Wooster Square residents welcome Cowles redevelopment project in New Haven

New Haven Register

By Mary O’Leary, moleary@nhregister.com@nhrmoleary on Twitter

NEW HAVEN >> Developer Randy Salvatore, who is looking to do a third project in the city, got positive feedback from Wooster Square residents Wednesday on his plans to convert the C. Cowles & Co. factory to apartments.

Alder Aaron Greenberg, D-8, arranged for a meeting of neighbors who came to the New Light School on Wooster Place to listen to Salvatore’s preliminary plans for the conversion of the 125-year-old building on Water Street that was a big part of the city’s industrial history.

Salvatore said he likely will convert the original five-story building to between 90 and 100 loft-style apartments with some 75 more in a new building he would construct adjacent to it after razing the more modern factory extension.

He hoped to keep the brick interior and possibly polished concrete floors, similar to the design of Winchester Lofts across town where the former Winchester Repeating Arms firearms factory was converted to housing.

The Stamford developer said he is considering constructing two multi-family houses along Brown Street that would blend in with the other homes in that area.

Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League, suggested Salvatore consider having a nonprofit that could access funds for affordable housing build the Brown Street component to his specifications.

Salvatore said he would look into that and he also liked her idea that the estimated 3 acres be submitted as a planned district development that would give him more flexibility.

He promised the several-dozen residents that vehicular access to the property would be from either Water Street or Chestnut Street, but not Brown or Wooster streets, which would only have pedestrian pathways. Salvatore envisioned a market going into what was once Cavaliere’s Market on Wooster Street.

He said there might be a space for some retail in the new building, but not the original structure, which does not have a ground-floor entrance.

As with all New Haven developments, the neighbors were concerned about parking and happy when Salvatore said it all would be on-site, with some underground. The ratio would be one space per unit, but Tony Kosloski said that will not meet the needs of the residents.

Salvatore said his other developments and traffic studies show that one per unit is enough and that residential developments bring down the volume of traffic on a street.

The popular restaurants on Wooster Street generate a lot of traffic and Kosloski said they already spill into Chestnut Street. He agreed that a turnaround at the end of Chestnut would be a welcome traffic fix. A representative of Sage Arts, a 23-unit housing development in the area, said parking is always a problem.

Kosloski was alone in his recommendation that the Light Industrial zoned property be used to bring in jobs, not housing.

Salvatore said that is not feasible and the design of the Cowles building is one of the reasons the company moved to North Haven to a one-story structure. He said he also doesn’t do that type of development.

“I wouldn’t look at people going into a neighborhood as a negative. I think putting pedestrian activity in a neighborhood adds to the commercial viability of the area establishments,” Salvatore said.

Kosloski said he would prefer to see a way for the community to support itself, rather than this “hipster idea about status quo gentrification.”

Hundreds of more apartments are in the planning in two nearby proposals that are now tied up in court, with more than 200 apartments under construction on State and Mechanic streets. Also, hundreds more are built or under construction downtown.

One resident wondered whether there were jobs coming to the city to support these residences.

The developer said generally the trend for baby boomers and millenials is to live in cities. “The cities are where the growth is,” Salvatore said.

A representative of New Haven Promise, a program that rewards New Haven students with good grades with free state college tuition, said the 500 students in the program desire to come back to New Haven after college, but they need affordable housing to do that.

Bev McClure of St. John Street thanked Salvatore for being respectful of the historic nature of the neighborhood. She also made a pitch for a pharmacy or doctor’s or lawyer’s office as part of the development.

Her advice to him was to “get on with it” as she was tired of projects being approved but taking years to build, although the two nearest developments were stalled because of the unanticipated court challenge.

McClure would also rather see condominiums as a way to encourage more permanent neighbors rather than the constant flow of students moving in and out.

Farwell said a recent study found that condos are doing well statewide, but the taxes in New Haven hurt that type of ownership.

McClure was clear she did not want low-income housing because she said it hurts property values. She criticized the lack of upkeep at the nearby Farnam Courts project.

Salvatore said applying for assistance to build affordable housing “takes considerable amount of time” and he wouldn’t want to wait and miss the market.

When asked if he would consider a 55-and-older housing plan, Salvatore said that’s not in his plan, but he could have amenities that would support that demographic.

Others made a pitch for a public meeting room in the development, as well as some open space that would encourage outside activities. Security at the complex and the parking area was also recommended.

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