City to Demolish Recently Acquired Worthington Drive Property as Part of Future Plans for Recreation

By Jeff Toquinto on June 03, 2018 via

As Bridgeport continues to grow, the space available for recreation facilities in older parts of the city rarely have the opportunity to expand. And the main reason is that most areas are landlocked.
Perhaps the one recreational venue that sees the most use with the least ability to expand is the City of Bridgeport Swimming Pool, tennis courts and basketball facility located beside the Benedum Civic Center. While thousands use the venues on any given year, the possibilities to find more land for expansion is rare.
That, however, is about to change.
Recently, the City of Bridgeport acquired roughly one acre directly beside the sand volleyball court and parking lot on the side of Simpson Creek opposite of the swimming pool. The land contains a residential structure and a second building on it that fronts Worthington Drive and goes all the way to the creek bank.
The city is currently in the process of accepting bids to demolish the structures. On May 21, a mandatory pre-bid meeting with contractors looking to demolish the property – along with property the city acquired on Route 131 – was held. Interested contractors will need to have their bids to City Manager Kim Haws by 2 p.m. on June 4 where there bid will be opened and read aloud.
After that, Bridgeport Mayor Andy Lang said he hopes to see work begin in short order to remove the structure. He said it’s being done to help the parks and it’s one of the few pieces of property in the city limits that has structures needing removed or rehabilitated.
“You don’t find many homes in Bridgeport needing demolished. When I came on as mayor, I asked the city about condemned homes and I was told there were about nine,” said Lang. “Since then, most have been fixed up and I think we’re down to three or four. The one on Worthington was one of them and it went up for sale and we made an offer on fair market value.”
As is always the case, Lang said there was some back and forth.  In the end, however, the city acquired it for $133,526.
“It’s contiguous to the existing park property in the basketball court area and with these inner-city parks it’s almost impossible to expand,” said Lang. “This will allow us to expand because our parks are confined by space. When we can acquire property allow us to expand at a fair market price we’ll do it.”
What the city doesn’t exactly know just yet is what they’re going to do with the space. However, there is planning in the works to do just that, Bridgeport Parks and Recreation Director Joe Shuttleworth said.
“This is a nice acquisition as it will fall into part of some of the master planning we’re looking at for the entire area. With the opening of the new indoor recreation complex in the future, we’re left with the question of how to operate the Benedum Civic Center,” said Shuttleworth. “With the Civic Center being such a viable piece of the community, making sure whatever is next is important. Having additional property gives us some flexibility to do things we may not otherwise have the options to do or even consider doing.”
What will be done is unknown. Shuttleworth said, though, changes will likely be coming. As to the scale of changes, it’s up in the air and will likely be part of the planning process.
Currently, the city’s swimming pool is 33 years old. While the age is an issue, usage is not. It remains one of Bridgeport’s most popular warm weather destinations.
“We’ve talked about acquiring Worthington Drive property if available in the past and how to utilize it to enhance what we have with the Civic Center, the pool, the tennis courts and the basketball court. A lot of that infrastructure is aging so it’s not clear as to what direction we’ll go,” said Shuttleworth.
Shuttleworth said part of the discussion will likely focus on the congestion that comes about when the pool is in use. He’s curious if there’s a way to use the new property, despite being across Simpson Creek, to enhance access. He’s also curious if it could be used for a basic needs such as parking, for picnic areas, a downtown green space or something else.
“Ultimately, the goal is to increase usage of facilities for our residents,” said Shuttleworth. “How we do that will be part of the master plan process.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows P&R Director Joe Shuttleworth showing the area where new property will soon be available for future parks needs, while the second photo is a front view of the property that will soon be demolished. Mayor Andy Lang is shown below.

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