Rubik’s Cube Rises Downtown

by Paul Bass | May 27, 2009 2:23 PM | | Comments (12)

DSCN3107.JPGHave you noticed that New Haven suddenly looks a lot different?

From the edge of Water Street to Winchester Avenue, and especially downtown, construction is going full tilt, on schedule or even a little ahead, as though someone forgot to tell builders about that recession plaguing the city and the rest of the country.

In the process, construction workers are on the job. New offices, labs, classrooms, apartments, and parking spaces are coming online. And the face of the city has been changing.

Just in the last few weeks.

Nowhere is that change more iconic than at Park Street and North Frontage Road, where the Fusco Corporation is building a six-story clinical lab hard against the Air Rights Garage. All six stories are up. Crews have moved on to interior work and to putting on the facade — which is the delightful surprise. If 55 Park looks to you like one huge Rubik’s Cube, well, it’s supposed to. Planned completion: early 2010. Two hundred people have worked on putting up the $103 million building.

DSCN3114.JPGAlso in place is a pedestrian bridge from 55 Park to another fast-risen new landmark, Yale-New Haven’s $457 million Smilow Cancer Hospital. An underground tunnel connects the two projects, too; 55 Park includes a loading dock for the cancer center.

DSCN3129.JPGAll 14 stories of the 507,000 square-foot cancer hospital are up; workers are completing the facade. The project, on time and on budget, according to hospital spokesman Vin Petrini, is set to open in October.

DSCN3122.JPGSome 350 workers have had a hand in building the cancer hospital.

DSCN3141.JPGA block away, a third related project, 2 Howe St., is up, three stories ready to be fashioned into 24 apartments (some for low-income families long-term, others short-term residences for the cancer hospital’s patients and temporary hires). Those four stories of concrete behind the complex between North and South Frontage will be an 842-space garage. Pricetag: $55.5 million. Peak number of construction jobs: 100. All told, according to Petrini, “we have $700 million in the ground now” taking all three projects together.

DSCN3098.JPGSoaring into the air just as fast is what will be the city’s tallest apartment building: 360 State (aka the Shartenberg project). Its 31 stories of apartments (the top floor will be called #32 in the absence of a floor 13) will rent for as much as $5,000 a month, according to the developer, Becker Development. “We’ve constructed four stories of the north half of the building and poured the fifth floor,” reports Becker spokeswoman Sara Bronin. “The foundation work for the entire site has been completed. The north half of the concrete podium is scheduled to be completed in early June. The erection of the steel structure for the tower is scheduled to start in mid-June. The next major phrase (in addition to ongoing structural work) is the development of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.”

DSCN3103.JPGSo far “just under 100” workers are on the job each day, according to Bronin. That number will climb in mid-June as work “ramps up” toward the $180 million project’s summer or fall 2010 anticipated completion.

metrobizschool.JPGThe 60 workers on the job on Water Street have put up all four stories and 78,000 square feet for the $41 million new home of the Metropolitan Business Academy. “All of it is built,” reports school construction coordinator Susan Weisselberg. “It is not enclosed, and building systems and finishes are in early stages.” Scheduled opening: January 2010.

socialsiencesbuilding.JPGThat shiny building taking form on Prospect Street near Trumbull is Rosenkranz Hall, Yale’s new social sciences home. Anticipated completion: this October. Workers on the job: 65.

yalehealthservic.JPGAcross the street and down the closed-off block by Dixwell’s Canal Street, 170 workers have put up the frame for Yale’s four-story University Health Services building, which is moving from its smaller current home on Hillhouse Avenue. They’re aiming for a Summer 2010 completion.

wincheavegarage.JPGA hop and a glide down the Farmington Canal Greenway, Winstanley’s far along on the 1,186-space parking garage it’s building on Winchester Avenue in the heart of Science Park. The developer is also fixing up Building 25 there and planning a project at the vacant Winchester rifle factory building at 344 Winchester.

