Who says there’s no economic spinoff from the Webster Bank Arena? The new Barnum Publick House, across from the City Hall Annex and several blocks from the arena, was jammin’ Friday night. The place was so packed with puck lovers in the city for the East Regional semifinals of the NCAA Division I hockey tournament, I inadvertently elbow-checked one of the table servers. That’s a nice problem for downtown to have.
Jerseys from UMass Lowell and Union and other colleges filled bars and restaurants downtown. Sections of downtown feature a much brighter face these days: new housing units at Bijou Square, Lofts 881 and the old City Trust building have attracted young professionals; the city now has a variety of restaurant choices; entertainment at the ballpark and arena, Downtown Cabaret and Bijou Theatre. No doubt downtown is on the rise.
Across the pond, however, just a few minutes away on the East Side, is a much different story. The question remains is there a pulse at the Steel Point redevelopment area? For 30 years the city has had developers come and go with promises by mayors that this time it’s going to work. City Hall officials now privately wonder if Bridgeport Landing Development can make it happen after years of promises and revising development agreements.
If you go to bridgeportlanding.net/main.htm, the Steelpointe Harbor project led by Bridgeport Landing Development promises a “2.8 million square foot mixed use urban-oriented, waterfront development … When complete, Steelpointe Harbor will have approximately 800,000 SF of retail–200,000 SF of commercial/office, 300,000 SF of hotel/meeting area, a new 250-slip marina with complete shore-side support and will ultimately contain 1,000 to 1,500 residential units.”
About a week ago Robert Christoph Jr., manager of Bridgeport Landing Development and vice president of the Steel Point Infrastructure Improvement District, testified before the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly regarding “An Act Concerning An Expansion Of Tax Incremental Financing And An Adjustment Of Certain Dates Relating To The Financing Of Steel Point In Bridgeport.” Christoph asked the legislative committee for “extensions of time for the project to qualify for CDA financing and for the District to issue its bonds to help finance the District’s infrastructure improvements.”
Is it better to stick with Christoph? Or is it time to cut ties? Christoph’s testimony below:
My name is Robert Christoph, Jr., and I am a Manager of Bridgeport Landing Development, LLC, the selected developer of the Steel Point project in Bridgeport. I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors and as Vice President of the Steel Point Infrastructure Improvement District, which was recently formed pursuant to Public Act No. 05-289 to assist in financing and managing certain infrastructure improvements for the project. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this testimony in favor of Committee Bill No. 5500 regarding extensions of time for the project to qualify for CDA financing and for the District to issue its bonds to help finance the District’s infrastructure improvements.
Section 4 of the Bill gives the project additional time to apply to the Connecticut Development Authority for assistance through CDA’s tax incremental financing bond program. We anticipate that the project will make a strong proposal to CDA for bonding assistance within the next six to twelve months, so the current sunset date of June 30, 2012 needs to be extended to allow the opportunity to fully capture Steel Point’s potential. Extending the assistance date to June 30, 2015 provides CDA the time to carefully review the application and the financial assessment and revenue impact reports required under the program, and to structure the CDA bond issue, or issues, to accomplish the goals of the tax incremental financing bond program available for projects such as Steel Point.
Section 5 of the Bill extends the date that the City can “dissolve” the District, if the District does not issue its own bonds, to July 1, 2015, to coincide with the extended end date for the CDA financing.
I urge the Committee to act favorably on the Bill so that the Steel Point project will be able to move forward and to create both construction and ongoing job opportunities in Bridgeport.