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New Haven residents stress housing, jobs in plans for Hill development
NEW HAVEN >> Two private developers are proposing to fill several parcels in the Hill medical district with housing and commercial uses, under the aegis of the Hill to Downtown planning document that has evolved over several years.
Randy Salvatore, who just finished putting up the Novella apartments on Chapel and Howe streets, would work with Clifton Winkel, who has development rights to an estimated seven acres generally in the Gold Street, Prince Street, Washington Avenue and Lafayette Street area.
LaToya Cowan, who works for the Economic Development Corp., Wednesday presented general concepts to Hill residents of what could go on these parcels, as the first concrete construction in an area that for decades has been a sea of parking lots.
The parcels are city owned, but Winkel has development control in an agreement that goes back to 1989, was amended in 1996, and extends to 2025.
His company is AMA Connecticut Funding Corp.
Under a proposed land development agreement with the city, there would be a tighter timeframe on construction in the area, Cowan said.
Also, Winkel would transfer his development rights for the 10 parcels to Salavtore’s company, RMS Companies.
Salvatore said he is not seeking any state or local funding for the project and said he wants to take his clues from what the neighborhood wants.
“The last thing I want to do is come into a community and try to get something approved that the community is not behind,” he said. “I want to make sure there is a meeting of the minds between what the community wants and I what I think we can develop.”
“I love New Haven. I love the excitement and the activity around it. These are some underused parcels right now that really have some good potential,” he said.
Winkel said he brought in Salvatore because of the way he works with residents.
“I decided that I wanted a housing developer as a partner,” said Winkel, whose specialty is medical labs.
Winkel has developed about 85 percent of the land under his control, including 10 Amistad St., where there is stem cell research labs; the former Richard C. Lee High School, which was home to the Yale School of Nursing; the Amistad Park; the new Amistad roadway; and a 1,000-space parking garage.
Cowan said potential uses for the properties are at the beginning stages of discussion.
The feedback from the community centered on the need for housing and commercial uses that will enhance the neighborhood. Considerable discussion focused on the need for sustainable, career-oriented jobs for residents, starting with construction work.
Patty Newtown Foster said residents also should have been presented with a document they could have taken home and studied.
Serena Neal Sanjurjo, executive director of the Livable City Initiative, said she hopes to go to the Board of Alders Sept. 8 to introduce the land agreement. She said this is just the beginning of the development discussion.
Sanjurjo said planning to stem flooding in the area would continue.
As for residential developoment, Cowan said it would grow around St. Anthony’s Church and, if the development comes to fruition.
“It will be in the middle of a spectacular neighborhood,” Cowan said.
Winkel said the residential component is pretty set for the Gold Street area, but the rest of it was conceptual at this point. He said development is “always a balance.”
He hopes to “create a neighborhood where there has been nothing.” Winkel said he has never “walked from the project,” referring to his development rights in this part of the city. “I wanted to finish it,” he said.
The proposal presented Wednesday has medical offices along Congress and Washington avenues and bioscience, offices and a garage near Tower 1.
Hill residents Paul Larrivee and Helen Martin wanted to know what happened to making redevelopment of the dilapidated Church Street South housing project a priority.
Sanjurjo said it initially was part of the Hill to Downtown plan, until the Northland Investment Corp.’s view of development differed markedly from what the city wanted.
Northland is owner of the 301-unit Church Street South development; legal aid attorneys currently are pressuring it to fix multiple apartments filled with mold from leaking roofs and windows.
Anstress Farwell, who runs the New Haven Urban Design League, said the proposed zone change to BD3 would leave too much latitude for the developers and lead to “all kinds of unintended consequences.”
She also said it was not a true transit-oriented development, as emphasized in the Hill to Downtown document. Farwell said there is a tremendous need for more housing and the proposal does not improve walkability from nearby Union Station.
Cowan said 70-foot height restrictions for certain portions would be added to the text of the zone change.
Martin felt any reference to biotech labs would involve Yale University. “We don’t need any more Yale here,” she said. Larrivee said he would oppose anything that didn’t generate taxes.
Salvatore said, as part of the agreement, the development would be taxable for the next three decades, no matter who was to it in the future.
“This is not a Yale project,” Sanjurjo said.
On the issue of realigning streets to make it easier to develop the odd-shaped lots in this part of the Hill, Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said the thinking on that has changed.
He said it would cost between $80 million to $90 million to do this on Lafayette Street because of the utilities in the area that would have to be moved.
Nemerson also defended the percentage of minorities hired for the 100 College St. project, as an example of using city residents, as required by city ordinance.
One woman complained that minorities get the labor work, rather than the higher skilled jobs.
Nemerson said they are trying to get 25 percent of work across all categories of construction work. He said the largest percentage are laborers, which he said involves much more sophisticated work than people generally realize.
Hill Alder Dolores Colon said she always hears this complaint on jobs.
“We want steady, long-lasting jobs. New Haven (residents) are not getting the benefit” from the millions in work that is part of construction in the city, she said.
Salvatore said he is always interested in hiring local residents and is onboard with mandating certain percentages. He said it makes sense to hire people who live nearby and know the city.