When Old Becomes New Downtown

Security Building interior
Lobby of the renovated Security Building. CT Post photo Christian Abraham.

Renovations of Downtown North buildings on Main Street are progressing, transforming long-vacant historic buildings into new uses. The Wheeler and Security buildings, a joint venture of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners and Trefz Corporation, features new apartments in the neighborhood’s advancement for more foot traffic.

Other renovation projects are also under way, adding a brighter face to a long-dormant area. Downtown’s attractive rental pricing is an alternative to higher housing costs in lower Fairfield County. Mayor Joe Ganim resides in the Security Building.

CT Post reporter Amanda Cuda has more:

But, it can be argued that the apartment is just a supporting player here. The real star is the property itself. Both the Wheeler and Security buildings can be accessed through the Security building entrance, which has a lobby that would look more at home in midtown Manhattan than downtown Bridgeport.

Filled with leather couches, armchairs and a general welcoming atmosphere, the lobby looks up into a glass-encased atrium, stretching all eight floors of the Security building. It gives one of the feeling of being ensconced in Willy Wonka’s great glass elevator.

The Security also contains a host of amenities including a gym and a business conference center, complete with kitchen and TV. But Morque said one of the building’s biggest selling points is its roof deck. Even in the dead of winter, the deck is impressive, with tables and chairs, ideal for sitting as one sips a few drinks or reads a book. Studding the porch are a bunch of metal planters filled with various greenery.

Full story here.

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13 comments

    1. Maria, thanks for asking that question about parking.

      I have not contacted my City Council members about it, nor have I asked anyone in leadership at the appropriate city departments. But I think a parking policy that encourages and supports residents downtown is important. It can be a project accomplished in due course; it’s not an emergency by any means.

      With the opening of the HSW Security Building, I think Mike Moore of the DSSD would tell you the 24/7 population inside the downtown “teardrop” is approaching 3,000 people. Add in a couple of hundred people at the Holiday Inn. More housing is in the works.

      Example: Next time you’re in the area, look at red brick Richardsonian-Romanesque building with the theater on State Street opposite McLevy Green. Forstone Development is renovating it for apartments at a rapid pace. The work day-by-day is visible through the large windows. I think it will have about 40 one- and two-bedroom units. This means McLevy Green will be surrounded on three sides by 24/7 residents (and on the fourth side by McLevy Hall and the Morton Government Center). I am one of those residents.

      I do not know if Kuchma Development has provided off-street parking for its residents at Bijou Square and surrounding properties, but I’m thinking they get a break on parking in the Fairfield Avenue Garage. I know Forstone has parking for residents in two lots with an extra charge. I believe there is an off-street lot for the Harral-Security-Wheeler apartments immediately west of the structure. The 333 State residents park in the garage for the RBS building.

      Upshot: Developers are including off-street parking for their residential tenants, usually with an extra charge. Still, in some cases, we need parking that allows residents to load and unload everything from furniture to groceries. And we need parking for guests, whose presence adds more vitality to downtown.

      From this downtown resident’s standpoint, a review of downtown parking policies to accommodate residents and guests 24/7 is necessary, but not critical. It’s a question the city ought to consider, especially with the flexibility of new electronic parking meters, but an answer in due course would be fine. There’s a lot of “de facto” parking policy downtown in which police give residents a break. Turning those policies into “de jure” would be a good thing.

  1. Doug, you make a fine spokesperson for living downtown. I am happy you are enjoying it. You have a beautiful apt. in a beautiful location overlooking a brick with my name at McLevy Green.

    I think next year at this time there will a great deal of activity downtown with life and additional housing. That is my hope.

    Good health to you Doug, and welcome home!

  2. Respectfully, I think the City Government should get rid of the Downtown Parking Meters and GET MORE PEOPLE INTO DOWNTOWN BRIDGEPORT. RIGHT NOW. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.

  3. Mr. Gyure,
    Go downtown for what?

    There isn’t much there to attract the locals let alone visitors. In order to attract people you need some place to go and places to park, safe places to park at that. Standing on the corner of Main and Elm Street and looking south, what’s there?

    Not a lot sad to say, it’s not downtown New Haven. In order to have any rebirth in this area you first have to make it attractive. What would do well enough that would attract other places?

    What does downtown need that it does not have?

    How do you attract that business?

    How does Bridgeport put out the welcome mat to attract new entertainment to the downtown area?

    What is the plan for the old bus terminal; lots of parking and the lower level has potential too.

    Carmalina’s, what’s going on there?

    Downtown needs:

    Make it SAFE

    Reasonable rent

    Reasonable SAFE parking

    Family friendly venues NOT teen hangouts

    Live entertainment

    Country Western bar perhaps? Why not?

