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Development Underway Of Historic Barnum, Bell Site In Bridgeport

An artist's rendering of the planned Cherry Street Lofts, a new mixed-use housing development planned for Bridgeport's West End. Photo Credit: Contributed
Mayor Joe Ganim, second from right, joined the developers in announcing construction will start soon for the $120 million Cherry Street Lofts project to transform the former Bassick Casters building and others into a housing and school complex. Photo Credit: Contributed
Construction for the first phase of the $120 million Cherry Street Lofts is expected to be in full swing within the next few weeks. Photo Credit: Contributed

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Brideport Mayor Joe Ganim operated earth-moving machinery Friday in a ceremonial start to the $120 million Cherry Street Lofts project, which will turn the historic Bassick Casters industrial building and other nearby factory buildings on the city's West End into housing and the new home of Great Oaks Charter School.

The Bassick Casters building has played a significant role in Bridgeport's history since it was once the home of American Gramophone, which manufactured some of the earliest mass-produced commercial recordings of music. The company later was acquired by Columbia Records. Also on this site, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, developed the prototype for the movie projector after receiving financing from Bridgeport mayor and entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, city officials said.

On Friday, Ganim was joined by New York-based developer Gary Flocco of Corvus Capital at the Railroad Avenue site to signify construction would start soon on the site. The project includes transforming what city officials said are dilapidated factory buildings into more than 300 units of mixed-income housing and the charter school.

Part of the site at 1341 Railroad Avenue will be demolished to turn into parking for the new development. The project also includes housing for teachers at the charter school, and buildings to house a power generation unit.

Ganim said this major economic development project is being financed through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority with money from the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust Fund. Bridgeport officials said this is the first housing development of this type in the country.

“This old, tired set of factory buildings is literally about to be transformed before our eyes to fabulous new housing that will be a great attraction to a younger generation of people looking for that urban living experience with easy access to transportation,” Ganim said.

“This is a continuation of redevelopment on the West End of Bridgeport that has been years in the making," Ganim added. "In Bridgeport, projects like this are literally turning blight into beauty and we are so proud of the momentum we are building.”

Flocco said the project also includes retail shops, along with educational and entertainment facilities. He said it is a nice step forward while also preserving a large part of Bridgeport history.

"We are bringing this whole area back in a major way and representing Bridgeport for all the people that pass by on the highway and on the railroad," Flocco said. "We are focused on a long-term investment in Bridgeport.”

Work is expected to begin shortly on the first phase of the project, which includes 157 apartments. That phase will take about two years to complete, officials said. Work on the charter school is expected to be complete by June 2018, they said.

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