Mystery Grocery Store Headed Downtown

by Thomas MacMillan | October 21, 2009 7:34 AM | | Comments (33)

102009_TM_0049.jpgOn a day when construction at 360 State reached new heights, architect Bruce Becker dropped some hints about what’s in store back on the ground.

Construction workers at the new 32-story mixed-use tower going up at State and Chapel streets hoisted their crane on Tuesday to what will be its highest point.

That evening Becker (pictured), the developer behind the project, told a roomful of neighbors that he is nearing a deal with a large grocery store company that will open a branch at the base of 360 State.

Becker declined to name the company, which has yet to sign a lease.

“It’s like a Whole Foods, but not as expensive as a Whole Foods,” he said. He later added that the parent company’s name is well-known, but that the store at 360 State will have a different name.

Becker’s hint came at the monthly meeting of the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team, which gathered at 6 p.m. in City Hall’s Meeting Room Two. Over 30 people filled the room to hear Becker’s presentation about progress and plans for what will become the state’s largest apartment tower.

“Obviously it’s a massive project,” Becker began. When it’s completed next year, 360 State’s 32 stories will include 500 apartments, a 500-space parking garage, and thousands of square feet of retail space. Becker touted the green credentials of the building, which he said will qualify for LEED Platinum, the highest level of environmental certification.

The project will bring 1,000 new residents into downtown, said Becker. “That’s good news for downtown businesses.”

Discussing the pace of construction, Becker had nothing but good news. “It’s going like clockwork,” he said. “They’re building one floor every four-and-a-half days, which is pretty outstanding progress.” He estimated that construction is about “33 percent through.”

102009_green_building_image2.jpgAs part of his the deal with the city, Becker said that his firm had agreed to recruit a grocery store to occupy a large first-floor retail space at 360 State. “The city recognizes that quality of life would be greatly enhanced by having a full-service grocery store.”

Trader Joe’s was Becker’s first choice, and he designed the 14,000-square-foot space with that company in mind, he said. Unfortunately, Trader Joe turned down the offer. So did Whole Foods.

But another grocery store has emerged. “I can’t give out the name,” Becker said. He added that the store is “better suited to the price point” of the area. It’s less expensive than a Whole Foods, he said.

While a lease has not yet been signed, Becker said that project plans are being revised to accommodate the mystery grocery store, which needs a space more than twice as big as the 14,000 squarefoot spot set aside. The plans have been changed slightly so that the retail space on the corner of Chapel and Orange Streets will be added to the grocery store space.

Becker said that he had hoped that the corner space would have been occupied by an Apple store, but he couldn’t even get Apple to return phone calls. “The consensus in the retail community is they don’t realize how far New Haven has come,” Becker said.

He said that he intends to have a lease signed with the grocery store by Thanksgiving. The store will employ 140 workers and the company will spend “millions and millions of dollars” building out the space. Although he “can’t declare success yet,” Becker said, he hopes to have the store open by August.

“They’re doing something different,” Becker said of the grocery store company. “It’s a new prototype for a grocery store you would recognize. They don’t normally do downtown stores … You could almost describe it as a larger Trader Joe’s.”

Green Power

Becker’s plans to have the building be LEED Platinum certified have come a steps closer to fruition with the passage of Green Energy Tax Credits in the state budget.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell recently signed a bill that included up to $25 million in total tax credits statewide or environmentally friendly buildings. Becker is planning on cashing in on the credits for 360 State.

“It’s going to allow us to do what we intended to do,” he said. To get the LEED Platinum certification, 360 State will include 30 different green technologies, like heat recovery devices on the building’s mechanical equipment, Becker said. Platinum certification will mean spending more money now, but bigger tax credits later, he said.

“We have to get interim financing,” he said. “We still have to go over a lot of hurdles, but at least now there’s a path.”

Onward and Upward

102009_TM_0012.jpgHours before Becker’s presentation, construction workers and city officials celebrated a milestone at 360 State Street, as the building’s enormous crane moved slowly to the highest position it will occupy.

With the addition of six new support sections on Monday and Tuesday, workers raised the construction crane at 360 State by 120 feet. At its new altitude, the crane is now positioned to hoist girders into place for the building’s final 10 stories.

Mayor John DeStefano and City Hall development officials joined Michael Moore (at right in photo), a senior supervisor for Suffolk Construction, at the corner of Orange and Chapel Streets on Tuesday afternoon. The mayor squinted up at the big red crane as he peppered Moore with questions.

