More than a century ago, two sisters built identical Victorian houses on the east side of Bridgeport. In 1950 the houses’ sibling bond was renewed when another pair of sisters, Essie Jones and Daisy Weston, bought the properties. For more than four decades the Jones and Weston families called these houses home.
Eventually, the house at 1737 Stratford Ave sold and spiraled into disrepair, but the legacy of family and community was not lost. Today, 1737 Stratford Avenue is being renovated by Community Cooperative Development Foundation, a non-profit that provides development support for cooperative and resident-empowered communities. CCDF saw the house as an opportunity to continue the neighborhood revitalization they had begun in 1994 with the transformation of a nearby building.
Community Capital Fund (then Bridgeport Neighborhood Fund, BNF) provided construction lending and permanent financing that, together with the City’s Home Grant, enabled CCDF to move forward and begin construction. In May of 2004, CCDF began rehabilitating 1737 Stratford Avenue to provide high quality affordable units and to strengthen the community.
“The redevelopment of a neighborhood cannot be done with bulldozers,” CCDF Senior Vice President Moshe Meiri explained. “Restoring one house can make a big impact on a community.” A revitalized property helps provide comps for real estate borrowing, encourages local homeowners to fix houses, and attracts working families to repopulate the area.
“Even though it is a single building, it sets the stage for other things to happen,” CCDF President James Dancy stated. “This building has been an influence in the block, and it could not have happened without Bridgeport Neighborhood Fund. BNF supported the project all the way.”
Leading the rehabilitation work was TCI construction, a wholly owned subsidiary of CCDF that ensures the economic benefits of development are channeled to the business and employment needs of communities where the rehabilitation is occurring. The Mayor and BNF supported CCDF’s commitment that everything concerning the project, from materials and labor to leadership, would come from local Bridgeport communities. The construction workforce consisted only of eligible Section 3 contractors, like Jose Cortes from H-I Contractors. As TCI Constructions lead sub, Jose spearheaded the quality renovations.
“We are building both the physical and human aspects of the community by hiring skilled contractors who normally don’t have a chance to do the work they are capable of doing,” Moshe explained. “[CommCap] understood this and helped us. [CommCap] doesn’t just invest in houses, they invest in people.”
Allen Jones, grandson of the houses 1950’s owner Essie Jones appreciates the quality of restoration the building received. “This house has a lot of great memories for me,” Allen expressed. “It’s a special house and I’m grateful to see it being restored.”