DSCN3105.JPGMeanwhile, back downtown, one sad block remains empty and untouched amid the building boom. College Plaza did have popular small businesses in it. But a politically connected developer threw them out with city help to make way for a 19-story condo tower, then a luxury hotel — all of which is on hold.

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Posted by: propertyjump | May 27, 2009 3:08 PM

wow it's amazing that all this development is going on in this economy. I'm thinking that New haven is going to be very strong when the economy turns around in a few years(hopefully)

Posted by: fedupwithliberals | May 27, 2009 5:27 PM


"I'm thinking that New haven is going to be very strong when the economy turns around in a few years(hopefully)"

Would help if all these building were not tax exempt properties.

Posted by: kris | May 27, 2009 6:53 PM

Fed up
Are you sure they are all tax exempt? I think YNHH is paying the city one way or another. Do you know they donate to the city what they would pay in taxes anyway.Just remember that JD fought Marna on building Smilow and look who is providing people with jobs in this economy and it sure as heck ain't JD.....Marna for mayor!!!

Posted by: JCP | May 27, 2009 7:40 PM

I love the last paragraph. Paul, you do know how to add a zinger!

Posted by: norton street | May 27, 2009 10:01 PM

the only half-way decent looking building in the bunch is Rosenkranz Hall.
the parking garage at winchester is probably the worst thing to happen to urbanism since walmart. a historic brick factory was demolished to make way for a concrete behemoth which has no connection to the pedestrian, human scale, regionalism, and it has absolutely no aesthetic value.
skywalks have no place in a city. they are an uncreative solution to the problems created by individual automobiles. if you think you need a skywalk, what you actually need is a lower building, an activated pedestrian realm, less traffic, better crosswalks, and any number of other things that help the block, the street, the neighborhood and the city. smilow cancer center has nothing to do with new haven, by creating a skybridge, it has broken its integral relationship with the street and the city, and separated itself from any buildings most important job: to define and provide space for a population by creating a meaningful destination that connects to the area it inhabits.
i dont even know what to say about the rubik's cube building. what does it tell us about new haven's past and what is it trying to tell us about new haven's future? or is this just some cool looking idea that somebody had one day? where is the sense of progression as your eye ascends the facade of the building? where is the relief at the top floor? where are the elements that ground the building and outline the sky to the viewer?
and geeeeeez at the metro business academy. it looks like that facade was made with the graphics card from my Apple IIGS computer.
what a failure of urban design in one of the oldest cities in the country. what a disgusting display of poor understanding of the pedestrian and any viewer. just plain shameful.

Posted by: Chrissy Bonanno | May 27, 2009 11:07 PM

55 Park Street and 2 Howe Street are both fully taxable now and into the future per the Yale New Haven Hospital Development Agreement and the Land Disposition Agreements for Fusco and Intercontinental respectively. All of the development at Science Park (Buidling 25, the garage, the chiller plant and the former USRAC property) is taxable. None of those projects are taking advantage of the as of right tax deferral program available in the New Haven. While 360 State did take advantage of the as-of-right tax deferral program, by 2015 it will be the LARGEST taxpayer in the City. Smilow Cancer Center, Rosenkranz Hall and the University Health Services building are all eligible for PILOT. In addition to property taxes, all of these projects represent millions in salaries (construction and permanent jobs), spending power, sales tax, income tax and indirect economic impact.

Posted by: Pedro | May 28, 2009 7:49 AM

360 State Street is certainly not tax exempt. It's taxes are going to be phased in over 5 years, but in the first year will be paying much more in taxes than the municipally owned parking lot that it replaced would be.

-All- of the Winstanly buildings are taxable, even the ones rented by Yale. Yale is a tenant, not the owner, and so the buildings are on the rolls.

I'm not sure about 55 park street, but if any for profit activity occurs in it, then portions of that building will be not tax exempt.

Finally, 2 Howe street should be mostly taxable, depending on who owns it.

Considering that, with the exception of Smilow, every single one of these projects replaced either a parking lot or abandoned building, and I'd say that all of this construction is a net positive for the city.

And yes, poor Centerplan is perhaps the biggest stumbling block there, although I'd say the most disappointing lack of development is down in Crown Street with Nyberg's properties.