102009_TM_0015.jpgMoore explained that the crane moves up by using hydraulic jacks to raise it while a 19-foot tall support section is pushed into place. By 3 p.m. on Tuesday, workers had put three sections in place and were working on a fourth. The remaining two sections (pictured) sat on the ground near the base of the crane.

It’s a very slow process. “It’s like watching paint dry,” quipped building inspector Andy Rizzo.

102009_TM_0014.jpgMoore said that it takes a team of eight to move the crane up. The mayor asked where the workers are from. “Most of the guys up there are right from here,” Moore said.

The crane, a Manitowoc Potain, weighs 68,000 pounds, Moore told DeStefano. When all the sections are added, the crane operator will be sitting 120 feet higher than he was. “His seat will be at 370 feet,” Moore said.

The building stops going up while the crane is being hoisted higher, Moore said. “We’ll be back in erection mode by tomorrow,” he said.

When completed, 360 State will be 327 feet high, making it the second tallest building in the city, after the downtown financial center building. 360 State, 32 stories, will have four more floors than that building, but have less total height.

Moore predicted that 360 State will be completely finished by Dec. 2010. But suites may be completed for modeling as early as midsummer, he said.

102009_TM_0020.jpgMoore led a hard-hatted mayor and a handful of other guests on a brief visit inside the building, taking the “hoist” or construction elevator up to the seventh floor, the highest floor that is closed in. The mayor took a moment to look at the view of Chapel Street before heading back down.

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Posted by: Leslie Blatteau | October 21, 2009 7:49 AM

I'm not frequently cynical. But. What does it tell us that Trader Joes and Whole Foods declined to take part in the financial experiment?

Posted by: jeffreykerekes [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 21, 2009 7:58 AM

My guess: Boutique version of Stop & Shop or Stew Leonards.

Posted by: Ned | October 21, 2009 8:30 AM

Why should any building that depends on auto traffic be LEED certified? It's like building a passive solar home in the suburbs and driving a Hummer to your private jet. Will the drivers be buying carbon offset credits? Downtown needs more residents, not cars.

Posted by: K | October 21, 2009 8:35 AM

I pray it's a Stew Leonard's. I pray it's not an ALDI like on Foxon, w/ all it's canned and bagged crap.

Posted by: robn | October 21, 2009 8:48 AM

So Trader Joes and Whole Foods doesn't think theres a market here even though people are falling over themselves to buy $5 heads of lettuce at the weekend farmers markets? Hmmm?

Posted by: Pedro | October 21, 2009 9:11 AM

K, Aldi actually owns Stew Leonards, so it's almost certainly not them.
It's also very exciting that the store is going to be almost twice as large as before. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.

Ned, 360 State is going to have a parking garage for tenants, but it's not going to be a 1-1 mapping of spaces to cars. They fully expect that people who move there will not have them, but it seems unrealistic to have a development and expect ZERO car ownership.
How many housees on the street where you live have driveways?

Leslie, Trader Joes and Whole Foods are like a lot of the retail community in that they see downtown retail in small cities as this scary thing. The Gap, for example up on the green was actually profitable and doing fine, but Gap closed up shop because they felt that suburban malls was were they should be focusing, not downtown retail (except in megacities like New York). Retailers are in some ways a cowardly bunch. They don't want to be the first tenant on a block. If this downtown grocer is a success you'll start seeing more retailing filling up in that area.

Shame on Whole Foods and Trader Joes for insisting on surface parking lots and other unreasonable demands as preconditions for moving to New Haven. I'm glad there is a company out there that wants take a chance on our little city, and will hopefully prove those brands wrong.

Posted by: stylene | October 21, 2009 9:21 AM

I agree with ned. Parking anyone?

Posted by: JackNH | October 21, 2009 9:26 AM

14,000 sf is miniscule for a supermarket. It will be a big version of a convenience store, and do most of its business selling milk, cigarettes and lottery tickets. Take a look at the neighbor-- no one upscale would go there in their right mind.

Posted by: Erin | October 21, 2009 9:56 AM

I would like to know how many parking spots will be dedicated Zipcar spots. Anyone know? It fits perfectly with the "green" goals of the building! Never heard of Zipcar? Over 1,500 of your fellow New Haven residents have, and we're sharing only 25 cars right now. Time to expand!

Posted by: nutmeg [TypeKey Profile Page] | October 21, 2009 9:57 AM

as pedro said, chain retailers have trouble tailoring their operations and floor plans to cities. however, some (target- see stamford) are more adaptable than others (walmart).

a grocery store is more important than a fancy grocery store. let's have someplace where you can buy the necessities first (fresh produce, meat, dry goods) and worry about the micro-greens and goat cheese later. frankly, many grocery stores are co-ops, so even a chain like c-town or shop-rite with a good owner might be a good fit (upscale AND popular products for the new haven demographic)

jacknh- the upscale is already there , hence the multiple $20/plate restaurants within a block.

