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Lahood’s October Surpise For Jim Himes

October 15th, 2010 · 22 Comments · Development and Zoning, News and Events, State Politics

Hey, if a congressman pesters the federal secretary of transportation enough he just might cough up some goodies before the election. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood notified Congressman Jim Himes this morning that Bridgeport will receive $11 million to begin work on infrastructure and development of SteelPointe Harbor, the mixed-use East Side redevelopment project of Robert Christoph’s Bridgeport Landing Development.

This is certainly one of the (if not the) largest federal grants for Bridgeport. Hopefully it’s real. Himes, in a tight reelection, needed a boost for Bridgeport, a major development announcement before the election. This could also boost Mayor Bill Finch’s reelection effort next year. After 30 years of wishful thinking, starts and stops, could this now happen? Himes, Finch and Senator Chris Dodd had a press conference this afternoon to make the announcement.

For a rendering of SteelPointe Harbor see bridgeportlanding.net/main.htm.

The following announcement had already been scheduled when city officials and Himes learned of the additional dough for SteelPointe Harbor. The city plans to use  the $3 million in HUD money for a second train station at the old Remington site where the city is embroiled in a legal fight with developer Sal DiNardo for control and cleanup that will cost millions.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At an event in Bridgeport today, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4), and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) will join U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary Peter Kovar to announce federal funds to support livable and sustainable communities throughout Connecticut and make a major announcement on Bridgeport’s TIGER grant application.

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22 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** Seeing is believing in Bpt. No wooden nickels allowed. *** SOS ***

  • town committee

    I will believe it when I see it. Just how will this money be spent?

  • Bob Walsh

    This is very interesting.
    The Transportation and Public Safety Committee was supposed to meet last week to approve this grant application and forward it to the full council.
    The item is not on the council agenda. How can this be?
    Based on the paperwork Alana Kabel had submitted Bridgeport Landing was supposed to come up with approximately equal funds. I fully support this effort as long as there is no hocus-pocus going on here and B-port Landing is just going to pull another rope-a-dope with the Planning and Economic Development office and never really come up with cash.
    I had suggested language that would make it totally enforceable on BLLLC’s behalf or they would have to forfeit development rights. I will continue to insist on that.
    We shall see what we shall see.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Bob, didn’t the City of Bridgeport terminate the project deal with Alex Conroy because he allegedly didn’t come up with a $10 Million note?

      “… Bridgeport Landing was supposed to come up with approximately equal funds.”

      Bob, haven’t you learned yet? This sounds like a classic City Attorney language play, agreed in the contract to benefit the developer. “Approximately” could mean $1 million or less.

  • Nancy Hadley

    It’s very real. The money will be used for the realignment of Stratford Avenue and related utility work. It is the portion of Stratford Avenue, a State road, that bisects the development site. I think it was part of the City’s TIGER II funding request that was made in August. Everyone has been anxiously waiting for the announcement since August. You might recall the State didn’t receive any funding in the TIGER I round. Bravo to the City and Developer! This is an important announcement.

    Just to remind all: The City did not achieve ownership of the full steel point peninsula until 2007. When I joined the Fabrizi administration I thought the problem was the developer’s lack of progress but the real problem was the City didn’t own all of the land that was specified in the original RFPs. You can’t tell the developer to build if you don’t own the site! The parcel that had the United Illuminating power generating plant went into the courts in 2005/6 and got through the Court and DPUC in 2007 or so. The relocation of the Oyster Company and private yacht club was stuck in the court for many years and didn’t get settled until 2006/2007. The economy tanked in late 2008 and the entire financial world changed. People stopped buying things and the retail and housing markets collapsed. The Land Disposition Agreement was revised and approved by City Council in 2009. The City’s the new zoning map and regs were put into effect on January 1, 2010. In the spring of 2010, the zoning was approved for the very first time for the Steelpointe Harbor Development. Once the zoning was approved, the developer entered very serious discussions with the retailers. The retailers needed to know that the Stratford Avenue road work was funded and the construction would be completely done before they were scheduled to open their doors to shoppers, ergo the announcement today. Now the Developer, CDOT and the City can put a realistic construction schedule into motion. Everyone is justifiably impatient, but in my opinion real progress is being made on this project.

  • Mr BPT

    Kinda funny how the cash got here 3 weeks before an election.
    My bet is over the next year you’ll see a lot of pretty things being done to make everyone forget the last 3 years of crappy roads and ugly grass.

    Politics 101.

  • Big Daddy

    Nancy the city should bring you on board. You seem to know what’s going on with the project. 11 millon dollars coming to BPT is a GREAT thing. I understand 2011 is the target date. I heard a lot of jobs will be created. I hope the jobs go to BPT PEOPLE I guess the stimulus bill works great job BPT.

  • Big Daddy

    HEY LENNIE DID YOU HEAR? ERNIE IS A VOTER AGAIN.

  • donj

    I like what I’m hearing!!! Let’s just see now. If it does go through I can tell you this I will have to give Himes a lot a lot a lot of credit.

  • city hall smoker

    Definitely a political move to help Himes’ campaign. But if it means that Steal Pointe actually gets off the ground, then kudos to all involved. I trust Bob Walsh will keep a close eye on things to make sure everything is on the up and up.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Lennie, I must say I love the OIB Auden Grogin political ad.
    “A fighter for Bridgeport.” When I look at the faces in the ad, it doesn’t look like the Bridgeport I know.

