ToquiNotes: City's Next Business Set to be Built and Owner Wants You to Determine What it will Become

By Jeff Toquinto on August 26, 2017 from ToquiNotes via

There are few things that draw as much interest on Connect-Bridgeport as the announcement of a new business coming into the city. If it’s a national brand or a business owned locally that is unique then things really take off.
In a perfect world, anytime anyone opens a business – big or small – within the City of Bridgeport, the community should generally be pleased. After all, particularly for small business, a person or an organization has determined that your city is worth investing their money in. That is usually a good thing and something to be celebrated.
As I’ve seen too many times to count, many folks aren’t happy when some individual may have invested their life’s savings into a new business in the city. They’re not happy when someone who is a successful business person invests money in the community or even a national chain or a major development group.
The reason?
It’s almost always not the type of business people want. They clamor for a new restaurant; particularly something unique or trendy. They want a grocery store on a certain side of town. They’d like to see some sort of business with an emphasis on children’s activities or perhaps women’s or men’s fashion trends.
You know what? I’d like to see some of that, too, and love to write about new businesses I know people are going to be excited about.
I’d also like to see people not be so critical of someone or some entity investing sums in the tens of thousands of dollars or into the millions of dollars into Bridgeport. Whether you like the business or not, the taxes that business produces ultimately will better your quality of life.
Besides, in nearly every situation the land or building was available for anyone willing to take the risk. Those that risk success in this city should be commended instead of ridiculed for taking said risk.
I thought of all that this week as I talked to local businessman Jason Underwood. You see, Underwood is the owner of Underwood General Builders and if you’ve driven through Main Street lately, you’ve probably seen the beginnings of the next new downtown business on property he owns.
Want to know what it is?
Here’s the beauty. Underwood doesn’t know the business that’s going to occupy the structure he’s about to begin building.
Here’s what he does know. He’s constructing a one-story, 5,400 square foot, brick façade building on East Main Street in the vacant lot beside Rebecca’s Dance Studio and Dominos. When finished, it will have between 22 to 24 parking spaces down the front and side of the building.
“It’s going to be a shell building and I’m looking to lease the space,” said Underwood.
What’s that have to do with what I’ve talked about above?
Everything, and it’s a chance for those who always complain to assume some risk and perhaps put their money where their mouth is. Better yet, it would be a chance for those who want a certain thing that don’t have the resources to make it happen to talk to someone who does to put up the same money.
You see, Underwood has talked to several in the community about his property. He’s heard exactly what I’ve talked about above, but nothing negative because he’s not yet built his building or leased it out.
“Ideally, I’d love to have lease the whole building out, but I’m willing to divide it up and I’m building to suit,” said Underwood. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’d like to see something put in there where kids or families could go on a Friday night after a football game, or a place that serves breakfast and lunch.
“I would prefer something that would excite the community so if someone is out there I’m willing to listen for a business most would be pleased with,” he continued. “At the same time, once it’s built I’m not going to wait forever for that to come along. I know many folks don’t want to see more professional office space, but I’m for using the space for that if that’s what someone wants.”
Underwood isn’t just providing lip service as far as building to suit and hoping to get something the community will enjoy. He said the building will be an actual shell, including windows, with no floor.
“I can pour the floor later and put utilities in later if I would need to set it up for someone wanting a restaurant. I really want to be flexible because I think once someone actually sees the building with all the parking it’s going to be a lot easier to see the opportunity,” he continued. “It is right on Main Street with a whole lot of traffic so I’d like to think someone would be interested in it.”
There’s already been interest in the site. The catch – it’s all been professional services. Underwood said doctors have contacted him about utilizing space and earlier an engineer firm out of Morgantown showed interest.
“They needed a 60-day turnaround and that wasn’t something feasible at the time,” said Underwood of the firm. “I’ve had a couple of other calls through our real estate agent (Homefinders Plus Real Estate), but nothing is finalized. I can tell you there’s been nothing as far as a place to eat or something unique; it’s all been professional.”
Underwood is pretty certain the space will be filled. And for those who thinks he should wait for something, understand he’s a businessman and this property has a purpose.
“I’m doing this project as a long-term project to provide retirement income for later in life. I may sell it later and, if something amazing came along too good to pass up I’d definitely consider selling it now, but my plans are to lease it,” said Underwood. “Since I’m planning for the future I’m going to lease it when I can, but I would prefer it to be something everyone likes.”
Underwood said he’s had the land for a couple of years now. Equipment is on site, earth is being moved and the foundation work may have already started by the time you read this.
“I’d like to have the frame of the structure with a roof really soon,” said Underwood. “In the meantime, I hope to have some people or groups interested.”
Community Development Director Randy Spellman said the time frame for work is soon.
“I think you’ll see construction in the next 30 to 60 days,” said Spellman. “(Underwood) has told me since they began moving dirt there’s been renewed interest. I imagine at that location it should draw something. At this point, that’s the unknown.”
Let’s see if anyone is willing to take the risk for the type of business they want. Now’s your chance. Just call Underwood’s real estate company and see if you can make it work.
Not only will it keep the naysayers quiet, it will make them happy. And as mentioned above, I’d like see it myself.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows work being done on the perimeter of the Main Street property, while other equipment on site is shown in the second photo. Community Develoment Director Randy Spellman is shown below.

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