In a commentary first published in the Connecticut Post, city development director David Kooris highlights progress in Bridgeport. His commentary follows:
Every day, I drive or walk around Park City neighborhoods. Like most people, I’m proud of what’s happening in Bridgeport. Under Mayor Bill Finch’s leadership, we’re making wise investments in the city’s future that are starting to produce visible signs of change.
I’m glad to have to pass across Steel Point to get to many project sites; it is often the highlight of my trip. It’s the largest economic development project since the industrial revolution. Before Mayor Finch took office, six mayors spanning three decades eliminated more jobs and housing here than they brought in, but growth is finally taking place under his leadership. Soon, this peninsula in Long Island Sound will host Steelpointe Harbor, a 2.8 million-square-foot, mixed-use development that will include shops, hotels, a public waterfront, and up to 1,500 apartments or condos.
When complete, Steelpointe Harbor will serve as home to thousands of jobs and generate up to $18.5 million of tax revenue annually. Its flagship tenant, Bass Pro Shops, will open in the fall of 2015. It will create hundreds of jobs and bring millions of consumers to the Park City annually.
Bass Pro Shops was sought out and secured by Mayor Finch and his team. This project is happening because this administration secured more than $31 million in federal and state funds. We came up with a plan that was smart and feasible; resulting in tangible job creation and tax base growth in the near term.
Another highlight of my trips around the city is the Eco-Technology Park. It’s a neighborhood of older industrial buildings that has been left desolate with limited economic activity by several mayoral administrations. But Mayor Finch’s green initiative, BGreen 2020, has repositioned it into a hub for green job creators, enabling businesses to grow and thrive.
Our sustainability initiative has been the product of hundreds of residents, business and civic leaders, and national experts identifying a long-range strategy for success. Good paying jobs are an integral component of sustainability; the Eco-technology park is where this strategy is already bearing fruit.
Serving as home to more than a dozen job creators, Eco-Technology Park employs hundreds of people while generating more than $10 million in annual income. And, there’s more to come. U-Haul and another private developer are revitalizing several unused warehouses and factory buildings, demonstrating a highly visible renaissance from I-95. Mayor Finch has worked hard to bring sustainable businesses to Bridgeport that create jobs for a cleaner and greener future. And, it’s paying off.
Bridgeport’s historic downtown is being revitalized and bringing with it new businesses, residents, and jobs. This downtown revitalization is even causing businesses to move back to Bridgeport, including Fletcher-Thompson, an architecture and engineering firm. In coming back to the city’s downtown, the company is bringing with it 135 jobs located below 30 new state-of-the-art apartments. As I walk around downtown nearly every day, the increased level of activity and vibrancy is palpable.
In most neighborhoods that I travel, what I am most encouraged by is how areas that were previously cut off from the waterfront by vacant industrial sites or low grade commercial activity now have direct access to our rivers, harbor, and Long Island Sound.
In the East End, I love passing by a line of folks gearing up to take one of the water taxis out to Pleasure Beach. Following a bridge fire in 1996, the 71-acre former amusement park was inaccessible to Bridgeporters. While the re-opening of Pleasure Beach has been promised many times in the past, it finally re-opened under Mayor Finch. For nearly two decades, it was inaccessible to the public.
When Mayor Finch took office, plans to re-open Pleasure Beach weren’t in the works. But now, it’s open to the public because of state funds sought and secured by Mayor Finch and his administration to create the Pleasure Beach Master Plan. It’s open because of the millions of dollars in federal funds sought and secured by Mayor Finch and his administration for two water taxis to get Bridgeporters to and from the peninsula.
Beyond this one park, we have new fishing piers, new open spaces, new playgrounds and new amenities in all of our waterfront neighborhoods.
The foundation of economic development is education. In addition to linking students with employment and training opportunities, we need to ensure that our learning environment is of the highest quality. Bridgeport is building new schools to ensure all kids have access to the high-quality education they deserve.
The most recent new school that opened is Fairchild Wheeler, which is the first new high school to be opened in more than 50 years. We are on the cusp of starting work on another new high school to replace the aged Harding high school.
Since this administration took office, kids in every single neighborhood across the city have benefited from school facility upgrades that the mayor has championed. And, once his administration’s school construction projects are complete–including the renovation of Bassick High School’s roof–more than half of Bridgeport’s 20,000 students will be attending new or newly renovated schools.
These school construction projects are also keeping money in the community. Through Mayor Finch’s commitment to giving small local businesses an opportunity to thrive and grow in Bridgeport, the City has awarded more than $36 million to minority- and women-owned businesses on the most recent school construction projects.
Fuel cell and Renewable Energy Park. Bridgeport is serving as a national leader on clean energy. The Park City serves as home to North America’s largest fuel cell, which was built in Connecticut and powers nearly 15,000 households. And at the Green Energy Park, an old landfill site will soon serve as home to more than 9,000 solar panels and a second fuel cell, which will power more than 5,000 homes in Connecticut with zero-emission electricity sources. Cleaner energy production creates jobs, and it helps ensure our kids breathe cleaner air, and can fuel local economic development.
East Bridgeport Development Corridor
Bridgeport’s East Economic Development Corridor will be a much-needed catalyst for growth in the city’s East End, East Side, and Mill Hill neighborhoods. Bridgeport Hospital is planning a 40 percent increase in full-time employees over the coming decades. The growth in the hospital and other employment opportunities around it will be partially fueled by a second train station. The area will include a new mixed-use housing development offering high quality options for our residents.
Bridgeport is investing in the future, making our city a place where our kids and grandkids will choose to live, work and raise their families. We’re improving the city by re-opening parks, revitalizing downtown and developing the waterfront. And by investing in cleaner energy our kids will breathe cleaner air.
These things and more are happening under Mayor Finch’s leadership. And, it’s just the beginning of what our city can accomplish under a strong vision for the city’s future.