorial,Webster Bank Arena,the new summer only tent at Harboryard,The Bijou,Downtown Cabaret Theater. There was absolutely no planning inn terms of the demographics and marketing of this venture. It’s all smoke and mirrors to the “Glorify Ganim” campaign. Let’s look at another part of the “Glorify Ganim” campaign. Does any really believe that Bridgeport needs that two ice-rink Guedes Family/Primrose Construction which is part of Ganim’s deliberate attempt to fool the people of Bridgeport.

  5. Maybe it’s a strategic decoy. Like this: the project is over funded and shovels will soon meet dirt.
    At first they over promised and now they’re going to over deliver.

  6. This is bullshit. We know it’s bullshit. There’s a parallel with Donald Trump: About 30% of the registered voters in this town actually buy into Little Joe Ganim’s bullshit.


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