CT Main Street Catalyst Award
Sponsored by

Downtown Bridgeport Placemaking Program

Recipient: Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District
Partners: Project for Public Spaces; New Venture Advisors LLC

Opportunities & Challenges

  • Bridgeport is home to 27 parks & open spaces, including historic downtown McLevy Green and Baldwin Plaza. The DSSD sought to leverage the value of these open spaces by creating attractive and welcoming settings that host both passive recreational and cultural attractions, by using Project for Public Spaces’ (PPS) Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper
  • The DSSD embraced the opportunity to develop and execute a strong downtown brand and marketing campaign, specifically targeting the downtown young professional workers. The three largest employers in Bridgeport employ 1,650 people – many of whom have not been given a reason to wander around downtown at lunch time or after hours.

Highlights

  • PPS and the DSSD conducted community outreach, setting up a tent in Baldwin Plaza on a weekday from noon to 2 pm, to engage a large and diverse audience to envision the underutilized park into a multi-functional urban park where people of all ages and cultures can socialize, relax, play, learn, and participate in community activities.
  • Out of this community engagement, the DSSD developed a vision for Baldwin Plaza and goals that are key to its success: 1) Economic Development through the Arts; 2) Serve multiple constituencies including downtown workers, families, and cultural partners; 3) Make the park more visually inviting, adding everyday activation and moveable seating; and 4) Program opportunities for everyday experiences and special events. Overall themes include local music & performance art; food/dining in the park; site-specific art and curated temporary exhibits; games and small-scale activities for adults; programmed activities for kids; and freshness to the programming and amenities to attract young professionals and future downtown residents.
  • The DSSD retained Artemis Landscape Architecture to design planting guidelines including a new garden and installation of hanging baskets and banners. The DSSD also developed placemaking activities, including Recess @ McLevy which encourages the daytime workforce to utilize the Green during lunch hour.

Funding

  • From 2014 to 2016, the Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District (DSSD) utilized a total of $30,400 in CT Main Street Center’s Preservation of Place grant funds to address creative placemaking in downtown parks; creation of a regional food hub and community supported agriculture in downtown; and a marketing strategy to promote downtown to the Creative Class, with an emphasis on millennials. The Preservation of Place grant program was funded by the State of Connecticut’s Community Investment Act.

What’s Next?

  • The DSSD has added Chess, Concerts, 17 weeks of the Downtown Farmers Market at McLevy Green, ArtTrail & City Wide Open Studios, as well as beautification year ‘round.
  • There is an emerging entrepreneur class in downtown that is informing and engaging in food-based pop up events, debuting this Spring. The DSSD has identified incubator space & facilities, and is working to develop a farm-to-market culinary school with University of Bridgeport.