SHU says demolition will be good for city
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Oct 10, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- An architect hasn't even been hired.
But a Sacred Heart University executive Thursday pledged that when the school demolishes a Park Avenue athletic club for a health sciences building, the real estate taxes on the North End site will spike from $108,000 to $300,000.
Michael Kinney, SHU's vice president for finance and administration, even said he would bet on the nearly $200,000 increase if he were a betting man.
"And I am," Kinney said flatly.
Others were more skeptical.
"If the state pays us that much," said Councilwoman AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia, referring to the fact that SHU is a non-profit entity whose taxes are supposed to be covered by an unreliable state grant program.
Kinney calculated the $300,000 figure in a brief interview outside of the city's North End library branch. He and other SHU officials had just emerged from a public meeting with about 50 residents.
SHU's recent purchase of the Fitness 4000 athletic club, located on Park Avenue just blocks away from the university's Fairfield address, was a hot topic at the meeting.
Many neighborhood residents worry about SHU's expansion plans into Bridgeport. And to some, the land deal doesn't seem like a great thing for a city with limited taxable property and major budget pressures.
The Fitness 4000 site is assessed at $2.6 million and the club's most recent tax bill was almost $108,000.
The state is supposed to make cities and towns whole for taxes lost to higher learning and hospitals. But politicians around Connecticut -- including Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch -- constantly complain they're getting shortchanged.
"This city's always crying poverty and taxing us to death," said North End resident Alison Kovachi.
Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, was optimistic about Kinney's $300,000 estimate.
"It's not unreasonable to think there will be more money going into the city coffers on this," McCarthy said.
Kinney guaranteed the library audience that the health sciences building will be a "world class" facility for nursing, occupational therapy, physicians assistant and sports exercise classes. The project is estimated to cost about $50 million.
"It will be a magnificent-looking facility," he said. "It's not a cheaply put together enterprise."
Kinney said the steep slope of the property will ensure that a maximum of two stories will be visible from the street.
But beyond that, there was little else Kinney could tell the group.
Fitness 4000 members have complained that the club has not told them when it will close.
"We have nothing to do with the operations of Fitness 4000 at all. Zero," Kinney said.
But pressed for more information, he said, "I don't think the building will be there this time next year."
Ann Roma swims several mornings a week at the gym's pool and had hoped to learn more about its future.
"He didn't really say when we're going to be kicked out," Roma said. "And there's really not any facility in the area that compares to that pool."
Many of Fitness 4000's clients joined when the company took over the building in the late 1990s from an Italian community center, which had the pool and some other workout facilities.
"They're ruining my life. We've been going there for 28 years," Helen Bepko said.
Some residents worried that replacing Fitness 4000 with a campus building will increase traffic. But Kinney said the school, which does not allow freshmen to have cars, is considering eliminating the privilege for sophomores, too.
George Mourizakis, president of the Greek Orthodox Church next door, welcomed SHU's proposal.
"Fitness 4000 looks empty. It would definitely make an improvement to Park Avenue," Mourizakis told Kinney.
And North End resident Steven Auerbach also expressed faith in SHU. "We already know Sacred Heart builds quality buildings," he told the crowd. "Why wouldn't we want that?"
#2 Oct 11, 2013
that was the old Italian community center building. one of my first jobs was as a busboy/ waiter in that building.
#3 Oct 11, 2013
Yes. I agree: demolishing sacred fart univershitty would be the BEST thing for bridgeport (not that THAT'S saying a lot).
Just think of all the unwanted dormitories that wouldn't be there anymore. Or the Haitian children safe from being raped by univershitty associates...
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