By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ With Friday’s approval of $31 million in state grants and special financing to develop a proposed Bass Pro Shops store in Bridgeport, the city’s mayor said he expects the long-awaited Steel Point waterfront project will now take shape.
“This is very critical because hotels follow this, other retailers follow this and then the residential (development) follows that,” Mayor William Finch said after the State Bond Commission approved $22 million in bonds that are supposed to be paid back over 20 years with sales tax revenues generated by the store, which sells fishing, boating, hunting and camping equipment. The panel, chaired by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, also approved a $9 million grant to finance construction and infrastructure improvements needed to house the 140,000-square-foot store.
“You need a magnet and Bass Pro is definitely the magnet,” Finch said. “Go to any one of these stores. It’s a cross between Target and Walt Disney World and it’s just the most exciting place to go.”
Finch said the developers of the new store, which he said will be Bass Pro’s 62nd establishment, want to get started in the next month. Bass Pro estimates it will attract about 3 million annual visitors to the store, including those expected to dock personal watercraft at a marina proposed for the project.
Bass Pro is expected to create about 100 full-time jobs and 137 part-time jobs once the $68.5 million project is completed.
While Republican lawmakers who sit on the Bond Commission voiced concerns Friday about the state’s overall level of borrowing, state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said he thoroughly reviewed the special financing arrangement and believes the store will generate enough revenues to pay off the bonds. Both the financing and the grant were approved unanimously.
Ronald Angelo Jr., the Department of Economic and Community Development deputy commissioner, estimated that the state has already spent about $42 million to $44 million on the 16-year, approximate $800 million Steel Point project. He said much of that has been spent to clean up the highly contaminated, industrial property.
Finch said it’s not surprising that Steel Point has taken so long to reach this point.
“All urban cities have a difficulty assembling 60 acres. It takes many, many years,” he said. “It took a lot of property transfers and purchases in order to get this site cleared.”
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