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Kohut Not Sold On Direction Of Steelpointe Harbor

July 17th, 2017 · 10 Comments · Development and Zoning

City policy wonk Jeff Kohut shares an alternative view about Steelpointe Harbor in this commentary. “To go in another direction and ponder lost opportunities in the absence of actual planning: We might have had Bridgewater Capital at Steel Point had we not had Gold Coast lackeys making decisions for Bridgeport development in City Hall and Hartford.”

The whole Steelpointe project–from the inception–was flawed in that it was (apparently) not conceived in resonance with any vision-based, comprehensive scheme of citywide redevelopment that was designed to address the enormous (positive) tax base and living wage jobs needs of our city. (There has never been any official, city, state, or federal analysis of Bridgeport’s needs in that regard, so such a comprehensive, goal-directed plan of redevelopment is impossible in any event.)

We see from Lennie Grimaldi’s very well written article intended to bring us up to date on the Steelpointe development, that about $25 million in public money–local/state/federal taxpayer money was used up to this point to accomplish the creation of about 125 mostly part-time jobs for city residents and about $1.4 million in annual taxes which must be directed toward the public service and infrastructure needs and debt recovery/debt servicing needs of the development (as do all local tax moneys collected from the project for at least the next 20 years).

We know that an enormous amount of money was spent on land acquisition by the city, per eminent domain seizures, and that very significant tax money was also lost by the city over these past decades of land acquisition as taxable property was taken off the tax rolls.

So Bridgeport has to recoup many millions of dollars in direct investment and forgone taxes before there can be any net, positive effect from this development.

With a 300-unit residential aspect to this project, the increased infrastructure and services requirements involved in the completed development would seem to indicate that it will be decades before this project has a positive tax impact on the city. The paltry, permanent local jobs-creation prospects wouldn’t seem to be something that will do much to nudge the economic impact of this project into the positive side of the ledger any time soon for the city, either.

Given the prospects for the state and regional economies, it doesn’t seem terribly likely that the local/regional patronage of the planned offerings of the presently conceived Steelpointe have much of a chance of resulting in anything near a required return on investment for the private investors or taxpayers. Indeed, it seems much more likely that only the housing will be sustainable–and only within the scheme of the state/regional plan for Bridgeport as the “Housing Hub” for the region (i.e., Bridgeport as “servants’ quarters” for the region).

So while a constant drumbeat of skepticism and negativity about real and planned development in Bridgeport is tedious at best, and sickening at worst; is cheerleading presently indicated in this regard?!

If we look at Bridgeport’s reality and do any sort of critical analysis of the planning and steps being taken to address that grim reality and replace it with any sort of realistic vision for a bright and prosperous future for our city, we must allow reason to win out and force us to admit that we’re coming up way, way short of what we need.

Again; where is the analysis and numbers generation around which to create a real vision and plan for the city? Without the analysis, there can be no plan. And truly, a discernible vision for the city has yet to be presented by any modern, Bridgeport City Hall–with or without the analysis. What kind of place do we want to be in 20, 30, 40, or 50 years? If we don’t know then we can’t take meaningful, logical, goal-directed steps to get us there.

Do we want to be WATERWORLD? DISNEYWORLD? Why? Presumably, whatever we pursue by way of development should make us more prosperous and viable over the short and long terms. Does Steelpointe strongly play into at least this very general, nebulous vision? How? How much tax money will be realized from a completed Steelpointe? When? How many living-wage jobs? What will they be?

At this point, this Bridgeporter doesn’t see any reason to say Steelpointe versus “Stealpoint.”

No matter how impressive the artists’ renderings for Steelpointe, or the proposed Exact Theater Complex development, there is simply no context in which to perceive either of these proposed projects as realistic or resonant with any sort of overall prosperity plan for the city. Lots of “iffy” glitz–nothing based on needs analyses or any sort of comprehensive plan to address those needs. And not even any sort of complete vision! Even a fanciful, albeit complete, long-term vision for the city would be a reason for some optimism. But all we see here are a couple of disjoint, fanciful plans that present “nothing much” in the form of living-wage jobs, much less positive cash flow for the city. And they don’t even present a stand-alone development fit for the city/region/state as things now stand, let alone a fit as part of a grand scheme and plan for the city and its short and long-term prosperity.

To go in another direction and ponder lost opportunities in the absence of actual planning: We might have had Bridgewater Capital at Steel Point had we not had Gold Coast lackeys making decisions for Bridgeport development in City Hall and Hartford. At least that would have meant serious tax revenue and the prospect of future, similar firms, and permanent, supportive jobs in Bridgeport. And so it goes with economic planning and decision-making in Bridgeport City Hall and Hartford. We can see where we’ve been taken by the Gold Coast-serving models for our region and the state.

The question is: Are we just going to allow ourselves to languish and decay per the state/regional non-plan for Bridgeport (and the rest of the state east/northeast of us)? Are we going to keep deluding ourselves about our future by cheerleading fanciful projects that can have little benefit for the city, even if realized? Are we going to keep supporting representation in Hartford, Washington, and City Hall that is either clueless, indifferent, or deliberately operating contrary to our needs and reasonable municipal ambitions?

