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BRBC BLOG: Bridgeport’s Premier Urban Waterfront Neighborhood Opens

   

July 15, 2019 - Bridgeport

THE LIGHTHOUSE AT STEELPOINTE HARBOR 

The Lighthouse at Steelpointe Harbor, located at 10 East Main Street in Bridgeport, with its three-story wood beamed atrium, sea-glass chandelier, first-class restaurant, and available waterfront office space has opened for business. Its 45,000 square feet of space is the newest jewel of Bridgeport development projects. The three-story 95-foot tall lighthouse themed building sits on Bridgeport Harbor at the tip of the East Side peninsula known as Steelpointe Harbor. Following the development of the area upland of Stratford Ave, the Lighthouse is the beginning of the development phase that will bring people back to the city’s urban waterfront.

Along with the 10,000 square foot restaurant the building has become the developers’ home for both land-based and marine operation. The developer is Bridgeport Landing Development (BLD) a division of the RCI group. RCI managing partner, Robert Christoph Jr. says that in addition to the BOCA Oyster Bar restaurant which opened in June, with both indoor and outdoor patio dining, another 8,000 square feet of office space overlooking the Harbor Walk and Marina will become available this summer.

BOCA OYSTER BAR

The BOCA Oyster Bar has served throngs of delighted guests since its opening. The new 10,000 square feet waterside restaurant gives families from throughout the region a new destination for dining to go along with boating and shopping across the street at Bass Pro Shops. BOCA boasts seating for 120 patrons inside, and an additional 60 on a 3,500 square foot outdoor patio on the waterfront with fire pits, a tiki bar, valet parking, and catering for private parties and weddings.

BOCA Oyster Bar is serving up fresh, seasonal seafood and unparalleled water views in The Lighthouse at Steelpointe. Peter Rizzio and John Taxilaridis, owners of Crave in Fairfield, CT. were selected by Steelpointe Harbor ownership to open the anchor business on the peninsula. Bob Christoph Jr. said, “We took our time scouting as we looked for the finest partners and we found them, two very successful locals with a flair and commitment to excellence.” Christoph added, “BOCA Oyster Bar will be your go-to destination for stunning water views and New England fare.” Taxilaridis says, “You can pull up a stool at the oyster bar and watch the shucking of the oysters. We have created a buzz and an atmosphere on the waterfront where you can have a drink on the water and watch the big boats in the harbor.”

Taxilaridis says he and his partner have Invested seven figures into the property to build out the restaurant and outdoor patio space. “We are all in. I think Bridgeport is going to go through a renaissance. You can’t beat the location. This is the crown jewel, and everything else is being built around it.” John added there will be nothing like BOCA locally. He says the word BOCA is Italian for mouth and it also refers to the mouth of the harbor. “There’s a wow factor here.”

John says he will have about 70 employees working at BOCA. “I can’t wait for people to see the restaurant! When you get a chance to open a destination restaurant on the water at a marina it’s the perfect storm.”

This waterfront eatery is the fifth business to begin operating at Steelpointe Harbor.

Visit website for hours, menus, and directions - http://bocaoysterbar.com/

    

THE MARINA

At the heart of the Steelpointe Harbor development is the Bridgeport Harbor Marina. This waterfront property features new concrete floating docks with 250 boat slips. The marina will accommodate vessels from 20 feet up to 300 feet long. The Bridgeport Harbor Marina is a state-of-the-art full-service marina providing boat slips for permanent, seasonal and transient vessels. The docks were custom built on site. The various steel, plastic, and concrete components were assembled in the old manufacturing building on Seaview Avenue in the East End.

 Late last year the first floats were put into the water to begin the construction of the Marina. That was the continuation of a process that began in December 2011 when the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection approved a permit giving BLD the authorization to make some key changes. This involved removing derelict structures including 1,500 old wood pilings, near shore dredging to create a uniform bottom depth, constructing a new higher bulkhead to account for sea rise, and building the 250-slip marina. 