Posted by: JP | October 21, 2009 10:53 AM

Ned, you have no idea what you are talking about if anything this building has way to few parking spots. It has 500 studio to 3 bedroom units a 30,000 sq ft supermarket, 50 child day care center and an additional retail space and they only put in 500 spots. 100 of the spots are going to be primarily for the supermarket. The building has a ground floor bike storage room, is across the street from the train station, has a .5 acre park on the terrace, and zip car rentals in the garage so people dont have to have there own car. They also have a solar array and they are getting electric and even water sub-metered in an effort to get people to conserve. What more do you want? Should they build it out of recycled cardboard and soda cans?

Posted by: Leslie Blatteau | October 21, 2009 10:56 AM

Mr. Mayor, where is your hardhat?

Posted by: ELD4676 | October 21, 2009 11:02 AM

Iím very excited to hear a grocery store has agreed to move into 360 State. I regularly drive to Hamden Stop & Shop for my grocery needs, but with a grocery store on State, I can walk. Hopefully, they will offer competitive pricing, Iíve noticed city grocery stores have a tendency to jack their pricesÖ...

Posted by: Ned | October 21, 2009 11:53 AM

I'll guess that about 50% of the houses on my street have driveways, often the entire front, side and rear yards have been paved to park cars - it ain't pretty [actually it's really ugly]. Also see here and here and here. Does New Haven want to be a human scale walkable city, a parking lot dotted with houses, or a mini Atlanta? I'll keep patronizing Edge of the Woods and the farmers' markets. And I hope that 360 State will be a success with many (more aesthetically pleasing) to follow.

Posted by: robn | October 21, 2009 12:25 PM

The parking could have been buried in the middle of the block with occupied space up against the street but the owner didn't want to spend money on the fire sprinklers and mechanical ventilation which would have been required.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 21, 2009 12:58 PM

You're the one who doesn't know what they're talking about. Zip cars are not green, they're cars. I like zip cars because they are the beginning of a movement to make Americans less dependent on cars. Its like saying that someone going through withdrawl from heroine is sober. The .5 acre park is separated from the street, how is that good? LEED standards are a sick joke. They do not suggest changing how or what we develop in any way, they just say stick on a bunch of "green technology" to any ole building and you'll get a sticker.

Its rather unfortunate that the 4 stories above the retail are parking spots rather than apartment windows where interaction with the street can occur.
The way parking is handled in the traditional neighborhoods in New Haven is rather ingenious. Often times driveways are shared with garages in the rear, or garages are on a service road or driveways are located around the corner on a sidestreet. The problem with a development of this scale is that it "requires" an enormous amount of parking and they decided to put it right above the ground floor facing the street, which makes it even worse.
The problem I have with making the grocery larger and larger is that it will draw more and more people from further and further away. Right now, there is decent foot traffic between downtown and Shaws, with a large grocery downtown I think people will stop crossing the Whalley threshold, which means trouble if we are trying to connect rather than separate.
Those last two links seem like okay examples of parking, while the first 2 are awful.

Making huge retail spaces in dense cities is a problem because of scale. The relationship from this building to the dense and diverse buildings across the street is eerily similar to the relationship between the buildings on Church Street between Crown and Chapel. One one side there is a great mix of varying buildings with unique facades and materials and on the other side of the street is a a gigantic out of scale building with massive stretches of repeating elements. The Shartenburg lot should have been divided into a dozen small lots.

Aren't skyscrapers inherently energy inefficient? They require enormously elaborate heating and cooling systems, elaborate circulation methods, and are pretty much always out of scale. Buildings should never (especially in small New England cities) exceed 10 stories and the vast majority of them should be under 7. Once buildings cease to be walkable, stop adding floors.
Everyone who disagrees with that accessment needs to find out who Ken Yeang is and see why what he does is so far above this LEED Platinum building that its not even a joke. What Ken Yeang does is often times more efficient than what 99% of other people do when designing a build 1/10th the size. If Yeang does that with skyscraper's imagine how great our buildings could be if they were under 10 stories.

