April 20, 2022 – Bridgeport’s long-awaited East End Honey Locust Square development nears completion with a topping-off ceremony today. African American developer Anthony Stewart, founder of Ashlar Construction returned to his roots to build a multi-use 32,000 square foot commercial project at the site formerly known as the Civic Block. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Joe Ganim, Congressman Jim Himes, East End NRZ President Keith Williams, City Council members Aidee Nieves & Ernie Newton, Steelpointe Harbor Development Administrator Steve Tyliszczak, and many more community members came together at the Civic Block site to sign a steel beam and watch it put into place, completing the steel vertical structure.
The East End neighborhood had been suffering from decades of infrastructure and commercial decline and is considered a food desert.
Little did he know when he lived on Davenport Street on the Bridgeport’s East End and went to McKinley School that one day he would come back to the neighborhood as a successful developer to build a 10.4-million-dollar commercial project.
The community needed a library, a grocery store and storefronts for retailers. Fortunately, for Anthony and the community, an opportunity existed on what was called the civic block, a full city block located in the heart of the East End on Stratford Avenue, a major artery. Stewart’s company initially won the bid to build the library and was then selected to develop the rest of the block. After months of working with members of the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) Committee and the City of Bridgeport who paid to remediate the property, Stewart first built the East End Library.
The retail project would need to be funded from a combination of conventional banking sources as well as private funders, including Bridgeport Landing Development (BLD), which was busy just to the west of the civic block creating Steelpointe Harbor, the city’s lynchpin development project on the East Side waterfront of Bridgeport Harbor. “It was important for Bridgeport Landing Development to be involved because they’re my neighbors up the street and I’d like to try to tie all of our work together. We’ve committed $1.4 million to go directly into the cost of construction.” BLD President of Operations, Bob Christoph Jr. said, “We couldn’t be prouder of our partnership with Mr. Stewart, a developer who we know is committed to getting it right in his old neighborhood.”
Stewart said he’s calling the development, Honey Locust Square because of the plantings that will grace the project which, along with the grocery store, will have an Optimus Health Care clinic, a restaurant, pharmacy, hair salon and other retailers. The development block is bordered by Stratford, Central, and Newfield Avenues and Revere Street, and will also will be the new home of Ashlar Construction. The project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2022. Stewart says the project will be urban-friendly with storefronts right along the sidewalks of Stratford Avenue with parking in the rear.
“I am very excited about the project. I’m putting my life savings into making it happen and doing it because I’m from the neighborhood, my mother worked at a local beauty parlor on the same site, I would attend the old Newfield library and my father helped build the Ralphola Taylor Center across the street from Honey Locust Square. So, this is my old stomping ground,” said Mr. Stewart. “Our job today is to bring back the pastry shops, the healthcare facilities, the pharmacies, and all the other great things that made the East End a vibrant community.”
Community Activist Deb Sims of the East End NRZ says, “It has been a long challenge but Ashlar is making great progress. The fact that he’s from the neighborhood and hiring local people is good.”
Stewart added, “I hope this acts as a catalyst that helps change the East End of Bridgeport as it brings back more pride. I want to make a difference. Moving forward I plan to develop more housing, a combination of both affordable and market-rate houses to continue developing the neighborhood.”