Clearly, critically considered, the sum total of Bridgeport economic development (recent/new, proposed, drawing board, and evolving) amounts to little more than a distraction from our real, growing needs and negative economic momentum.

Let’s have the real facts/numbers about where we are and where we need to go in terms of tax base and jobs growth. And then let’s hear some real vision and planning in that regard.

Steelpointe: What’s the point?!

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Jeff go home

  • WhiteRoller

    Ah, what might have been…If only Joe had named Jeff K Director of Economic Development instead of what’s-his-name!

    They’ve been discussing this very subject matter at the City Data Connecticut Forum this past week–it’s interesting to read the suburban viewpoint (Hey, we give these people Section 8 housing and welfare checks and subsidize the living snot out of their school system–WHAT MORE do they want??)

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/connecticut/2790820-what-doesnt-ct-invest-its-cities.html

  • Steven Auerbach

    On one hand we have Jeff’s vision of whats the pointe of Steelepointe? On the other hand we have members of the East end that do not want to see any success on Steeleeponte. Why? They fear gentrification and rentals going up. Thise people believe that the tax payers will continue to pay taxes living in a city that is decaying with roads and sidewalks crumbling. Somewhere in the middle was the plan for Steelepointe. Everyday, thousands of cars pass by the city and are observing a rebirth. We have groups looking for money for the educational system- where do they expect the money to come from???? Fighting for sanctuary city status How about fighting for development ? With development money would be available. For the past 50 years we have watched developers bypass Bridgeport. Stamford and Shelton and Milford have become development magnets. Bridgeport needs to get busy. At some point we need to support an agenda that ultimtely is a win win win for the city.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Steve: No one in Bridgeport wants to see development more than me, but it needs to be part of a workable plan to bring positive tax base and living-wage jobs to indicated levels… And development has to be a good fit if it is going to yield desired results in a sustainable way… There hasn’t been any comprehensive, long-term vision or planning involved in any of Bridgeport’s development projects since Lafayette Plaza… D’Addario knew what was needed and what would fit here — although he didn’t anticipate the mass-exodus of jobs and industry from the city, or Lafayette Plaza never would have happened. The present projects on Bridgeport’s drawing board and underway obviously didn’t anticipate the current exodus of business and capital out of Connecticut, and apparently seem to think that an impoverished, under-employed Bridgeport population can be by-passed as the necessary customer base for the proposed development projects and that suburbanites will just flock to Bridgeport venues in sustainable droves… It didn’t happen for the Ball Park-Arena… What does that tell us about the prospects for Steelpointe and theater project?! If the Bridgeport population can’t afford local offerings as the customer base, then, as logic and history show us, these local offerings aren’t sustainable… It is difficult to understand how the Christoph’s and Exact Capital think that they are going to make money on their projects as such… Something is amiss here… And, in terms of what Bridgeport really needs — living-wage jobs and tax revenue — these projects don’t make much sense for us even if sustainable (which they aren’t…).

    • Local Eyes

      In days gone by, Bridgeport’s economy was looking for bodies, today’s economy demands talent. In 2017, hundreds of living-wage jobs go unfilled. While some people long for something sustainable, others seek something substantial.
      KUDOS to The Christofs for working without a map while building something of substance.

  • Local Eyes

    Unlike Jeff Kohut, I’m an agent of economic development in Bridgeport. On a micro and macro level, my planned course of action brings money, value, notoriety and upside to my chosen municipality. Furthermore, I own some of the best “digital canvasses” in this area and actively promote Bridgeport in Boston and New York City, where readers can make a direct link to OPED’s director.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Local Eyes: If you can’t quantify and redeem your electronic-dimension value in the Bridgeport space-time continuum or a financial institution with access to that value, then it is just fantasy…
    And to promote Bridgeport in Boston and New York City, to whatever extent you imagine you accomplish such an effect, would seem to be counterproductive in that Bridgeport-area GE and an ostensible target for relocation to Bridgeport (Aetna) have headed to Boston and NYC, respectively… Would you like to claim credit for this Bridgeport promotion?… Sounds like more fanciful — really pure fantasy endeavor… Cities and people will always be three dimensional when it comes down to shelter and sustenance… Websites can facilitate that remotely, but must portray 3D possibilities. Let’s not get lost in electronic and abstract fantasy — like the financial world has to the great detriment of the 3D value that is misrepresented in this manner, such as the 3D victims of electronic banking rip offs (e.g., electronic mortagage and loan signings/agreements that result in unfounded foreclosures etc…). Don’t get lost in electronic fantasy — it is just a tool for real-world transaction facilitation. It is not a replacement for the 3D world…

  • Local Eyes

    I’m ahead of the curve. Connecticut just lost two companies to Boston and NYC. I’ve been promoting Bridgeport there for two years. In my world, those cities qualify as Bridgeport bookends. You qualify as a wonk-without-weight!

  • Frank Gyure

    It’s official. Dave and Busters is out of Steelpointe. In fact,retail will be less a part of Steelpoint and that is per the Christoph’s.

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