Bridgeport Developer for East End project announced
As plans to revitalize Bridgeport’s East End continue to unfold, local developers will be taking point on the underserved neighborhood’s anchor project.
City officials announced Wednesday a shopping plaza will be constructed on the Civic Block site at 1206 Stratford Ave. The $7 million project is slated to bring retail and a long-awaited grocery store to the neighborhood, which has been considered a food desert for decades.
“This has absolutely been a long time coming, and we made a concerted effort when we decided to embark on this with the (neighborhood) and the representatives from the East End here that we would try to expedite the process,” said Tom Gill, director of economic development.
The blighted building that housed the former Newfield Library will be demolished in coming weeks, according to Gill. It will make way for remediation and subsequent construction on the site to be headed up by Bridgeport-based Ashlar Construction, which is also leading redevelopment of the new library.
Developer Anthony Stewart said he wants to break ground on the Civic Block project by next spring, kickstarting what he projects to be a 10-month build-out process. The city plans to put out a land disposition agreement, or LDA, with Ashlar Construction for City Council approval.
Plans for the site include a 16,000-square-foot grocery store, which has been long-standing demand from residents and community leaders. The space is expected to accommodate a Gala Foods Supermarket — the third in the city.
The other two locations are on Fairfield Avenue and East Main Street.
Along with office space, another 15,000 square feet of the project would house retail storefronts, Stewart said, adding that more that a dozen businesses are vying for space at the development including a pharmacy, restaurants, and Optimus Health Care, a primary-care provider with three other locations in Bridgeport.
“We want to make an impact,” said Stewart, principal at Ashlar Construction. “We believe that the Civic Block is going to be a catalyst for other development in the East End, and if we have our way we are going to make sure it acts as a catalyst and other developments happen.”
The privately funded project has also received financial backing from RCI Group, the developers of nearby Steelepointe Harbor.
The city says RCI remains contractually obligated to develop a 40,000-square-foot grocery story less than a mile from the Civic Block within its proposed Seaview Plaza development on the waterfront.
At least one East End leader this week questioned whether that will still happen, and this week the city approved a request from RCI to extend its deadline on its previously approved plan for that site.
“I don’t know if the neighborhood is going to sustain both grocery stores not far apart,” said Keith Williams, an East End community leader, “so I think whichever one is built first the next one will have to negotiate something else, because two grocery stores are not going to make that close together.”