Bridgeport, Conn (WTNH) - It's not going to happen overnight, but Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch says the city's reinvention is underway.
In his State of the City address in front of local business leaders he laid out his vision for a renaissance, starting downtown.
There's already Bijou Square, a mixed retail-residential complex, with 32 of 84 apartments rented. It's all part of an effort to attract young residents, who typically spend more money, to improve public transportation, and open up access to the waterfront.
For the first time in 60 years, Bridgeport's census numbers went up, and the Mayor wants to capitalize on that, but with little state or federal money, he says local businesses are going to have to help him do it.
"The businesses are here. We're going to be asking them to make sure they maintain their employment. We're going to try to do the same, but we also want them to hire local people, hire our minority contractors," Finch said.
Can Bridgeport really do it?
Given the on-again off-again plans for things like Steel Point, there is plenty of reason to be skeptical, but Donald Eversley, who helped oversee Providence Rhode Island's renaissance, was hired by Finch as the City's Planning and Economic Development Director to bring that background here.
"I think there are many similarities in terms of cities of similar size. Similar industrial background, with many of those industries having left the community over the last three or four decades," said Eversley.
But critics say all this is premature, and that Finch should have been here talking about the city's balance sheet.
"I think it rises to the level of crisis, and I expected he would have mentioned something about it. I'd feel a lot more optimistic if I knew someone was dealing with the financial issues the city has," said Mary Jane Foster from the University of Bridgeport.
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