September 14, 2015 – Bridgeport, CT – Phil Kuchma, whose Kuchma Corp. has been a driving force behind downtown Bridgeport’s rehabilitation, isn’t finished yet.
The developer announced plans on Monday for a $5.5 million, 19,000-square-foot building in a lot across from the Bijou Theater, which his
company brought back to life in 2011. He says the new building will connect Fairfield Avenue, where there are plenty of businesses and foot traffic, with Elm Street, which is decidedly quieter, and on up to Golden Hill Street and City Hall.
“We want it to fit in with the scale of the neighborhood and give people a way to walk back and forth through the area,” he said. The structure will be one building with a variety of different facades, similar to his development at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Lafayette Circle.
With retail on the ground floor and office space above, the new building will offer something different than other structures that have primarily residences on upper floors. That variety, Kuchma said, is part of what makes city life vibrant.
The lot is between the building that houses the Trattoria ‘A vucchella restaurant and one on the corner of Broad Street that has the Pawn Broker and the Workplace. The three-story structure is designed to be consistent with neighboring buildings.
About 6,000 square feet will be set aside for ground-level retail. The center of the building will have an entrance to reach the office space.
Just as important as the structure, Kuchma said, is the 16- to 20-foot-wide pathway linking the two roads, on which the new building will front. He said it will provide continuity between the Downtown Cabaret and Black Box theaters to the north and the Bijou, on Fairfield Avenue.
“Our goal is to connect the theaters and the restaurants in this expanding neighborhood,” he said.
The lot is currently used for parking by Antinozzi and Associates, which has its headquarters in Kuchma’s Bijou Square development and designed the new building. ‘A vucchella will retain its outdoor seating.
With renderings complete, Kuchma is in the process of securing tenants and lining up financing. He said the prospective building needs to be about 70 percent full before banks will make commitments.
“We’re targeting diverse uses for the office space, but we’ve really had a focus on the creative economy,” he said, adding that those businesses often work better in smaller spaces.
Paul Antinozzi, principal of Antinozzi Associates, said Kuchma has long been a leader in the neighborhood. “He’s always been way out in front of everyone else,” he said.
Mayor Bill Finch, announcing the plans in advance of Wednesday’s Democratic primary, lauded the work of Kuchma, Antinozzi and others. “Where we would be without them, I don’t know,” he said. “When we think back on where we were six or seven years ago, it’s remarkable.”
Kuchma said this project has long been intended as capstone for the area. “We have nine properties down here, and we’d also thought this one would be last,” he said. “It really brings everything together.”