The Steelpointe Harbor Marina completes a transformation of Bridgeport Harbor from an old and abandoned industrial harbor to a new, modern maritime entertainment and recreational destination. 

LINK FOR REGION MAGAZINE (Contact Jocelyn Paoletta at paoletta@brbc.org to sumit content ideas or for advertising information)

BRIDGEPORT BOATWORKS

What’s a marina without a boatyard? Across the harbor Bridgeport Boatworks is a 50,000 square foot shipyard. Bridgeport Boatworks opened for business last year and can house more than 200 recreational and commercial boats from throughout the surrounding area for winter storage. The boat yard is fully equipped with new 75-ton and 200-ton travel lifts capable of lifting most of the ships that ply Long Island Sound out of the water for storage, upgrades, or inspections.

Bridgeport Boatworks is operated by Marine 1 LLC., a Connecticut-based full-service marine management company. Harry Boardsen, General Manager of Marine 1 LLC, says the fully equipped shipyard has begun bringing a new clientele to Bridgeport, “It’s just one more option for the people in the New York and New Haven areas, folks that might not necessarily have an option in their backyard.”

Bridgeport Boatworks provides a full catalogue of marine services such as; mechanical service, paint and fiber glass service, maintenance & boat care service, restoration service, and indoor and outdoor storage for both commercial and recreational boats.

Bob Christoph Jr. says, “Bridgeport Boatworks brings local jobs and serves as an economic stimulus for Bridgeport and our surrounding neighborhoods.” Marine 1 LLC. hired skilled laborers, marine mechanics, paint and fiber glass specialist, and yard laborers.

STEELPOINTE HARBOR

Steelpointe Harbor is an urban-oriented, mixed-use development designed to embody the most desirable characteristics of a harbor-side neighborhood. The development on an East Side of Bridgeport peninsula on Bridgeport Harbor features a mix of uses and users. Bass Pro Shops was the first to open in 2015 and was followed that year by the arrival of Starbucks, Chipotle, and T-Mobile stores.

“These developers really put it all on the line,” says U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “They stuck their necks out, they took a big risk with this project and the success that we see unfolding is a game-changer for Bridgeport.”

RESIDENTIAL 

The next project to go from drawing board to groundbreaking will be a residential project. This mixed-use building will be built between East Main Street and Pembroke Street along Stratford Avenue and will feature 25,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 200 market-rate apartment units above. Residential development is scheduled to begin this year. This is only the first of many units to be built at Steelpointe Harbor. In all Steelpointe officials hope to build between 1,500 and 2,000 residential units for both rental and ownership.

THE DEVELOPERS

The RCI Group and its affiliates have been acquiring, developing, and managing residential and commercial real estate since the early 1970’s. During that period, the RCI Group has acquired, managed and in some cases sold over 11,290 apartment units, 1.9 million square feet of retail, office & commercial buildings and developed over 16 marina locations with over 2,095 boat slips together with appropriate related ancillary services. As a result of its diverse experience, the RCI Group is highly regarded for its ability to develop strategic waterfront destinations tailored to fit and address the needs of the adjacent upland communities. The RCI Group created Bridgeport Landing Development (BLD) as the entity to manage the Bridgeport project. 

Robert W. Christoph is the Founder and Chairman of the RCI Group and its related companies. Since 1969, Mr. Christoph has been actively engaged in the development, ownership and operations of multi-family residential and commercial properties. His real estate activities and marina developments have raised hundreds of millions of dollars through debt and equity sources. Robert W. Christoph, Jr. joined the RCI Group in 2000. Since starting with the RCI Group, Mr. Christoph has been actively engaged in the origination and execution of public and private sector, mezzanine and equity financing for a variety of waterfront development projects. 