Posted by: eastrocker | May 28, 2009 8:57 AM

Wow - what an eye opener (even with the little dig at the end). I'd match this list of projects with any small to mid sized city in the nation. Now we need to align these great capital projects with a governing policy that continues to attract people and businesses to New Haven. How? Drive down the tax burden and keep the streets safe.

What should be done?

1. Remove the Church St South projects from their current location. There are plenty of other projects being developed where we coule move these folks and then this area could be developed. It could and should be a tax producing area where people would like to walk. Catching the train from Y-NH hospital would be a huge benefit for communters.

2. Find a way to reduce the mil rate. Look around. Many CT municipailities used this tough year as a reason to reduce the mil rate. So now ours looks even higher. This is a major deterrent to people coming to the city. The mil rate is part of the shopping process.

3. Can't we expedite the Q Bridge project? Let's tell the feds that we have people willing to work? Hasn't Obama allocated about a zillion dollars to 'shovel ready projects'? What could be more shovel ready than this? Why can't we throw twice the number of people at this project? It would provide work for many while expoediting the project. Seems like a no brainer.

Posted by: anon | May 28, 2009 10:40 AM

Seems like this $500M+ development would have been a great opportunity for the hospital/city/state/developers to fix the situation on Route 34, which currently creates a "wall" between the Hill and the rest of New Haven.

Since the DOT didn't push any serious improvements to Route 34 or the Frontage Road areas, now we're going to see the place open, thousands of new people in the area, hundreds of new parking spaces for cars, with the streets just as deadly as they were before. Cars are still going to be zipping by the front of the hospital (with its literally hundreds of thousands of elderly, blind, deaf, disabled and child visitors every year) and running reds at 50 miles per hour -- even though other hospitals around the country are trying hard to limit vehicle speeds in their area to 15-20 miles per hour tops, and narrow crosswalks, which saves lives and encourages people to walk more. There's no real plan for mass transit either.

The state DOT and the hospital should be ashamed for holding improvements up in paperwork and refusing to push more progressive, immediate actions that would prevent serious injuries and reinvigorate the city's economy.

Posted by: JackNH | May 28, 2009 10:59 AM

The College Plaza tragedy is traditional New Haven, where things get knocked down (or boarded up, in this case) and then promised projects never materialize. But even a cynic like me is amazed at all the construction going on in town. And Yale won't wait long to start those two new colleges it wants. It's a great time to be in the trades.

Posted by: Carl Goldfield | May 28, 2009 5:00 PM

It's great to be reminded of all of the development taking place in New Haven and how fortunate we are when the rest of the country is tanking. Experience has taught me that this stuff doesn't just happen spontaneously. It is the product of vision and a lot of hard work. Thanks should be extended to the City's economic development team; Kelly Murphy, Chrissy Bonanno, Tony Bialecki, Helen Rosenberg and all of the other members(apologies to anyone I failed to mention by name).

As to the last paragraph: the College Street site is privately owned. I don't remember the City helping to "throw" anyone out. What I do remember is the the City working pretty darn hard to help the liquor store relocate. Its just common sense that you don't wait until the day before construction begins to empty the property. So yes its unfortunate that these businesses had to move and that an economic tsunamai hit the country before construction could begin. Everything's 20/20 in hindsight.

Posted by: observer | May 28, 2009 10:36 PM

Norton Street, your comments are often interesting and helpful. Why, oh why, are you insisting now on not using capital letters when you write? (My impression is that this is a new development with you, but I could be wrong.) Do you not see that using a non-standard mode of writing, especially in a public forum (I know, I know, it has become a custom in e-mail writing, especially among the young), just makes it harder for readers to follow your thoughts? Why do you want to make it harder for your readers? And why the inconsistency? Why does Apple IIGS computer get capitalized, but not, say, smilow cancer center, or new haven? C'mon, please -- it doesn't take much effort, and you would be doing yourself, and your readers, a favor in making your comments more easily accessible. In this context, your practice is striking me purely as an affectation.

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