Downtown Projects Are Gateway to New Haven's Development
(1/30/2011) (Originally from New Haven Register)
By Mary E. O'Leary, New Haven Register, Conn.
Jan. 30--NEW HAVEN -- Now that the preferred developer for the former New Haven Coliseum site is out, the remaining competitors are getting a second chance at pitching their qualifications.
It is one of several long-term projects in the city that are slowly advancing as everyone waits for the real estate market to rebound.
Unlike other Connecticut cities, however, New Haven will also see progress in 2011 on major infrastructure changes downtown that will begin to open up 11 acres of developable land on the eastern portion of Route 34.
Given the market conditions, Northland Investment Corp. of Newton, Mass., found it was not in a position to advance the development of commercial and residential structures the city envisioned for the 4 acres of prime property downtown that once was occupied by the Coliseum.
Three years ago, the city had designated it as its preferred developer based on its financial qualifications and its success with other projects in the state, particularly in Hartford.
This month, however, Northland lost the 12-story Metro Center One in Hartford to foreclosure action, and more of its major properties in the capital, City Place II and Goodwin Square, are also in foreclosure.
New Haven Economic Development Director Kelly Murphy said several other respondents to the original request for qualifications for the Coliseum site that were sent out in 2008 have been asked to return and show how they would handle its phased development.
"They are all qualified groups,
and it was only fair to give them
all an opportunity to come back,"
The same city panel that originally looked at the proposals will
review the new plans and award
one of the groups preferred developer status for the next year.
There are slightly different partnerships this time around, with Herbert S. Newman and Partners working with Greenfield Partners, rather than the Richman Group Development Corp. and McCormack Baron Salazar; Robert Orr & Associates is joining with Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, rather than The Related Cos.; C.W. White is continuing to partner with Archstone and is bringing in Alex Twining Properties, while the Richman Group Development Corp. may come in on its own.
The beginning of serious planning for an upgrade of a New Haven property owned by Northland -- the Church Street South housing project across from Union Station -- is also expected to advance this year.
Using a $1 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant, Murphy said the city is working with Northland to transform the Section 8 housing units built in 1971 to a mix of housing and commercial development.
She said a meeting was held with the tenants a month ago, and the initial studies will look at market conditions and a new road network for the prime property.
"We assured the residents that as we move forward with this process, we will provide periodic updates and keep the lines of communication open," said Northland spokeswoman Mary Coursey.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. recently commented that he felt Northland was committed to continuing ownership, despite its challenges elsewhere.
"In the next month or so, we expect to start in earnest," Murphy said of the planning for a project that could take years.
She said the city has a lot of experience with conversion of older public housing to newer, mixed-income models, including Monterey Terrace in the Dixwell neighborhood, recently approved plans for West Rock and the replacement of the William T. Rowe housing tower in the Hill.
"It's like a HOPE VI project without the HOPE VI grant," Murphy said of the federal assistance that has dried up.
The Economic Development Corp., now headed by Anne Haynes, strives to complement the work of the city's Economic Development Administration by concentrating on business retention and looking to the needs of the special services districts on Whalley and Grand avenues, as well as the Mill River Municipal Development Plan.
"We want to increase the footprint along the Mill River. It's underutilized land," Haynes said of helping businesses in that area. She is also looking at some key industrial land at Long Wharf and unused properties in the Hamilton and East street area, which she said needs a new vision.
Haynes said the EDC this spring will bring together the stakeholders in the medical district adjacent to the Route 34 corridor, updating a study done several years ago by Clough Harbor Associates on a new streetscape.
"A lot of companies want to move into the area," Haynes said of a section near the Yale Medical School that is now covered by parking lots and has disjointed streets that lead back toward Union Station and the Church Street South project. It is seen as the logical extension of biotech businesses coming out of the medical school and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Development on the medical school side of Route 34 will be enhanced once infrastructure improvements for the Route 34 limited access highway get under way as part of the Downtown Crossing Project, which was just boosted with a $16 million federal TIGER II grant.
This work, where North and South Frontage roads will be turned into boulevards, is estimated to begin in December 2011 or spring 2012, with construction of developer Carter Winstanley's $140 million biotech building at 100 College St. to start later in 2012.
There will be a direct road to the Air Rights Garage, with exits 2 and 3 on the Route 34 connector shut down and traffic directed into the city off Exit 1.
The College Street bridge will also be rebuilt as part of the project and, in later phases, Temple and Orange streets will be extended to the Hill and Union Station areas.
Follow this link for more information.