Blighted Site Gets New Life

A $54 million project will transform 19th-century factory buildings in Bridgeport, Conn.

RenderingBPBridgeport, Conn.—Construction is underway on the Cherry Street Lofts, the redevelopment of the most visible, dilapidated industrial site in Bridgeport, Conn. Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, state officials, community members, union officials, bankers and investors recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony at the West End site along I-95.

The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) is investing $35 million into the $54.4 million project to renovate the historic buildings into 157 apartments. The first phase includes cleanup and adaptive reuse of the one-time factory. The first apartments will become available in an estimated 18 to 24 months. In addition to the housing units, the development will feature a community facility, gym and 40,000 square feet of outdoor recreational space.

The HIT is purchasing bonds issued by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) for the rehabilitation of two buildings. Eighty percent of the units, or 126 apartments, will be affordable to residents earning no more than 60 percent of area median income (AMI). The apartments will be built using 100 percent union labor.

The rehabilitation effort will create approximately 235 jobs for members of the local building and construction trades council.

“We visited the site with the developer early on, about four years ago,” New York-based AFL-CIO HIT investment officer Andrew Pfeifer told MHN. “We walked the site and were immediately drawn to the story and the history of the neighborhood. Different efforts to transform this from a blighted block into a community asset had failed for different reasons, but it had remained a priority for the city . . . We saw it would be a challenge. But we like challenges and recognized its potential to become a catalytic redevelopment.”

The major obstacle that had to be overcome, he added, “was gaining community buy-in and partner buy-in that this time [successful redevelopment] would really happen.”

The buildings under renovation were constructed in the late 1800s to serve as a factory for the American Gramophone Company. Over the past third of a century, the site became vacant and blighted. As part of the first phase of the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Plan: West Side/West End, the one-time industrial area has witnessed improvement. It now is home to a more diverse range of businesses, including retail, light manufacturing and antique centers. Two new schools and a police station have also been added.

“The Cherry Street Lofts and its spark of new economic activity will create new affordable housing, support revitalization of the city’s West End neighborhood and is a very viable investment in one of the gateways to Bridgeport,” said Karl Kilduff, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

The site is also located within the boundaries of the newly created Bridgeport Eco-Technology Park in the city’s West and South Ends.

The redevelopment initiative is moving forward following a number of years of close coordination between HIT, CHFA, the city of Bridgeport and the Fairfield County Building Trades. Additional key participants have been the development team of Corvus Capital Partners, LLC, and The Pacific Companies, the general contractor Construction Resources, Inc. (CORE), and tax credit syndicator City Real Estate Advisors (CREA).

The project is anticipated to be complete in late 2018.