RELOADING: Developer to air plans for old Winchester factory in New Haven
(7/21/2010) (From New Haven Register, July 21, 2010)
NEW HAVEN — Where others see broken windows and a dilapidated reminder of a past industrial era, Carter Winstanley sees the Parthenon.
“Our business is to tear apart old buildings. I don’t think I have ever seen a building where the foundation goes down 15 feet and sits on top of bedrock. ... The Parthenon is built that way,” Winstanley said admiringly of the Winchester Repeating Arms plant as he compared it to the ancient Greek temple.
The turn-of-the-20th-century arms manufacturer, shuttered for decades, is the latest project Winstanley is looking to convert to 21st century office space, while also partnering with Forest City Residential Group to bring some 200 apartments to the historic site in a later phase.
Over the last 11 years, the Massachusetts builder has successfully catered to the needs of a growing number of small, technical and biomedical startups in New Haven. But while other developers are begging for tenants, Winstanley has the opposite problem: He’s running out of space.
“New Haven has a unique position of having a very strong market of tenants that want to be affiliated with other tenants like Higher One, or Yale University or Yale-New Haven Hospital. They want to be here, and yet there is not a lot of space for them. This will provide them with the relief valve,” Winstanley said during a recent tour of the site between Winchester Avenue and Munson and Mansfield streets.
At its height, Winchester’s had 25,000 workers, churning out munitions in three shifts. Built to withstand shelling by an opposing force, it survived all these years because it is “harder to knock down these buildings than to rehab them,” Winstanley said.
Higher One, a financial services company for colleges, already occupies 50,000 square feet for its estimated 160 New Haven workers at nearby 25 Science Park, (also owned by Winstanley,) but it needs three times that amount of space.
The proposal that goes before the City Plan Commission tonight would amend the Science Park Planned Development District to allow renovation of two of Winchester’s buildings at 275 Winchester Ave. and create up to 150,000 square feet of commercial space for Higher One.
Higher One will own the two buildings to be rehabbed in its partnership with Winstanley and Forest City, and is negotiating with the Science Park Development Corp. on a lease for the underlying land.
Chris LaConte, who has been with Higher One for seven years, said the company of mainly young workers has expanded four times since coming to 25 Science Park in 2005.
Now among the top 500 fastest growing companies in the U.S., which just went public, it began in the apartment of one of its founders, Miles Lasater, a decade ago.
It eventually moved to a small space “with hanging wires and no carpet” and then to 25 Science Park, said LaConte. It is now poised for its biggest evolution, where it will have design control, taking advantage of the floor-to-ceiling windows and open layout of the buildings.
“It’s going to be a pretty cool space,” LaConte said.
Abe Naparstek, director of development at Forest City, which specializes in historic renovations, said the 200 rental apartments, which will overlook Yale’s Marsh Gardens, will take between four and seven years to complete. Winstanley wants the new Higher One space to open in 18 months.
Naparstek said costly projects like this are only possible because of the state funds, environmental cleanup money and the federal historic tax credits available to help underwrite it.
As one example of the work Forest City does, Naparstek said they will spend tens of thousands of dollars to replace the hundreds of windows at Winchester with replicas of the originals, down to one-quarter of an inch.
Winstanley’s first project in New Haven was downtown at 300 George St., which is now filled with startups.
At Science Park in Newhallville, about 800 Yale University workers have moved into renovated space at 25 Science Park, while other office workers from Yale fill up the former U.S. Repeating Arms Co., both of which are served by a $45 million 1,100-space garage with ground-floor retail.
He said the garage, which is well-lighted with glass-enclosed stair towers visible from the street, dealt with a perceived safety issue, while the retail will provide some amenities. A satellite of downtown’s Ivy Noodle, to be called Ivy Bistro, is moving in, while negotiations continue with another restaurant.
For years, Science Park was Winstanley’s competitor for startups and he lured many away.
“Before I ever came to New Haven to take advantage of this site, we would pull them (tenants) out of here. Now, somebody said recently to me that this is your penance. You had to come back and try to bring everybody back in,” Winstanley said.
Contact Name: Mary E. O’Leary, New Haven Register Reporter
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