As its 18 year-plus journey to eventual completion continues, Bridgeport’s burgeoning Steelpointe Harbor is evolving.
“It’s no longer the retail environment we started with,” said Steve Tyliszczak, development administrator at Bridgeport Landing Development, Steelpointe’s master development group. “Now it’s a waterfront neighborhood.”
He was the featured speaker at a Sept. 26 event hosted by commercial real estate development association NAIOP at the Boca Oyster Bar, which opened in June at Steelpointe’s recently completed Dockmaster Building at 10 E. Main St.
Current plans for the $750 million, 2.8 million-square-foot development, a combined effort between BLD and the city of Bridgeport, include 1,500 residential units, 800,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of commercial/office space and 300,000 square feet of hotel/meeting area overlooking a 200-slip marina.
Tyliszczak said construction on a pair of residential buildings — containing 200 and 300 rental apartments — would start in the spring, with a high-rise condominium building to follow at a yet-to-be-decided date. Steelpointe is in discussions with nonprofits about making some of those units affordable housing, he added, though an exact number has not been determined.
Most of the work completed so far has been commercial. In addition to the 13,000-square-foot Boca, Bass Pro Shops opened a 150,000-square-foot building at 1 Bass Pro Drive in 2015, followed a year later by Starbucks, Chipotle and T-Mobile stores in a commercial building across the street at 255 E. Main.
Tyliszczak noted that although the developers had originally hoped to open the marina this past summer, it has now set their sights on next summer.
“We’re taking reservations for the next boating season now,” he said.
Complementing it is the 45,000-square-foot Bridgeport Boatworks, a full-service boat service and storage operation that opened in June 2018.
BLD is part of Miami-based RCI Marine Group, which first got involved with the project 18 years ago, according to Sam Haydock, director of business development and client care at BL Companies, the site’s engineering firm.
“It was basically a trash heap” then, Haydock said, noting that a massive brownfields remediation program was necessary to deal with such long-abandoned buildings as a United Illuminating power plant.
“It cost over $110 million just to get the site development-ready,” he said.
That RCI Founder and Chairman Robert W. Christoph and his son, President of Operations Robert W. Christoph Jr., have stuck with the project is a testament to their philosophy of commitment, Tyliszczak said.
“They’re not in this to make quick money,” he said. “They want their families to be able to make money here for years to come.”
Still looming over the entire project is the desire to make it “a major entertainment destination — aka MGM,” Tyliszczak said, referring to that company’s lobbying to build a $675 million casino at Steelpointe Harbor. Those efforts have been buffeted by political winds for the past several years, with the latest development being a plan under which the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes — which respectively operate the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos — would spend a minimum of $100 million toward a $300 million entertainment and gambling facility in the city.
Nevertheless, Tyliszczak noted, should the casino plan come to naught, “We were looking at a residential complex (in that space) before MGM showed any interest in it.”
If that interest disappears, he said, “We have plans A, B, C, D, E, F and G for it.”