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Time’s almost up on Ganim’s theaters deal

December 19, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Two-thousand and nineteen — a re-election year for Joe Ganim — is just days away, and the fate of one of hizzoner’s most ballyhooed projects is unclear.

In September, 2017 the City Council, at Ganim’s urging, approved a $400 million plan by New York-based Exact Capital to restore the Poli Palace and Majestic theaters downtown and the adjacent Savoy Hotel.

Residential towers — one 18 stories high — were also part of Exact’s vision.

The developer then had until next week to obtain financing, otherwise the city could reconsider.

According to sources, Exact executives were in City Hall Tuesday meeting with Ganim and his economic development staff.

But the sides are remaining silent. The mayor’s and economic development offices and Exact’s managing partner, Craig Livingston, did not respond to multiple inquiries over the last few days by Hearst Connecticut Media.

Given Exact’s window is quickly drawing to a close and the lack of announcements, some observers are skeptical.

Mickey Herbert, a Ganim supporter, retired from running the Bridgeport Regional Business Council in late October.

“If I were a betting person, I wouldn’t be surprised if they (Exact) ask for an extension,” Herbert said. “I have no inside information whatsoever. ... I’ve been a bit of a skeptic because the size of the project is so large (and) they haven’t progressed to the point where any of us can say for certain they’re going to do it — that they’ve got the money to do it.”

Kelvin Ayala, who owns Moe’s Burger Joint and is a vocal and involved downtown merchant, said, “If they had the funding in place, they’d be announcing it from the rooftops.”

When Ganim campaigned for mayor in 2015 he pledged to renovate the two theaters. And were that to happen it would be one of the redevelopment projects the mayor could claim as his own as he asks voters for another four-year term in 2019.

Ganim inherited several ongoing economic development initiatives from ex-Mayor Bill Finch.

City Council President Aidee Nieves said should Exact want more time to piece its financing together, that decision will first be in the hands of the council’s economic development committee before going to the full council.

“There were some parameters ... put in place to ensure this project will flow and not lay dormant,” Nieves said. “It is my hope this is going to be moving forward.”

Councilwoman Rev. Mary McBride-Lee is a co-chairman of the economic development subcommittee. McBride-Lee said she has been given no information about what is happening with Exact.

McBride-Lee said she would be open to granting Exact an extension “if they show they can come up with the money in a short period of time.”

“I know that the mayor is going to be pushing real hard,” Lee added, laughing. “That’s his pet project, and I think he’s going to do whatever he can to make it work.”

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