After a 1995 vote by the State Senate rejecting then-Gov. John G. Rowland’s plan for a casino in Bridgeport, the governor and the state would eventually pledge more than $100 million for Bridgeport development plans.
Steelpointe harbor is a 52-acre site on a peninsula on Long Island Sound. Named after a former steelworks on the site, its development had been a priority of six mayors. The first, Leonard Paolettas, started in the early 1980s but couldn’t advance the plan.
Property acquisition that cleared much of the site began with eminent domain takings in the early 1990s.
The project hit its first road block when Mayor Joseph Ganim was convicted in 2003 on receiving $500,000 in bribes and kickbacks. The feds said the money was to support his gubernatorial campaign in exchange for supporting a group of developers to take over the site. Ganim never got the money as the feds started investigating the developers.
The damage to the project was done, however, and it would soon run into a new headwind: the real estate debacle of 2007, which squashed nearly every major development in the Northeast and beyond.
Bob Christoph of RCI Group, a well heeled Miami developer was tapped by the city to develop the project.
The city and state have put $100 million into buying and clearing properties for what is expected to be a project that tops out at $1 billion.
The plan includes what the city and the developer says will be 2.6 million square feet of housing, 200,000 square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of hotel and conference space, a 250-ship marina as well 800,000 square feet of retail space.
The city hopes to yield nearly $20 million in annual tax revenues.
The real estate collapse has left the site vacant and ready for some time.
But today the first anchor, Bass Pro Shops, one of the country’s premier destination retailers is now in the building phase with a 150,000-square-foot store costing $68.5 million to construct with the state kicking in an eventual $30 million for improvements and support. Bass Pro is expected to open next year, employing more than 225 people. Christoph says he has attracted support from two hotel companies and other retailers, but no announcements have yet been made.