City Unveils 100-Year Plan For Union Station

The Harp administration and the city’s parking authority unveiled a 100-year plan for developing and maintaining Union Station and the area surrounding it — if the state will give the city control.

The plan and the extra push from the city came Thursday afternoon during the waning days of the state legislative session. The session ends next Wednesday, and the future control of the train station is on the agenda. One bill would not only turn the station over to New Haven but convey several vacant parcels of state-owned land to the city. (Read the city’s full plan here.) The state Department of Transportation is fighting to maintain ownership of the station — and possibly remove the city’s parking authority as the contracted manager in three years.

The city’s new plan for Union Station has three main parts. The first involves capital improvements to Union Station itself, with an estimated cost of $21 million. The second part envisions a new parking garage next to the current parking garage in the space that’s currently a parking lot. The new parking garage is to be set back from the street to allow for a “commercial liner building, to be constructed in tandem with the garage or at a future date.” This liner building would face the street and have space for shops. The garage and commercial building have an estimated price tag of $26 million.

Finally, the plan envisions spending $15 million to expand the commercial space inside the station from 1,600 to 4,600 square feet, create “café/restaurant space with indoor and outdoor seating,” open up the upper floors of the station to commercial tenants and reopen the station’s balconies to the public.

The plan envisions covering the costs of the project through a mix of public and private funds. Under the plan, the proposed parking garage — which has been an ongoing source of tension between the city and the state — would be paid for with a $26 million state grant. The city would then lease the land between the garage and Union Avenue to a private developer for the commercial liner building, envisioned as a “mixed-use residential project.” Funds from cash from the station would be used to issue bonds that could then pay for the development of the space inside the station.

“After recent news of Aetna’s increasingly likely departure from Connecticut, it is now more important than ever for the state to act boldly to develop dense, vibrant urban spaces that attract workers, jobs, and investment,” Mayor Toni Harp said in a press release Thursday.

Though Gov. Dannel Malloy (pictured at the press converence) has not endorsed New Haven’s legislative moves to gain control of Union Station and has in the past opposed the city’s push to get the state to build something more than a second car garage, he echoed Harp’s sentiment during a press event at the state Capitol Wednesday. He too reiterated the need for investments in “vibrant urban centers” in the face of first GE and now Aetna’s impending move. He also praised New Haven as one of the state’s successes.

“Every day that I have been governor of the state of Connecticut, I have made the argument that we need to support vibrant cities, specifically that New Haven, and Hartford, and Bridgeport and Waterbury needed greater assistance from the state and that they need it in education, and transportation and more in housing,” he said. “Sometimes I’ve had some success, but more often than not I’ve not been able to deliver.”

Malloy said that transportation has been the most frequent concern he has heard when it comes to whether a business will keep jobs in the state. Transportation impacts the cost of housing. He said Wednesday that he isn’t sure that the legislature buys into what needs to be done to provide a transportation fund.

“I think on a broader basis Connecticut needs to wake up and recognize that we are not competing for that demographic,” he said. “Companies are telling you that they want to be in cities. And we’re not building or rebuilding cities the way that Boston has, or Manhattan has or the outer boroughs in New York.

“We should stop playing around with our support for what have been our historic urban centers,” he added. “If we don’t help New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, and Waterbury and others the next size down, we’re not going to be competitive. And not just this year or the next year, but the next 20 years. How long do you have to look at the demographics, how long do you have to look at the decisions that companies are making about where they want to open their operations before you start to make the changes that you need to make?”

Union Station is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which leases the station to Park New Haven (aka the parking authority) to manage it. The city has sought to buy the station from the state. DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the DOT has resisted the idea of turning the station over to the city in the past.

In March, DOT Commissioner James Redeker said that DOT was “contemplating a competitive procurement process for a service provider or providers” for the facility once a second parking garage was built. The city and state clashed over the management of the station at the capitol in the same month.

In April, the Board of Alders approved extending the city’s lease with the state by three years, with two one-year renewal options, though as the Register reported on May 11, the city said it would fight paying a $3.7 million invoice the state sent to the New Haven Parking Authority.

The city’s plan for Union Station is explicitly part of its Hill-to-Downtown Community Plan, “developed as a framework to rebuild areas of the Hill neighborhood that were severely impacted by urban redevelopment.”

As the city’s document states, the community plan “calls for more than 2,000 new homes and 2,500 new jobs all within walking distance of Union Station.” In addition, “the plan calls for development of Union Square, a landmark public space directly across from the front door of Union Station, as part of the planned revitalization of Church Street South.”

