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BRIDGEPORT, CT-The state will contribute $8.5 million to help the City of Bridgeport purchase a critical parcel of land necessary for the future $1-billion development of the Steel Point peninsula here, according to Gov. Jodi Rell.

The state funding will help the city acquire almost 14 acres of land currently owned by United Illuminating. Bridgeport, which is seeking to acquire the property by eminent domain, and the utility have been squabbling over the property’s value. The State of Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control held a hearing on the issue on Tuesday in New Britain in an attempt to resolve the dispute. In the past seven years, the City of Bridgeport has acquired more than 100 properties comprising two-thirds of the more than 50-acre peninsula.

The long-delayed Steel Point project has been estimated to cost $1 billion to develop. The plan includes more than six million sf of new construction that would feature: housing, a retail center, office space, a hotel/conference center, waterfront restaurant and entertainment facilities, a marina and yacht club and a public esplanade. The city has chosen a joint venture of RCI Marine of Miami and Midtown Equities of New York City as the master developer of the project.

At a press conference held here on Monday, Rell also said that another $750,000 in state funding will be on its way to help finance the multimillion-dollar dredging of Bridgeport Harbor. The more than $9 million in state funding is expected to be approved by the State Bond Commission on Friday. That funding is part of $60 million in state assistance the city is looking for in connection with the Steel Point venture.

In addition, last May the State Legislature approved enabling legislation that will allow Bridgeport to set up a special taxing district that could sell another $190 million in bonds for the project, city officials say.

“With the right mixture of public and private financing, Steel Point has enormous potential to propel Bridgeport into a new era of success,” Rell said. “I am confident that the many entities working on this project have a workable and achievable plan. It is my hope that the state’s financial support will encourage strong and expanded private investment.”

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