June 27, 2022
The Newfield Branch of the Bridgeport Public Library celebrates its Grand Opening! Antinozzi Associates, Project Architect, was on hand for this special celebration on Friday, June 17th. The Firm is proud to be a part of the BPL initiatives to bring new and updated library facilities to the Bridgeport community.
The below is an excerpt of an article from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council’s recently released Region Magazine. The article, written by Frank Borres of American View Productions, features this and other positive snippets of economic and community development in Bridgeport.
Bridgeport Economic Development Gets a Boost from Local Architects and Developer
Bridgeport’s economy is very much tied to successful neighborhood development. However, while countless developers brought new projects to Bridgeport, the City’s East End neighborhood suffered from decades of commercial decline and antiquated infrastructure. This corner of the city had been a bit lost against earlier development for too long. In particular, the East End lacked a grocery store and was considered a food desert. Beyond a grocery store, the needs of this community included a library and new storefronts for retailers. Fortunately, an opportunity existed in the center of the neighborhood, on what was called the Civic Block. It’s a full city block located in the heart of the East End along Stratford Avenue, a major artery and between Central and Newfield Avenues. Two Bridgeport-based companies have devoted years to the planning and development of the Civic Block and to the continued advancement of community and economic growth.
Critical to a community’s economic development are the amenities that add to local quality of life. One of those critical amenities are libraries, places with accessible resources and safe places to congregate. Antinozzi Associates Architecture and Interiors, located on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport, began working with the Bridgeport Public Library (BPL) in 2013 when BPL embarked upon the process of creating a master plan of their five (5) branch facilities throughout the City. Antinozzi Associates, in association with MSR Design of Minneapolis, was awarded the contract to provide a comprehensive study of options for the future of the facilities. Based on the results of the study, and the need to meet challenging demographic and technological program changes, the BPL purchased three sites to renovate or newly-construct branches that would revitalize the City’s East End and Upper East Side neighborhoods and reinvigorate the BPL’s community impact.
The library program for each branch revolved around the idea of “Tech Centers.” The main features of these new tech centers include: spaces dedicated for children, teen, and adult use; a community room; large/small study rooms; a library “marketplace”; numerous computer stations; wi-fi capability; and outdoor courtyards for reading or gathering.
The first tech center was the relocation of the Newfield Library branch back to its original site in the early 20th century. The existing brick masonry building is a “historic” Carnegie library built in 1900. The second project following the Newfield Branch is a new branch in the Upper East Side of Bridgeport now nearing construction completion. This project accommodates a neighborhood not previously served by the BPL. A $5M design/build project with Downes Construction, the building is a single-story 6,400 SF facility and will incorporate critical program requirements for the East Side community. The third of Antinozzi Associates designed libraries for the BPL will be the Lower East Side Branch, located at 1174 East Main Street. Recently awarded the contract to proceed, the entire Antinozzi Associates team is excited to begin another important project in Bridgeport.
“Libraries today are so much more than shelves of books; they have been transformed into a key center of community activity. As a result of our work on public school media/tech center design, Antinozzi Associates expertise in this type of work has grown significantly. We are exceptionally proud of being able to design many local facilities beyond the Bridgeport Public Library projects such as Roosevelt Elementary School, Harding High School, Stratford High School, the University of Bridgeport, and the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club.” Michael Ayles of Antinozzi Associates.
While Antinozzi Associates was the Architect for the Newfield branch of the Bridgeport Public Library, local developer, Anthony Stewart, was selected to build the library. Stewart was also selected to develop the rest of the block. After months of collaboration with the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) Committee and the City of Bridgeport who assisted by remediating the construction site, Stewart’s Ashlar Construction worked with Antinozzi Associates and Phillip Ceradini to design and develop Honey Locust Square.
The retail part of the project would need to be funded from a combination of conventional banking sources as well as private funders. Bridgeport Landing Development, the developers of Steelpointe Harbor, the city’s lynchpin development project on the East Side waterfront of Bridgeport Harbor is one of those private funders. “It was important for Bridgeport Landing Development to be involved in the East End because they are our neighbors up the street and I’d like to try to tie all our work together. We’ve committed $1.4 million to go directly into the cost of construction of the supermarket to make it feasible.” 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.”
Little did Stewart 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, 32,000 square foot commercial project.
Stewart said he’s calling the development, Honey Locust Square because of the plantings that will grace the project. Along with the 16,000 square foot grocery store, the development will have an Optimus Health Care clinic, a restaurant, pharmacy, hair salon and other retailers. The development will also be the new home of Ashlar Construction. The project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2022.
Stewart reports, “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 this project. I’m putting my life savings into making it happen because I’m from the neighborhood, my mother worked at a local beauty parlor on the same site, I would study at 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.”
Bridgeport’s Honey Locust Square development, near completion, recently held a topping off ceremony. Dignitaries, elected officials, and community members came together at the Civic Block site to sign a steel beam and watch as it was put into place, completing the steel vertical structure. Stewart said, “When we grew up, we had everything we wanted right around here. Our job today and what we’re trying to do from this point forward is to bring all that back; we want to bring back the bakeries, pastry shops, healthcare facilities, the pharmacies and all those other good things that made this a vibrant community. We’re looking forward to what’s going to happen here today.”
US Senator Richard Blumenthal added, “It’s a big deal you know. It’s a big deal for the East End of Bridgeport... it’s a big deal for the Stewart family but it’s also a big deal for the future because what Anthony Stewart has done here is really remarkable. You think about the risk taking, you know he’s putting his life on the line in this project. He’s putting his money where his mouth is and that’s what Bridgeport needs. Bridgeport is on the move; Bridgeport is a great city.”
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.”