Article from CTPost, December 28, 2019
By Jordan Grice
Developers of Bridgeport’s Steelepointe Harbor say they will be building hundreds of new apartments in the new year.
Following a summer opening of the Dockmasters building and construction of the project’s 200-slip marina, RCI Group is looking to start building the first batch of housing in 2020, according to Robert Christoph Jr.
The Miami-based company, which also has headquarters in Bridgeport, has spent the past five years out of its nearly 20-year tenure in the Park City transforming the former United Illuminating factory site into a commercial and residential hub along the waterfront.
The next phase is slated to bring 220 units of market-rate apartments and 25,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space on East Main Street, Pembroke Street and Stratford Avenue. According to Christoph, construction is set to begin in the summer, barring any setbacks, kicking off an 18-month construction period.
That’s only the beginning of what developers and city officials have been touting for years as a transformative project rivaling similar development in the region.
“Steelepointe being on the harbor, near downtown, within the transportation inter- modal, is a very significant piece in the development strategy for the waterfront and downtown entertainment district,” said Tom Gill, director of Bridgeport’s office of planning and economic development, in an emailed statement to Hearst Connecticut Media.
Plans for the peninsula call for between 1,500 and 2,000 apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space across several high-rise structures which Christoph has said would be part of future phases of residential development.
Construction of more mixed-use complexes on the property will be contingent on market demand and the ability to lease all the units, he said.
Unlike dozens of affordable and market-rate housing developments that have opened around the city, Steelepointe is only offering high-end, market-rate housing.
That’s due largely to the demographic the project is meant to attract.
“It’s affordable at a level that in Manhattan or other locales is not affordable today,” Christoph said.
“It’s a step process and a phase process, but we know from other prior experiences what works and we’re looking to bring that here and implementing those same things that work,” Christoph said.
While large-scale development has Christoph optimistic for his project, he said changes in the market are always possible and can set back timelines.
“If all of a sudden, the market goes into a recession or something else occurs in the marketplace that is unforeseen, that could deter the second and third phase of development,” he said.
IT WORKED IN STAMFORD
Thus far, the developer said, he has been optimistic because projects like Harbor Point have continued to thrive, bringing a commercial and residential boon to Stamford.
It’s been a decade since Building and Landing Technology set out to redevelop that city’s waterfront. When RCI first came to Bridgeport in 2001, development hadn’t begun in Stamford yet.
After billions of dollars’ worth of investment, a new taxing district and dozens of buildings feeding the city’s vibrancy, Harbor Point is widely considered Stamford’s largest mixed- used development built since the last recession.
“It was verification that there was demand (for development like this) in Connecticut,” Christoph said. “We came with a vision knowing what (Bridgeport’s harbor) would be in the future with the housing and retail and creating that neighborhood feeling on the waterfront.”
The demand for commercial and residential development has continued to make its way down Long Island Sound, according to the developer, who also cited continued growth in Norwalk as a result.
Bridgeport is the next natural stop for that kind of growth, according to Christoph.
The company also has had a hand in other projects throughout the city, including affordable housing projects with Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust and commercial redevelopment in the East End to meet past contractual requirements, according to Christoph.
“We think what we have an offering that is unique” with Steelepointe Harbor, he said. “I think we are going to constantly be pushing the edge and pushing Bridgeport ahead into the future and that’s part of what we signed up to do when taking on this project.”