THE HISTORY

Shipbuilding began on the banks of this area in the early 1700s and by the late 1800s the peninsula was booming with commerce. The name “Steel Point” is derived from “Bridgeport Steel Works” that was at one time located at this site. In the 1900s Steel Point was home to marinas, shellfish and maritime businesses, and the residences of those who sailed the sound and those in the trades who supported them. Eventually it would be the neighborhood where immigrant workers of the Arsenal of Democracy lived. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the City of Bridgeport has been preparing the peninsula, now known as Steelpointe Harbor, for re-development.

The peninsula, in its earliest stage was a low accessible harbor where the Paugussett Indians used to dig out shellfish from the shoreline. Later on, the peninsula became known as ‘New Pasture Point’ by the European inhabitants who were settling on the East End in New Field. Traders making their way to the harbor took the main road, Pembroke Street, down from Route 1 Boston Avenue into Stratford Avenue. 

At one time people visited New Pasture Point to be healed of sicknesses and other ailments because there was a great spring water reservoir on Pembroke Street. Another feature of the peninsula at the time was the presence of big estates. Later in the early 20th century two-to-eight-family homes were built for the Irish, Slovak, Polish and Italian immigrants who came to America for a better life and worked in the manufacturing jobs. In the 1960s and 1970s the immigration pattern changed to African Americans and Puerto Ricans with the same goals of seeking a better life for themselves and their families, further diversifying the community.

Since the area’s location and water features made it an attractive piece of real estate in the 90s the peninsula was razed for future development.

THE VISION

Steelpointe Harbor developers say their project will be a new urban waterfront neighborhood consisting of a network of attractive streets, open parks, water views and a public harbor walk. They add the mix of residential, restaurant, and retail uses reflects a diverse, livable, pedestrian-friendly environment consistent with the design goals of the Park City. A tree-lined East Main Street will continue to serve as the connection between the neighborhoods north of I-95 and the revitalized Stratford Avenue corridor, extending to the waterfront Harbor Walk and the Bridgeport Harbor Marina.

Today, East Main Street connects with the initially constructed section of public access Harbor Walk adjacent to The Lighthouse at Steelpointe. The Harbor Walk will be a public space connecting to retail shops, restaurants, the marina, a park, and most importantly, it will provide the public waterfront access and a panoramic view of the harbor.

As sections of the waterfront are developed construction of the Harbor Walk will be extended. When completed, the Harbor Walk will give the public full access to the waterfront and connect neighborhoods to the Long Island Sound for the first time in over 100 years. Residents will be able to stroll along the Harbor Walk while experiencing the fresh salt air and mesmerizing spectacle of boats bobbing in the glistening harbor. The developer along with state and local leaders say this project will create more than 1,000 high-quality, local jobs and draw tourists from Boston, New York City, Long Island, Newport and beyond.

THE WRITER

I remember the day in 2012 when a tent was set up where Bass Pro Shops now sits. Then it was just an open field waiting for development. An announcement was about to be made and I was sitting in the audience. Sitting in a chair, in the exact location where my childhood home once stood on Ann Street. It was bittersweet. I felt melancholy just thinking about the years I lived there as a child and all the great memories of the neighborhood. We would eventually live in that very neighborhood for 18 years as my parents would buy their first home just south of Stratford Avenue on Pembroke Street. They eventually moved to the burbs and the East Side peninsula where I once lived became the hope for a new Bridgeport. So, as I sat in the audience hearing about Bass Pro Shops, I hoped for a development project that would bring new jobs and opportunities, tax revenue for the city, excitement and entertainment venues, and most of all a stimulus for future investment.

Today, BLD, Bass Pro Shops and the other retailers are paying property taxes and providing job opportunities. The grand Lighthouse with its first-class restaurant and office space on the water has injected some life into the neighborhood, and the waterfront that I hardly knew existed in my neighborhood as a child is now open to the community.

If I dare dream Bridgeport Harbor along Seaview Avenue may become a resort destination bringing thousands into the city. I look forward to seeing people I know building the residential properties, working in the new offices, dining at BOCA, and living in a city which is better for its creation of Steelpointe Harbor.

— Frank Borres, Owner, American View Productions and Board Chair, Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce