Steel Point Developer Requests Extension For Infrastructure Improvements, Plus: Hockey Fever Downtown

Steel Point
The Steel Point redevelopment area.

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, 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.



    1. Enough already, this is unacceptable. Time to find a real developer with deep pockets. How many developers are we going to get that are almost entirely dependent upon politics and State funding. How about a mayor that is not so full of himself and understands marketing. How about a change in the Bridgeport Regional business council? Same crap, different year, different administration. So tired of living the same dull story decade after decade. Enough! Shit or get off the pot! As the saying goes.

  1. “Four years ago Bill Finch said that we were on the 5 yard line. Well I am not sure which 5 yard line he was thinking of, but after his abysmal record you can be sure we are now on the one with our back to the goal posts and a long hard ninety-nine yards to go,” Walsh claimed. Bob Walsh in June 2011.

    Bill is doing a great job in holding that line. It’s time to Punt, Pass or Kick!

  2. I recall James Rouse of Fanueil Hall & Harbor Place Baltimore, et al. fame spoke in Bridgeport around 1990. In speaking of his successes and development in other cities he said it was (to use a baseball analogy) the single hits rather than the home run that would lead to a community’s success. We have been waiting for a Babe Ruth development for far too long. Perhaps it is time to parcel out the property in smaller increments.

  3. *** It’s been a long time coming with lots of hope for some real progress at Steel Point, however smoke & mirrors seems to be all that’s been produced for quite some time! *** ZOMBIELAND ***

  4. Just please, I beg whoever is listening, NO WALMART on Steelpointe! While I think the city would benefit greatly from a Walmart–please not on the water–we taxpayers have waited far too long. Put it somewhere else–there are many abandoned factories that would be well suited for it.

  5. I heard Walmart for Steel Point is a done deal–nice huh? All the promises made and never kept. Upscale hotels and marinas–and the best a developer can come up with is Walmart!

  6. High-end outlet stores with discount/factory pricing and good food would entice people on their way through on 95 to stop and look around, wouldn’t it?

  7. Deadbeat developers!!!
    Haul their asses into court and sue them for damages. Watch how fast they would run if they actually thought they had to pay real money.

  8. I remember going through my research of market data concerning the number of malls and the retailers located in the general geographic area and challenged them on who or what they were going to attract and they could not come up with any answers.
    Our Planning department, which has no experience in retail developments, kept bailing them out. And the desperate council kept giving them everything they asked for.
    Complete incompetence in every direction.
    We are getting what we deserve!!!

  9. A Walmart is coming! A Walmart! It appears a group of East Enders sat around a table discussion and are supporting this idea. The Council members for the 137th had no clue of this, or maybe … she was making believe she did not know …

  10. Did you know? Last year the City had presented and the Council had approved a budget with $1.1 Million of revenue to come from sale of City-owned properties. As of May 2011 the City had achieved $51,683, with a projected year-end deficit of $1,040,000.
    Seven months into the 2012 operating budget the Finance Director is projecting a $3,800,000 deficit with projected revenues off by $3,120,790 and expenses over by $683,277. And again the work of OPED has us sitting with $1,100,000 of anticipated revenues from sale of City land and only $51,700 of property sold. There are for lease signs on the former Black Rock Arts Center. Was it sold? Is it scheduled to be sold, or are the development stories more of the “smoke and mirrors” referenced above? And Police Department through all areas is showing a $2,400,000 deficit by year end. Did you know this information? It is available to the City Council and to the public. Who bothers to review it? Where are the checks and balances? How many people thought this year was going to be an up year for real estate sales, for investment returns and City revenues produced by such trends??? At least one decision maker in the Executive Branch and a majority of the City Council did. What all active parties in City fiscal governance are proving to us at this moment is more training, experience, and prudence is required in City Financial matters. We will have more to say this afternoon at 4:00 PM at Harborview Market, another presentation of Bridgeport Finances 101 with PowerPoint and Q & A.
    People are slowly awakening to fiscal realities. Power is a thing to be exercised responsibly. Added taxation without competent representation is another. Time will tell.

  11. Black Rock Bank and Mis-Trust building is under contract and is supposed to be closing within the next month. What I find interesting is when the two incumbents pitched this end user, they said it was part of a major restaurant group. This could or would have justified a reasonable sales price to get the building back on the tax rolls. A low price coupled with significant leasehold improvements that would be well over one million dollars to bring in a princely sum based on a pauper’s sales price. Now I hear they have no end user and are trying to lease the property. This is another typical land bank scheme developers pull on Bridgeport.

    What’s the Dealy-o? Paging Marty and Sue B???

    1. Sorry FtM, it’s less than $300k, more BS from Marty & Sue B.
      The City paid over $730k for this Black Rock Bank. Bring it back on the Tax rolls, hey Marty?

  12. It is time to pull the plug on this round of (non)development at Steel Point. How many years has Christoph et al. had to do something, anything on 54 waterfront acres??? Pull it before we end up with the Walmart Finch keeps denying we’re about to get. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Way to go, Bill.

  13. What Bernie Madoff did is called a Ponzi scheme but what Bob Christoph is doing is considered managing a troubled development parcel. I don’t see the difference.

  14. *** Just think “green” folks, something good is bound to happen, no? Just be careful flushing toilets though; due to the sewer/run-off problems and not enough water pressure to push everything along, it has pipes backing up local street sewers and the city having to spend thousands of dollars every year hiring outside sewer contractors to keep up with the problem. By the way, how well are all those new expensive “green” water-saving toilets working out at city hall? *** Spend now, worry later! ***

    1. Look across the harbor; you’ll see another large vacant parcel. This complements the large vacant parcel on the other side of Yellow Mill Creek on Seaview Avenue, not to mention the large vacant parcels at Downtown North and on State Street. Bridgeport is the New Detroit, only Detroit had an excuse: the exodus of the automobile industry. Here the creation of this vacant land was deliberate and our Mayor was a part of it every step of the way. The motto of the Economic Development Agency used to be: “Make it Development Ready.” I propose another pithy motto: “City of Bridgeport: “Undevelopment” should complement the other pithy phrase going around: “Deconstruction.” Stay tuned for more vacant parcels at the old GE and Remington sites as “Undevelopment” continues.
      At least in Detroit they had an excuse and in fact are reinventing themselves as an urban agriculture model. Perhaps our new venture should be likewise “Bridgeport Farms.” Seriously.


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