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Rebound For Magic Johnson Site?

August 18th, 2013 · 23 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning

ballpark and arena

Aerial of ballpark and arena, and the surface lot, below, where city seeks new development. Image courtesy of Morgan Kaolian.

A surface lot adjacent to the Webster Bank Arena and Ballpark at Harbor Yard is often called the Magic Johnson development area even though the retired basketball star, now entrepreneur, did nothing with it following the hoopla of his 2007 proposal. In short time the economy tanked. Now city officials say interest in the property has rebounded.

From Brian Lockhart, CT Post:

Nancy Hadley, who in the mid-2000s held Kooris’ job and still lives downtown, said the Harbor Yard lot is one of the top locations remaining for development.

“Personally I want to see something like a `Dave & Busters’ (restaurant, bar and arcade) or an ESPN Zone (sports-themed restaurant). Something that will just knock your socks off. It’s a regional draw that Stamford doesn’t have, New Haven doesn’t have,” Hadley said. “It will generate young people. I’d love to see something of that caliber.”

Read entire story here.

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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Jimfox

    Hey Finch, this should be a nice fit with Bass Pro, just ask Buffalo NY.
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=yw57EB0l6p8

    • Steven Auerbach

      Jimfox, that was an eye-opening link. A reality check for sure. Not very reassuring. A must-watch for city taxpayers as well as Finch’s top brass and Connecticut Post. WTNH and Channel 12 as well as the Malloy admin. Stick the shovel in the ground or be gone.

  • Steven Auerbach

    The plans will be unveiled in a year. There will be a major presentation at the same time the next Mayoral race takes off. Duh … I remember the huge circus-like presentation last time with Johnson and Ratzenberger. I still have the incredible booklet the group put together. What an amazing first-rate marketing piece put out by the Fabrizi administration. The audience was A-listers and a few cheerleaders like myself. What a gross disappointment. Even Rosa Correa made an amazing speech along with Ratzenberger. This spotlight on John Fabrizi made him a hero. For a brief moment. I am certain Finch will attempt the same, although still hopeful, I will always wonder why Stamford continues producing results while Bridgeport spends time and money making these larger-than-life presentations that go nowhere very quickly. I wish Kooris good luck and totally support his effort as well as Finch. I was supportive of Fabrizi as well as Hadley. What a huge opportunity for Bill Finch to go down in history as the Mayor who actually created The most impressive economic developments in Bridgeport’s last 75 years. I can live with that.

    • Grin Ripper

      Steve–Finch is dead duck. So there will be an unveiling in a year.

    • Bob Walsh

      I will tell you why, Steve. Because developers take Stamford seriously while they think Bridgeport’s development office and efforts are a joke.
      All they have to do is look at Steal Point to get the point. A preferred developer has not sunk a damn dime of their own money into hard costs for whatever it is now 15 – 20 years and they continue on. The message is it’s easy to draw into an inside straight in Bridgeport if you are an insider. Otherwise try craps.

  • Local Eyes

    Dave & Buster’s along with ESPN Zone are franchised ideas that would not add value in downtown Bridgeport, IMO. Unoriginal themes are akin to opening a McDonald’s and expecting you’re going to knock somebody’s socks off with your fantastic selection.
    In the winners’ locker room, they repeat the solemn motto: success cannot be franchised.

    • canobeano

      As perhaps still belonging to the “young” demo (I’m 32), I agree with you. Although I can’t speak for an entire generation, I think we generally prefer things that are locally unique and emphasize quality over quantity. Pining over a franchise smacks of “we just want to know we’re as good as those other places.” I hear the same whining over the fact not a single Starbucks location exists in the Park City. True, but we have Port Coffeehouse, which is far “better” in my eyes.

      These particular parcels would benefit from a high density of mixed uses: entertainment, retail, residential and concealed parking. An indoor/outdoor market with a number of shops and eateries would be especially great if designed, occupied and marketed correctly. You’ve got emerging residential neighborhoods in Downtown and the South End and entertainment that draws from the region right in between them. Cater to both demands and you’ll be heading in the right direction.

  • Nancy Hadley

    Local Eyes,
    I think your age is showing. The younger set love this type of entertainment venue. Lots of jobs; lots of fun; lots of regional draw. The point is Harbor Yard needs to have a third major regional entertainment venue. Got any better suggestions? I wasn’t in favor of the movie theaters Magic Johnson’s firm was proposing but the co-developer Vornado had connections to major entertainment venues. Problem is 2008 happened. That financial crisis severely hit Vornado’s real-estate holdings. I have confidence David Kooris will land a fabulous third entertainment venue.

  • Local Eyes

    My age is an asset when understanding the younger set. Stamford and New Haven can easily reproduce anything Bridgeport does–unless we do something unique. I disapprove of your third entertainment venue idea–it sounds so canned and rigid.
    Vornado discovered leverage works both ways and Magic found himself on the bad side of a failed allez-oop pass.

  • Nancy Hadley

    So if you had several developers presenting investment strategies for the two large parking lots, the triangle and the stadium parking lot, what would you be looking for to grow Harbor Yard? Lay it out. Remember, the paper reported Friday the Sound Tigers might be moving in 2015 to Long Island when the N.Y. Islanders move to the new Barclays arena in Brooklyn.

  • Local Eyes

    Your question is based on a hypothetical situation that does not currently exist. Nobody is fighting over those parking lots today.
    Furthermore, I would not be entertaining ideas from others, I would be developing them on Bridgeport’s behalf.

  • Nancy Hadley

    From today’s paper: OPED is reviewing information from five interested developers. So what do you think the best land uses would be for those properties?

  • Local Eyes

    Urban real estate is in demand and expensive. Many developers feel compelled to respond to a request from a qualified city official on the grounds it can be easy, cheap and keeps certain people busy. Responses come in various degrees of quality. Tons of business gets started this way.
    Later this month, Bridgeport isn’t going to approve one that will work (despite their guarantee plea), but instead will just pick the best one and wait a year and see their plan before anything gets approved. Now I understand why you want my opinion today.
    Here goes: I-95 adds tons of value throughout Bridgeport but those six acres are a waste of time. They’re needed in their current capacity if you want to maintain Harbor Yard. With few exceptions, parking garages are an example of municipal mistakes that cannot be fixed because of existing buildings. They represent compromises. It’s a great time to get specific state properties removed from Bridgeport so as to create more taxable land here.
    Either way, my handlers are thrilled you asked for my take.

  • Mojo

    *** Those who have been around for awhile in the Park City know that “seeing is believing” in Zombieland, no? One thing for sure is whatever goes to “Steele Point” will not survive without “jobs” in general for the masses. Example, Webster Bank Arena is a nice venue with parking for entertainment in general yet is not used to full potential throughout the year, why? *** Lack of Benjamins, maybe? ***

  • Local Eyes

    People buying tickets (demand) produces Benjamins. Demand is a major problem with this whole economy …
    BEST WISHES to Mojo as he starts the latest leg of his political journey.

  • Hector A. Diaz

    I would love to have a Dave & Busters here (beats taking the hour and change trip to Palisade’s Mall); my daughter loves it as do all the children and adults I’ve been there with. It should be a private development done with private and not public funds. Back when the baseball stadium was just a concept there was talk of an intermodal transportation center that would link up all the transportation portals with the arena and baseball stadium, in a mall-like setting. Similar to the Washington D.C. train station. There was also a proposal (C. Caruso) that would have included an indoor/outdoor Soccer Stadium (which in my opinion would have brought a hell of a lot more $ than the simple stadium and arena we have now).

    • flubadub

      Hector, most of the Intermodal Tansportation Center is already in place. However, it does not appear to me (and perhaps you) as I envisioned it when first proposed. We have the new GPTA Bus Hub located on Water St. near the base of Congress St. It is a hefty walk to the train station and Ferry Dock for those taking public transit downtown. Then another walk from the parking garage adjacent to the Arena for those who arrive by car. I had envisioned something a little more compact. Also, were we not supposed to get a new train station Downtown? I thought that was part of the Intermodal package. Despite my petty gripes, the basic outlay is there ready for the throngs of new Downtown residents and visitors to utilize.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Part of that development should be a renowned seafood restaurant like Lundy’s was in Sheepshead bay, Brooklyn as well as a Bobby Valentine’s sports bar.

  • Bob Walsh

    I hate to admit it but Local Eyes is right; sort of. And so is Nancy Hadley; kind of.

  • Bob Walsh

    We could use a quality franchise restaurant downtown near the arena. There is a TGIF in NYC by MSG that is packed whenever there is an event at the garden.
    I don’t think the city needs to micromanage which restaurant it will be. The success or failure of the project is not dependent on it and I am sure a developer might give examples of the type of restaurant he would like to see but is not going to be that specific.
    But here we are arguing over a restaurant and not even talking about the overall project.
    I would definitely encourage rental apartment living accommodations. Bridgeport’s downtown is still lacking any critical mass needed to attract quality retailers and until it reaches that stage, overall development will be hindered.
    New Haven is talking about adding 600 – 800 apartments in their downtown area in the next 12 – 18 months. Real live plans that are in place and not requests that take 12 – 18 months to submit.
    And if we are talking any type of tax break/incentive, the building must be over four stories and the higher the building the higher the potential tax break. Make it ten stories and the top two are tax free.
    Make sure this is a for real developer. Must provide either proof of financing or put some money in escrow. When they submit a plan of development and a timeline, taxes will start based on that plan. If they say they will complete Phase I in 12 months and they do not, then they start making PILOT payments based on what they had promised to be done.
    No excuses, no extensions. Put up or shut up. Period.
    I believe like most others this is just a cheap election gimmick by Finch. The more grandiose the less likely it is to happen but as his reelection gets close we will have weekly groundbreaking activity.

  • Bob Walsh

    Nancy is correct in that we do need additional traffic drivers in the area but again they do not need to be extraordinary. I have always thought something like The Only Game In Town in North Haven would be a great fit. Batting cages, rock-climbing walls, go-cart track, video golf or urban driving range, etc. All of this would encourage a come-early and stay-later opportunity on event days as well as family entertainment at other times.
    Maybe even a winter ice-skating rink. We are not talking quantum physics here.

  • Nancy Hadley

    The ‘Only Game In Town’ is a great entertainment destination for families. That is the kind of third regional entertainment venue that would be great! Once that took hold and the region was used to the changes in parking, then adding the mixed-income housing would get more foot traffic downtown. I agree it should be a private development. Something special like the arena and ballfield. I don’t think the new development should start with mixed-income housing even though the Governor is putting lots of housing resources on the street over the next nine months. Entertainment first.

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