In early May the chair of the Hill South Management Team, Sarah McIver, wrote a letter to House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz urging lawmakers to take action on the conveyance bill that would turn Union Station over to the city.

“Union Station is part of our neighborhood,” she wrote. “It is a place our residents are proud of and a part of a transportation network that our residents, our schools, our businesses, our hospitals, our citizensdepend upon. Current DOT plans for building a second garage have failed to accurately gauge the impact on local traffic, environment, and public health—all concerns that our people would have to live with.”

Read the full letter here.

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posted by: Bill Saunders on June 1, 2017  11:13pm

A Hundred Year Plan????  I’m waiting for the Flood!

posted by: JOHNILUVHN on June 1, 2017  11:58pm

100 Year Plan!!!!???????  Unbelievable, we need parking now! We need more upgrades to Union Station NOW!! Im very disappointed in this city.  Maybe my great great grandchildren will see it come to fruition. Hopefully they will start developing the former coliseum land by then….I doubt it…. Very frustrated right now…

posted by: concerned_neighbor on June 2, 2017  8:45am

at least there is a plan.

And the plan has New Haven in control (as scary as that seems) but the former steady hand of the State Gov’t has faltered. Too many years of rising state taxes and increasing costs to do business, already strangling off the small businesses, has finally dealt a body blow to two titans, GE and now AETNA. GE has made the escape from CT. Looks like AETNA will too.

posted by: JCFremont on June 2, 2017  8:55am

I know the old Soviet Union 5 year plans where often not met but 100 years? Just call it an open ended project. The completion will probably coincide with Malloy’s whim of adding an additional lane on I-95 from Cos Cob to Stonington. I am convinced that last government project that actually was met on time was achieving a martyred president’s vision of “Putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Had JFK not been assassinated we might be still putting out bids for the lunar module. The first design for a transportation hub is transportation, the flow of people from the street to the train, not retail. A larger better flowing Dunkin Donuts would be nice. An upstairs eating area can work so people won’t bring their Subway sandwiches on the trains or spread out all over the benches would be nice. Maybe a Hudson News would be needed as well. In fifty years much less 100 what type of modes of transportation will we see and how will Union Station fit in to those modes?  Of course with Donald Trump taking The United States out of the Paris Accord “experts” state that both Union Station the Metro North Tracks and I-95 will be underwater by 2026 so maybe the plans should be sent to Derby?

posted by: Noteworthy on June 2, 2017  9:19am

Money Grubbing and Dreamer Notes:

1. There New Haven goes again - big vision, but oh, hey, Magic State, fork over the dough.

2. Note to Mayor Harp: Aetna is in Hartford. New Haven is 40 miles away and is not even remotely affected by Aetna’s flight from this overtaxed, financially unstable state - which ironically, was created in no small part to the stewardship or lack thereof of Harp/Walker/Looney/Democrats et al.

3. The financing scheme is a twisted and complicated. If Nemerson and economic development can’t even get 10th Square built out - how are they going to get any economic activity out of the trian station in the middle of the hood and with nothing else around it?

4. This plan strikes me as the person who goes shopping for a Bentley but only has $100 in their pants.

5. Forget 100 year plan - the next 100 minutes should be spent telling the DOT we just need a garage. We’ll get out of the way. Oh, and thank you.

posted by: brownetowne on June 2, 2017  9:24am

I believe the “100-year” term means that it seeks to be big and bold and forward thinking enough to address the needs of the city for the next ten decades; it does not mean that the plan is intended to take 100 years to complete.

posted by: William Kurtz on June 2, 2017  11:01am

The governor is 100% right about the need to develop urban centers in order to keep employers and it’s staggering that some people don’t recognize this, even when, as he points out, the evidence is right in your face. GE and AETNA aren’t moving to some developing country where land and labor are cheap; they’re moving to urban centers where the people they want to hire want to live.

According to GE CEO Jeff Immelt:

“Boston was selected after a careful evaluation of the business ecosystem, talent, long-term costs, quality of life for employees, connections with the world and proximity to other important company assets,” Immelt said. “We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations.”

http://www.courant.com/business/hc-boston-ge-moving-20160113-story.html

You have him telling us this, and still cry, “build parking garages! build parking garages! and highway lanes!”

posted by: Esbey on June 2, 2017  12:08pm

It is a great plan.  Cities that move forward and grow embrace this kind of thinking. They see increasing jobs and tax revenues, which lead to better schools and a lower mill rate. A virtuous circle of improvement keeps the city growing and improving.

In New Haven, as seen in the comments here, we have a set of nay-sayers and cynics who want to trap us in a cycle of decline. They don’t believe the future can be better, and their pessimism becomes a self-fulling prophecy. 