    Give people a reason to go downtown after an event at the arena rather looking for the fastest escape home.

    The ideas are many but there are physical limits too.

    It’s time for Bridgeport to get serious about rebirth or rebuilding and just do it. It’s been far too long and way too much talking about it.

    Just my two.

    1. Looks like downtown is making progress. Talking to many people who have moved there, they seem to enjoy it and are extremely optimistic. I admit I have to go way out of my way to go downtown and patronize anything. To me it is worth supporting the new restaurants. The future is with the young professionals. They need only cater to this group. Older generations are lost in the past and remember Bridgeport from days gone by. I remember Bridgeport’s downtown as a disgusting desolate Iraqesque city after a bombing in 1967. I am proud of the progress being made. I have been to every restaurant in the downtown. I am not waiting for the magic wand to create a downtown Stamford, New Haven or New York. I know Bijou Square has changed a neighborhood as well as the development around Mclevy Green. I am hopeful one day downtown will attract more of the arts and culture expanding down to the arena and Harbor yard. Homeruns like Brewport attracting a young generation will only be helpful in luring young professionals downtown. At 59, I still have a little youth in my veins but I know it is important to patronize the young business to keep them afloat until 1000s of units of market-rate housing become available. I am hopeful of the downtown North project that is beginning to take shape. If only the gentrification could spill onto the side streets. It would be a real bonus if a state university would open an Annex downtown. That along with the expansion of Housatonic could be a real boon.

      I think Stringfellow should go downtown and appreciate that things are happening. Slow but surely. Finally, before the economy collapses.

  4. Mr. Auerbach,
    As a 54-year-old I remember the old downtown Bridgeport. Just tonight I was downtown and the snowflakes looked really nice. It reminded me of the downtown of my childhood. Back then they decorated a whole lot more. That was then but this is now.

    Tonight I saw how stark Main Street and Fairfield Avenue were. Sure it was New Years Eve and there was very little foot traffic. I see flickers of life in some of the new businesses and some apartments but there should be so much more. I see the renovation of the building on Middle Street. Yet I see the vacant buildings on Main Street waiting on a tenant. These buildings have been empty for quite some time. Why did Rite Aid leave and who is going to go in its place? McDonalds left I predicted Rita’s would fail and sadly I was right. They were too much too fast and counted on the wrong people to support them. It was a nice idea for better times.

    Bridgeport needs businesses that will attract higher paying jobs than minimum wage. Businesses that will grow and attract businesses to support them hopefully local vendors. As I said in my previous post the basic logistics need to be in place. Ask the masses what they would like to see there that would transcend all ages not just young people. Ask the suburbanites what would attract them to downtown.

    Ask big business what would attract them to downtown Bridgeport.

    Despite the slow crawl the city is doing as a whole, it’s a long way before it can walk on its own.

    Happy New Year

  5. My very first job was working at the McDonald’s downtown. When I read it was closing I couldn’t help but think if downtown Bridgeport can’t support a McDonald’s, how can it support a small business or quality restaurant?

    We are the most populous city in CT, and the heart of our city couldn’t sustain a McDonald’s.

    Isn’t that rather sad and pathetic?

  6. Yes I agree with you on McDonald’s, you would think it would be the last business left. Their overhead must have been too much. This isn’t a good sign but should not surprise anyone.

    So what is the plan for the building that was designed for one thing? It’s too small for anything else and parking was always a challenge. Looking back when Wendy’s, Blimpie and that other sandwich shop whose name I can’t recall, they are all gone too. You wonder how Subway and Dunkin Donuts have been able to stick around all these years. Those studio apartments can only do but so much perhaps some condos downtown mixed in might not be a bad idea.

    The building on Stratford Avenue that burned down under I-95, what is the plan for that property?

    The old Kaufman Fuel, what are they doing there?

    The old bus terminal, AT&T building, the list goes on. The parking issue and public safety still needs to be addressed.

    Perhaps one day they will figure it all out.

  7. Didn’t Frontier take over the AT&T building? I have no idea.

    One other thing that was overlooked are the high taxes and poor performing schools. Not the things you want if you are a couple who may consider Bridgeport a place to live and raise a family. The taxes are too high and the schools are not up to par as the surrounding towns. It’s an easy choice to live if you can afford the other towns.

    The city needs to recognize the failing schools and high taxes and address both issues. These two key items are key in attracting people who want to buy rather than rent.

    A couple I know bumped into Finch at Bass Pro. I was told the subject of the high taxes came up and the couple told Finch Bridgeport was too expensive, they sold their house and moved to Trumbull. I was told Finch just grinned and walked away.

    How many more couples like this are out there???

    It would seem the problems in Bridgeport outweigh the potential and hints of rebirth.

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