Downtown Crossing Will Help New Haven Thrive
(12/14/2010) (From the Courant, December 12, 2010)
By JOHN DESTEFANO Jr.
In a study released this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, New Haven was named a "resurgent city" for its ability to bounce back from the recession.
The Federal Reserve recognized a long-standing effort in New Haven to create jobs in and around our growing institutions. Both Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital continue to expand, creating opportunities in medical research and technology that have produced more than 40 new companies. The new Smilow Cancer Hospital has enhanced Yale-New Haven Hospital's position as a national leader in cancer care.
As a city, a prevailing challenge is to connect downtown with the medical district and Union Station, currently separated by the 1960s-era Route 34 expressway, to create more places for new development in a livable, walkable and transit-oriented urban environment. With incredible support from state and elected officials, this vision took a major step forward when the U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded a $16 million federal Tiger II grant to convert a section of Route 34 to a community-scale urban boulevard.
This project, known as Downtown Crossing, is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reconnect neighborhoods and provide economic opportunities in the heart of the city.
Of more than 1,000 applications, Downtown Crossing was one of only 43 communities to be awarded a Tiger II grant. The funding will be used to begin Phase 1 of the project by creating two urban boulevards to slow travel speed consistent with the city's recently approved Complete Streets policy. The new roads will improve traffic safety and provide new pedestrian and bike route enhancements.
Moreover, the project will enable the first parcel to be developed with a 400,000-square-foot medical office building, creating 2,000 construction jobs and 960 permanent jobs. This project further establishes New Haven as a national leader in cutting-edge health care and medical research.
In addition to stimulating the Connecticut economy by creating jobs, Downtown Crossing will also restore a continuous urban fabric by reconnecting areas of the city that were divided and lost during urban renewal. At the time of construction, more than 880 families were displaced in the Oak Street neighborhood. Adjoining neighborhoods still are fractured. Downtown Crossing rebuilds street-level connections from downtown to the medical district and the neighborhoods, thereby healing a barrier cut through the middle of our city.
The federal grant is matched with state and city funding, and the state departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development are deeply engaged in the effort, thereby creating a true partnership at every level of government. Once the infrastructure is complete and in place, both short- and long-term development opportunities are vast.
Everyone will benefit from increased jobs, tax revenue from new business growth and a more connected, easy-to-navigate city, with complete streets and green features that promote the overall sustainability of New Haven. These features will make our city an even more attractive place to live, work and play.
Overall, the Downtown Crossing project contributes to everything that makes New Haven, the region and our state great. Connecticut is resilient; this project speaks to the strength and innovation of our people and our ability to thrive and prosper in these uncertain times.
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