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BRIDGEPORT, CT-City officials say that the developer of the proposed rehabilitation of the long vacant Citytrust building is close to securing the necessary financing to allow construction to begin by this summer. Late last week, the State Bond Commission approved a $1-million Urban Act grant for the project, which is phase one of the city’s four-phase “Downtown North” redevelopment.

Caryn Kaufman, a spokesperson for Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi, says that the designated developer for the Downtown North initiative, A&F Commercial Builders, LLC of New York City, is close to securing the necessary financing to begin the project, which has been estimated to cost $24.6 million. The entire four phases of Downtown North are projected to have a price tag of $111 million.

Eric Anderson, a principal of A&F Commercial Builders, says his firm is finalizing the financing for the first phase of the project. “We are very close. Some of it has been committed and we have term sheets on the balance,” he says.

The first phase centers on the rehabilitation and conversion of the Citytrust building at 955 Main St., which consists of four connected buildings, including a parking garage, that make up one city block. The plan calls for the conversion of the building into 131 units of market-rate rental housing and 29,000 sf of commercial space. Anderson says the commercial space will consist of about two-thirds retail space and one-third office space. Phase one also includes refurbishing the 277-car parking garage. The nine-story Citytrust Building at one time housed the operations of Citytrust Bank.

Anderson adds that although no lease deals have closed as yet, his firm has offers out on approximately two-thirds of the commercial space at the property. The project will take about 15 months to complete and will employ approximately 150 construction workers, he says.

The state grant financing was announced last week by Gov. John G. Rowland and Bridgeport officials. “The Citytrust building has been empty since the early 1990′s and it is time to take this gorgeous building and breathe new life into it,” Bridgeport Mayor Fabrizi said. “When you look at what’s happening in Downtown Bridgeport between this redevelopment effort, our progress with the Intermodal Transportation Center, and the renovations already taking place at Sterling Market Lofts, you can easily see how reinventing the core of our downtown will be a catalyst for even more growth.”

Phase two of the Downtown North project includes the rehabilitation of the Arcade Mall and Hotel and 144 Golden Hill St., which will create 58 market-rate rental units, 66,000 sf of commercial space and 120 parking spaces. The project cost for phase two is $18.2 million. Phases three and four of the project, which are expected to cost $68.5 million, include substantial rehabilitation of existing office space along Main Street to create 300 to 500 units of rental and/or homeownership housing and 120,000 sf of commercial space, according to state officials.

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