Posted by: LtMike | October 21, 2009 4:26 PM

There is not much upscale in the blocks on Chapel from State through Church. That area does not have that Apple store (would not even return a call...), or chic place. True the area itself is loaded with $20 (plus) plates, but not quality retail. The plans initially were to put upscale stores around the old mall and that has not quite worked the way the city would have wished. It's sad, I live in the city (annex), work in the city (as does my wife), we grew up in this city. I WANT the city to do well, but it has places to eat and bars and not much else. There are not shows continulaly running downtown, I would look to build it more like an off Broadway with shows constantly playing so people can go have dinner and go right to a play. Now when we go to dinner it is rare to do anything else. Bars just overshadow what downtown could / should be. Are they looking to add Victoria Secret, Sony store, Tommy Bahama, those kind of clients? How much retail is available for stores, and if they start to get upscale retail in, would they try to eliminate the mom and pop stores on Chapel Street in that area now? That would be bad eliminating local business owners, but would it start to bring the area to new levels? With a soon to be addition of Gateway downtown, I just have problems seeing what Downtown is really going to be and how it is going to draw people to it. Having Gateway will help D&D, maybe a little of eateries, but remember college kids, not as much money to spend. So people down there, but what are they buying and what can draw a person like my wife and I downtown more? Just a little skeptical about these big plans for this massive high rise project that has been undertaken and a lack of faith in retail space being filled with quality stores and that last more than a couple of years (if even) and then leave.

Posted by: Walt | October 21, 2009 5:14 PM

I find no owner relationship between Aldi and Stew Lwonard's as claimed by Pedro above.

Just BS or true?

Friends say Aldi on Route 80 has good stuff at low prices.

Posted by: robn | October 21, 2009 6:14 PM


Slightly schizophrenic post...speculating about the inefficiency of skyscrapers and then trumpeting Ken Yeang...which is it?

My answers are:
1) Ken Yeang is over hyped.
2) Towers can be amazingly efficient if done correctly.
3) Flashy things like PV arrays provide minimal energy efficiency compared to high performance glass, good insulation, and well planned energy useage.
4) Elevatoring is one of the most energy efficient transportation modes that exists.
5) If towers house people in dense urban areas so that they don't have to drive to get to work...even better.

Posted by: J. Hart | October 21, 2009 7:56 PM

Pedro, I believe that you're thinking of Trader Joe's, which was purchased by Albrecht (of Aldi). Though I don't know if there is any relationship between the Aldi corporation and TJ.

Posted by: DEZ | October 21, 2009 8:38 PM

I have visited the ALDI on Rt 80. If I were into pre-packaged food high in sodium and blue colored juice drinks, I would have stayed longer than the three minutes it took to realize the place was not for us. It also smelled outrageously strong of a Pine-Sol like disinfectant, as if it had been recently cleaned, yet the floors were dry. It has some niche, but I'm not it.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 21, 2009 9:04 PM

I personally do not like Ken Yeang's work because he mainly deals with skyscrapers. I brought him up because I realize there are people out there, like you, who are not against skyscrapers, which is okay, I think the efficiency and necessity of skyscrapers is arguable. But to be on the side of pro-skyscrapers one must be aware of people like Ken Yeang who are doing sky scrapers and not just have the opinion (not you, but many others who have posted here) that "oh its a big building, cool! growth! LEED said its good so back off" and not actually be aware that LEED is a joke.
In metropolises sky scrapers seem like an efficient way to hold offices and residences, but we must remember that even places like NYC used to have a much smaller scale of buildings when it was first expanding. Many of the 5-15 story buildings that defined New York early in its history have been replaced by megastructures.
When it comes to places like New Haven, skyscrapers have no place, the downtown land square mileage cannot justify a sky scraper scale.
Also how are elevators energy efficient compared to stairs?

Posted by: Very Concerned New Havener | October 21, 2009 10:46 PM

Please Lord don't let it be an ALDI or a Pricerite ...

Posted by: Very Concerned New Havener | October 21, 2009 10:46 PM

What does 'It's like a whole foods or a trader joes' mean? That statement is so subjective, he might as well have told us that they sell food and that's why it's similiar. What might the similarity be pray tell?

Posted by: Drew | October 22, 2009 8:16 AM

"Like a whole foods or a trader joe's" means they sell arugula.

Posted by: Steve | October 22, 2009 11:00 AM

Ned, the answer to your question is: because LEED is a joke. You could build bike racks on Mars and certify it LEED Gold.

Posted by: Pedro | October 22, 2009 1:18 PM

JHart. YES. My home-sick addled head typed Stew when I meant Trader Joe's.
According to the Freakonomics Blog Aldi does in fact own TJ.

Stew is obviously owned by the colorful prince of produce himself.

