MEMBER BLOG: July 27, 2022
Anyone who has been around Bridgeport for any amount of time has heard talk of renaissance, recovery, or revitalization.
Real Estate values are up, the grand list has increased, new entertainment venues have opened, and colleges and universities are evolving and expanding in our Greater Bridgeport Region.
To get an indication of where we are economically, we talked to some people who are investing in the Park City, much of that investment and renaissance is east of the Pequonnock River and taking place in Downtown Bridgeport. But, for those of us who have been around for a while, you can now see major transformation occurring as you drive through Bridgeport via I - 95.
Bridgeport Landing Development
One of Bridgeport’s biggest economic indicators is the work at Steelpointe Harbor on the East Side Peninsula and clearly seen from I-95. There, Bridgeport Landing Development (BLD) invested substantial resources in beginning the development of a new waterfront Live, Work & Play neighborhood. The arrival of marine related businesses to the east end of Bridgeport Harbor are providing good paying jobs and BLD is supporting affordable workforce housing on the west side of the city. Working with Showpiece Shows, a woman owned business, the annual Steelpointe Yacht and Charter Show is all the rage and, in spite of the ongoing pandemic, retail tenants such as Bass Pro Shops and Starbucks, continue to flourish. These are clear examples of the resilience of Steelpointe Harbor. Also, BLD received the approval of the City Zoning Office for the development of 420 +/- residential units to be built on the former United Illuminating Company site on Steelpointe with construction scheduled to begin later this year. And, at its nearby Seaview Avenue site, there is a beehive of activity with new water dependent tenants and a continuing effort to keep the momentum building.
With all this in mind we sat down to talk with the developer.
An Interview with Robert W. Christoph Sr., Steelpointe Harbor (BLD) Developer
What is the direction for Steelpointe today?
Several different events that have taken place on a more national level have changed some of the original thinking for this project. Internet vs. in-store shopping among other things that have occurred since we came to Bridgeport, have had us realigning our thinking. The vision we have now is about driving a new, exciting, and thriving waterfront. We are creating a lifestyle community that is unique on the Eastern Seaboard, at least between here and Manhattan.
Whether it was the steel mills, a utility company, private marinas, waterfront owners, or commercial operations, this peninsula has always been privately owned. The public was never able to access and enjoy the water or the waterfront, which is a tremendous magnet offering an important quality of life to the city. So, putting a harbor walk in, providing access for the public to come and enjoy the waterfront was, I felt, extremely important. We are creating a community that, although it’s not a park, will offer many of the amenities and attributes that a park delivers while at the same time offering the ability to live, enjoy, and entertain all at the same location. I think the important thing is that this development is a maritime destination. And for its residents, this location also offers a six-minute walk to and from the train station, it is adjacent to I-95 ramps, and it is just five minutes to some of the region’s top cultural, dining, sports, and entertainment venues.
What are Steelpointe Harbor’s most important attributes?
The property is unique in that one can work in Manhattan, Stamford, or New Haven and you can take the train to any of those locations or drive there on I-95. You can come home at night and have your boat in your front yard at the marina. Just think about going for a cruise after enjoying dinner at a spectacular waterfront restaurant.
The entire Bridgeport community is creating substantial avenues to further develop its arts and entertainment coefficient. To have a successful deep-water waterfront, you need all of the above, plus access to the goods and services that a maritime commuter- boater-yacht owner would want and need to fully enjoy and experience the harbor.
What role do other developers need to play in helping Bridgeport succeed?
It takes a varied group of developers with vision to complement the current market. Folks who are building housing, restaurants, breweries, and businesses to fulfill all the needs of a community are necessary to create a successful local economy. We would, and do, happily work with anyone and everyone in the local community because we believe in being a part of the fabric of the community. We will all succeed together.
What role do your activities in the community play in Steelpointe’s success?
Bridgeport Landing Development is a member of the community, and as such, the better the community as a whole does, the better Steelpointe Harbor does, and vice versa. We actively support the community from a charitable point of view. Our emphasis is on supporting youth programs, affordable housing in the neighborhoods, and participating with the efforts of local business organizations such as the BRBC (Bridgeport Regional Business Council) to grow opportunities for community and economic development. We look at our younger generation as future community leaders, therefore, supporting kids in the community is important to us. Also, our retailers, shops, and maritime industry partners are offering site and off-site job training and employment opportunities. As an example, Bridgeport Boatworks and the Hornblower Group, have just announced the creation of training programs through Porter & Chester Institute. These programs offer scholarships and internships to help the community help us keep our businesses sustainable. And it’s a strong community that is going to succeed in the years ahead. We’re excited about the momentum we see building.
Content Provided by Frank Borres, American View Productions