    Himes gets welfare for a developer and donj is happy. Someone keeps forgetting to remind Bridgeporters that “Steal Point” will not generate any tax benefits to anyone–except the developer. The Steal Point land includes a tax-incremental financing vehicle, where any tax dollars shall go to cover the cost of Steal Point project bonding. Don’t expect this “development” to help keep your taxes low for at least 20 years.

  • Hector A. Diaz

    Not long ago I went to a funeral for one of the former homeowners from the “steal pointe” area. I could only think of how this gentleman could have lived out his years in a house/area he Loved. Instead he was forced to move. The amount of years it’s taken is an embarrassment to us all and if this becomes another “election time” illusion then we should run all the parties concerned out of town “on a rail.” This good man who passed, I’m sure wondered what the urgency to have him out of his house was when nothing’s been accomplished for so, so many years. If there is match-up money then I’d like to hear it’s been secured. If they want to show their commitment to the project then the perfect opportunity has ARRIVED. LET’S STAY ON THE SUBJECT ‘TIL THEY DO LENNIE … MR. BERRIOS deserved much more … RIP.

  • Nancy Hadley

    Hector, do you remember roughly when the City finished the Eminent Domain proceeding on Mr. Berrios’ house on the peninsula? The Urban Renewal process took a long time and caused many terrible hardships for those who were forced to move. Yes they were compensated for their property and provided relocation expenses but a forced move is very traumatic no matter what the compensation. Bridgeport wasn’t alone back then. Stamford, Norwalk, New Haven, New London and Hartford were also heavily involved in the federal urban renewal, model cities and later Hope VI programs.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      The primary determinant for completion of the Eminent Domain proceeding depends on how much money the property owners have. The poor ones were removed very fast while those with money like the UI and the Marinas stayed much longer and got more money despite the fact these owners never lived there. Wealthy owners, like the Billboard Company that owns the Billboards on the Peninsula are still profiting from land that doesn’t belong to them. The billboards on 377 E. Main came down thanks to the tornado.
      “… caused many terrible hardships for those who were forced to move.” You make it sound like this breaks your heart Nancy. Have you stopped to think that forcing out a hotdog vendor from her spot causes many terrible hardships for her?

      There is no comparison in Bridgeport’s land grab with that of other cities. To build the new schools, hundreds of homes are off the grand list. So much for “Hope.”

      • Str8-Up

        Joel: Good one asking her if she had any compassion when she tried to evict a hard-working family in a vending truck. No room to talk Ms. HardLey. You know you do not work for the City and you are entitled to an opinion. Move on and make sure you clean up after your dog in the morning around McLevy Hall. Someone is watching!

    • Hector A. Diaz

      Nancy, If I remember correctly the Hartford, New Haven (mall) and Bridgeport projects were lumped together for approval from the legislature. The Hartford project was the ONLY one completed. I don’t know about the New London project, but the others didn’t affect “Homeowners” like Bridgeport’s did. It was once bought up to me that Bridgeport’s, at that time, was the largest census tract of minority-owned homes in the state. I don’t bring this fact up for reasons of race, but to exemplify that if most of our minorities live in the major cities then Bridgeport took the hardest hit. In the case of Hartford it was downtown and affected traffic and business more than homeowners.

  • Nancy Hadley

    The city had tried negotiations, 10 years’ worth, to gain control of the large 17-acre UI power generating property. When I joined the Fabrizi team in 2004 they were still talking. The UI ratepayers which included all the residents and businesses in Bridgeport required that the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) had to approve everything. It didn’t take long for Mayor Fabrizi to decide to get that the talking had to stop and an eminent domain case went in front of the Court and DPUC to make a decision. That decision took guts. A very tense 18 months later and finally there was a decision that met the ratepayers requirements and the city took title. Yes that was a much more complicated eminent domain proceeding. But it had to be done.

    As for the Stamford urban renewal project around 1976, one Mayor Clapes, then Congressman McKinney and then Senator Weicker secured the final $20 million urban renewal closeout grant. I did the staffwork for that effort and as usual the announcement happened two weeks before the national November election. That is just the way it is done by the party in power. When the Republicans were in control Chris Shays brought Bridgeport enough grants right before the November election for things like the transit garage, the regional bus terminal and lots more. The Friday announcement was timely, justified and critical. We should all be proud that Bridgeport was provided significant federal resources. Well deserved on all counts.

  • Bob Walsh

    Here is my prediction.
    When push comes to shove, the developer will not come up with a dime.
    They will say this should be paid by the taxing district and since there is no taxing district the city should bond for it and once the district is formed then the district will pay back the city.
    Bridgeport Landing LLC should be required to post an irrevocable letter of credit and if they balk or if they let it lapse all development rights should be forfeited.
    It’s time to put an and to this nonsense. This will be around $35 million in infrastructure improvements. The developer will start selling off parcels and making a profit without having done any work.

  • Bob Walsh

    And Hector you are 100% correct. The city treated the former residents of Steel Point like squatters. I was at a City Council meeting where a representative of the city attorney’s office treated them like dirt. Treated them with no respect and no dignity.
    For Nancy Hadley to try to put a different spin on it now is simply a distortion of the truth.
    Plain and Simple.

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