Posted by: robn | October 22, 2009 1:28 PM


I've always through that New Haven had a charming skyline because it was peppered with small towers from various eras...but wrong or right, thats just my opinion.

The Have'

Your question, "how are elevators energy efficient compared to stairs?," is a good one and I have two answers for it.

1) Metaphysical: Elevators are more efficient because they keep little old ladies from dying of a heart attack on the staircase.

2) Physical : Supposedly, a person walking up stairs expends about 15 calories (0.06 BTUs) per story. According to Otis Elevators, an average elevator cab ride uses 2.5 Wh (8.5 BTUs) per story, much less efficient than walking but this is still only half of a cell phone charge...the reason why they're so efficient is because elevators are counterweighted). So in straight comparison, walking is more efficient, but if a person in a tower lives downtown and uses a gallon less gasoline getting to work each day, the efficiency quotient swings dramatically in favor of elevators.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 22, 2009 2:32 PM

My opinion is that 99% of all buildings should be walkable (under 7 stories), maybe they have elevators but they are rarely used. And the beauty of a town scale (which is what New Haven is) as opposed to a city scale is that old folks can live on the first floor of a house in a modest apartment and still only be a block or two from downtown. This is why towns and small cities must reverse the trend of development so that when old people stop driving they can still live dignified lives of some independence.
Thanks for that photo because it reinforces, for me, that skyscrapers suck and they ruin the skyline and are awful to look at from street level as well.

Posted by: Kevin | October 22, 2009 4:50 PM

@Jack-re-read the article. The original plan was for 14,000 square feet but the grocer wanted substantially more space. According to Becker's presentation at City Hall this week the grocery will be 30,000 sf+. This is noted in the article (look three paragraphs below the rendering).

@LtMike as an alumnus of a commuter school, I agree that the Gateway students (few of whom are kids) won't spend all that much downtown. But the faculty and staff will spend more. More importantly, having thousands of people downtown, particularly in the evening, should make downtown feel safer and encourage others to come downtown.

Posted by: robn | October 22, 2009 5:58 PM


A lot of elderly people have a hard time walking up to a second story. I personally don't look back very fondly upon my days of moving furniture into third floor walkups. Basing your opinions solely on aesthetics doesn't really convince me...and it won't gain you the hearts an minds of the public.

Posted by: Norton Street | October 22, 2009 8:04 PM

"And the beauty of a town scale (which is what New Haven is) as opposed to a city scale is that old folks can live on the first floor of a house in a modest apartment and still only be a block or two from downtown."
Eldery housing should not be in isolated towers (Bella Vista) they should be on the first floor (ground floor) of a house that is within easy walking distance to necessities. Warehousing old people is like warehousing poor people, which is like warehousing middle class people. It does not work, it has not worked. Whether it be a sprawling low income brick housing complex, a monstrous concrete tower or a suburban housing pod, separation never works (except for dirty industry). Towers separate people from the street even if they are in a dense downtown block. Urban renewal demolished entire blocks of walkable, dense, and diverse buildings and replaced half the land with parking infrastructure, and the displaced inhabitable volume was then stacked on top of the other half of land that wasn't devoted to parking. This was made possible thanks to the elevator and steel frame construction. And while elevators and steel frame can still serve a practical and useful purpose, too often these great things are used to make modern day Pyramids to the architect. This is similar, in a way, to how we've taken advantage of the automobile, which was a revolutionary invention that has unfortunately been overused, over relied upon and over hyped. If every inch of New Haven was built on in a proper scale and there was no room left yet still demand for growth, then there is a justification for vertical density, but currently 50% of downtown's buildable square footage is dedicated to parking.
During the summer I rely on people needing movers, so while it sucks going up multiple floors with a couch, there are plenty of people on craigslist who will do it for you for a little cash.

Posted by: Roger | October 22, 2009 8:52 PM

ROBN: The argument for building shorter has nothing to do with the energy efficiency of elevators, but with good urbanism. You don't easily get neighborhoods out of 30+ story buildings. Placing everybody in high rises for efficiency's sake was the MO of many public housing authorities in the 50s and 60s, with terrible results. And even New York, for all its development, is still overwhelmingly a mid- and low-rise city.

Anyways, in the case of 360 State, if you put the parking underground, then compared the residential tower to the lot footprint, I think you'd find you'd have room to make it 10-15 stories and still have the same number of units. The thing about the article that most amazes me, though, is that the glass-tower-over-a-parking-garage design can be considered super "green." It seems green design is all about high-tech "heat recovery devices" and such, with little concern for the actual form of the building.

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