Leading town developer returns to East End of Bridgeport


BRIDGEPORT – Entrepreneur Anthony Stewart spent much of his childhood in the East End before life and work took him out of town and state, even for a time in South America , Africa, Europe and Japan.

This week, Stewart was back where it all began, cutting a ribbon on a new Stratford Avenue building that will house his Ashlar Construction business until she can move permanently to Honey Locust Square that the developer is erecting at two blocks away.

“I wanted to be located on Stratford Avenue and (in) the community I’m making such an investment in,” Stewart said in an interview Friday. “I think it is a game-changer. People see me every day. I walk down the street, buy from local restaurants. I feel happy about it.

Stewart hasn’t really been a stranger to the East End in recent years. Although Ashlar was previously headquartered in the city center, Stewart’s company was selected by the city in late summer 2018 to undertake the long-promised ‘civic block’ redevelopment of a dilapidated section of the city. Stratford Avenue between Central Avenue and Newfield Avenue, since nicknamed Honey Locust Square. .

The company has also built the Newfield Avenue Public Library, which will open soon.

But Stewart is aware of the impatience some in the East End are feeling over the slower-than-expected progress on the Civic Block, which he attributed to a lengthy environmental clean-up, work stoppages due to the COVID-19 and also, more recently, rising costs of building materials.

In April, he said he hoped to open parts of the project before June 2022. On Friday it had become “late summer, early fall next year.”

So having his office nearby, Stewart hopes, will dispel any lingering doubts about his involvement in the region.

“We did what we said we were going to do,” said Stewart.

The newly opened structure at 1376 Stratford Ave., where Wednesday’s ribbon cutting took place, contains four apartments and also offices for Alliance for Community Empowerment, an anti-poverty nonprofit.

“I am so proud to share this moment with all of you,” Sharon Skyers-Jenkins, Alliance board chairwoman, told the crowd on Wednesday. “This is a moment that epitomizes what we do at Alliance to help make an impact and effect change in families. “

She continued, “I am delighted and grateful that we are able to partner with our local developer, Mr. Anthony Stewart. He is the epitome of what Bridgeport is and that is to put your money where your mouth is and to help effect change, housing and development, especially in areas where they have been underserved. .

Born in Georgia, Stewart’s family moved to Bridgeport in 1962 as a baby and lived in the East End until the age of 14 when they moved to Shelton. After a career, primarily in construction, which took him to work elsewhere in Connecticut, overseas, and then New York, he founded Ashlar in 2014, moved the company to Cheshire, and then, to 2016, in downtown Bridgeport.

At a ceremony in 2018 announcing Ashlar’s selection for the Civic Block, Stewart said the project “is going to be a catalyst for further developments in the East End, and if we have what we want, we let’s make sure it acts as a catalyst and other developments happen.

Stewart said on Friday he was proud to have Alliance as a tenant.

“They offer a lot of community services, energy assistance, rent assistance,” he said. “They are doing a lot to help.”

Along with the future Ashlar headquarters, Honey Locust Square, just down the street, will house a long-awaited East End grocery store and additional retail / restaurant / office space.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like it to be,” Stewart said on Friday. “The pandemic has skyrocketed my costs. And part of my problem is trying to keep negotiating to get better deals on things so that I can still do what I want to do.

For example, he said the remaining steel frame was originally supposed to cost $ 600,000, but now stands at $ 800,000.

Overall, what was $ 9.6 million construction work “is approaching $ 10.6 million,” Stewart said. “People who don’t look and say, ‘It’s going slow.’ They don’t know how it works. It’s hard. It is really difficult.

Councilor Eneida Martinez represents the East End and attended Wednesday’s event. She praised Stewart and, acknowledging some of the setbacks Honey Locust has faced, said, “We have to be patient and give it time.”

“We are very grateful – delighted – that he can grow in the East End and more so to have his office there,” Martinez said. “We see a progression. Yeah, it’s been slow (but) I think cutting the tape is a step in what we’ve got to come.

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