Big ticket acquisition makes New York developers new player in Bridgeport
A series of acquisitions and deals in Bridgeport have made investors Time Equities Inc. one of the major players in reshaping the downtown area.
The New York-based developers and investment firm purchased a trove of downtown properties totaling $21.7 million in the past two weeks.
With the acquisitions, TEI now owns roughly 240,000 square feet of property downtown, including 176 units of apartments and 95,000 square feet of retail commercial space including storefronts in the northern part of downtown that have been vacant for years.
“We are anticipating that we can make some improvements to those spaces and hopefully have that be a vibrant part of the cityscape there,” said Max Pastor, director of acquisition for TEI. “I think we have a great opportunity for public-private partnership and there is a feeling within the community that downtown can continue to evolve.”
The company now owns the City Trust building at 955 Main St., Arcade Mall at 1001 Main St. and a mixed-use building at 144 Golden Hill St., adding to its stock in the Park City, which started with its November purchase of the Bridgeport Innovation Center in the East End.
The $7.9 million purchase of the Innovation Center, a 269,080-square-foot office and industrial space on Connecticut Avenue, marked the company’s introduction to Fairfield County and kickstarted its investment in the Park City, which Pastor said is ongoing.
“We see the growth potential and the ability to come in and make the place better,” said Brian Soto, director of acquisitions and asset management for TEI.
An international footprint
TEI has been involved in a series of acquisitions and developments throughout the country, specializing in residential, industrial, commercial and office markets.
The firm’s portfolio includes more than 31.1 million square feet of residential, industrial, office,and retail property — including more than 4,000 apartment units — internationally with investments in more than 30 states and more than five countries.
With recent deals in New Haven and Long Island, Pastor said Bridgeport was right up TEI’s alley.
“We’re long-term holders generally, and we look to add macro trends and look to be invested in places for a longer time or investment windows,” Pastor said.
As development downtown and on the East End continues, the firm’s developers said they are optimistic that the future of Bridgeport is filled with upsides as they look to add to the mix by revamping parts of the commercial hub.
That includes renovating and marketing several vacant spaces that TEI has taken over, specifically in the downtown north section. Its Golden Hill Street Building is across the street from the Jayson-Newfield Project, a public-private partnership between the City of Bridgeport and New York developers Mark Reed and Patrick Normoyle, which is expected to open this year, bringing hundreds of apartments to the area.
o City Trust (955 Main Street) is an 11-story building that was built in 1928 and consists of approximately 135,544 SF. The building is made up of 117 apartments and 43,222 SF of retail space. The average apartment size is approximately 789 SF. Retail tenants at the City Trust building include Citibank, and 4 Corner Billiards.
o Arcade Mall (1001 Main Street) is a 4-story building that was built in 1840 and consists of approximately 52,355 SF. The building is made up of 23 apartments and 32,046 SF of retail space. The average apartment size is approximately 883 SF. Retail tenants at the Arcade building include Artstock, Burger Joint, and Boys and Girls Village.
o Golden Hill (144 Golden Hill Street) is an 8-story building that was built in 1910 and consists of approximately 51,194 SF. The building is made up of 36 apartments and 22,751 SF of retail space which has been vacant for years.
While the apartments of the TEI property have been leased for some time now, the ground level storefronts haven’t been occupied in years and, in some cases, are falling apart.
“It’s been a bit neglected and I don’t think marketed as well as it could,” Soto said. “We see all this un-activated retail that is just sitting vacant for no other reason than no one wants to put the money into it to bring in the retailers, to give the community what they need.”
The firm is looking to change that, starting with clean up and marketing of vacant storefronts, Soto said.
Plans for the newly purchased portfolio, according to Soto and Pastor, include converting long vacant commercial spaces throughout downtown into rent-ready space in an effort to increase occupancy above the current level of 59.6 percent.
TEI also wants to repair and upgrade apartment units with new amenities and improvements to facilities — including the John Street parking garage, which TEI also purchased.
Fellow developer and property owner Phil Kuchma of Kuchma Corp. said the large investment by TEI is a sign of good things to come for Bridgeport and proof the city is gradually catching the interest of developers looking to transform it.
“It legitimizes our beliefs that this is a good place to invest and it shows that it’s not just locals that would purchase something here,” Kuchma said. “This certainly was not a whimsical kind of investment and I think that it’s tremendously encouraging.”
Kuchma has been instrumental in reshaping Bijou Square over the past decade, with the opening of the Bijou Theatre and new apartments built along Lafayette Circle, with retail space at ground level.
“They are the most substantial company that has made an investment such as this in Bridgeport.,” Kuchma said.
It’s been a while since an acquisition of this scale has happened in the city, which has city official excited for the future of the downtown business scene.
“It’s a substantial investment, and we are excited to have a company like Time Equities Inc. in Bridgeport,” said Tom Gill, director of economic develop for the city. “It’s really positive to have a company of this caliber to come into Bridgeport and buy this portfolio.”
TEI’s deal marks one of the largest big-ticket acquisitions since Spinnaker Real Estate Partners in Norwalk and Darien-based Forstone Capital purchased their respective downtown properties from People’s United around 12 years ago.
In that time, Ginsburg Development Company GDC took over the City Trust building and Arcade Mall from Urban Green, which was responsible for converting the former office building into downtown apartments and reviving the landmark mall which had been empty for years.
“The fact that they have a great portfolio is great for Bridgeport because they are not just locals who have a little capital,” said Frank Borres, president of the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce. “Having a new player could be a great thing in that they can inject new life and energy into the scene and if that includes a vision for Bridgeport that is energetic and active, I think that’s great.”