The governor is right, but his plan is too timid. Young talented employees and citizens want to be in vibrant urban spaces where cars and suburban sprawl are not necessary facts of life.  GE left for high-tax urban Boston.  Aetna is going to leave (probably) for high tax urban NYC.  There is exactly one place in CT that is even close to competing with other urban centers: New Haven.  Not Bridgeport, not Hartford, not Waterbury.  Walk the Crown-High-George-College block and see how much great new activity is happening, and yet (also) how far we have to go.  It is not yet a boom, maybe a boom-let. 

What would push us to the next level? Tweed needs regional jet service to Chicago and DC. The Downtown-to-Hill-to-Union Station project has to succeed in building a new dense mixed-income and mixed-use (with jobs!) neighborhood.  Part of that has to include the Coliseum space at some point, maybe later.

Better schools, better services and lower taxes can follow from new jobs and housing, although only if we push hard in that direction.

Other cities have done it. We could do it. The state has to cooperate, in its own self-interest.  But above all, we have to want it ourselves.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 2, 2017  1:13pm

Esbey,

I don’t see anything in the meat of this article that even gives an inkling as to 100 years of vision…...
it seems this plan is attainable on a much shorter term….

Cast that net as cynicism if you want—
If it is a good plan, it doesn’t need to be dressed up for the public as something bigger than it is….

I would actually like to here more details…... at this point, all I have to say is ‘That’s It?”

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 2, 2017  2:03pm

P Esbey,

You don’t need to be Chicken Little in this Town to realize that the Pie always falls out of the Sky.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on June 2, 2017  2:34pm

I wish Noteworthy could explain to me Aetna’s brilliant plan to escape overtaxed Connecticut into the glorious free market, tax-free economy that is.. .New York City.

Who needs evidence? Just blame taxes for everything, regardless of how sensible it is. Noteworthy should run for office, it’s a great platform and voters are apparently totally incapable of seeing through it.

Slate had a great article today about CT’s problems, and taxes ain’t it.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 2, 2017  4:53pm

Two Stone Worth:

Taxes are a big, big problem because the state is layering on taxes on everything. Two gas taxes, sales tax on wholesale, sales tax on retail; taxes on healthcare, taxes on dog grooming, car washes and the sales of our homes.  Then there is the multi-billion deficit on the healthcare and pensions for state employees.

Despite billions of dollars in new taxes, the state’s finances are still precarious and deficit ridden. Corporations are interested in fleeing because of the uncertainty. State debt is huge and the bond ratings are dropping.

If you think that’s a glorious picture - good luck with that. In the meantime, I’ll read the rag, Slate and see what liberal slant and bias it brings to the discussion.

posted by: Esbey on June 2, 2017  6:33pm

Bill S., you are right that “100 years” is over-the-top marketing.

The station opened in 1920, so could we pretend that they mean that is it a plan for renewal on its centennial?

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 2, 2017  10:33pm

Esbey,

We can’t pretend because New Haven doesn’t real give an Ef about history, otherwise it would have been spelled out explicitly in this proposal.

You are starting to sound like Sean Spicer explaining Covfefe.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 2, 2017  10:44pm

You Know Esbey, I really think you are Matt Nemerson…..

You really need to come clean here…...the only people with a need to ‘pretend’ are ‘insiders’.

posted by: wiseman12797 on June 3, 2017  4:51pm

New Haven and state of CT can’t afford to be suck in a hole for another 100 years. It’s as simple as that. If it wasn’t for Yale being in New Haven in the first place, then many people that are from all around the world probably wouldn’t want to be here. So, in that sense New Haven was pretty fortunate from the beginning. But for a city that often thrives off it’s diversity and urban areas there sure is a lot of questions about it’s future.

posted by: Esbey on June 3, 2017  9:54pm

I said “pretend,” not that I believed it!

posted by: steve on June 3, 2017  11:03pm

The lack of Tweed airport in being able to accommodate regional jets has cost the area many new jobs, three that I can think of in the past were, 1. American airlines wanted to locate a reservation center here, 2. Fed-Ex wanted to have one daily flight at Tweed and 3. Canadair or Bombardier wanted to build an east coast service center at Tweed. I am sure there are many more companies who bypassed the New Haven area for the same reason. Train service is fine for short runs, I.E. 75 to 200 miles or so, but companies rely on air travel and look for locations that offer good nearby air service.
The planned runway upgrade will be done entirely on airport property, no streets closed or radical changes to the area with perhaps some traffic flow adjustments. High paying jobs come from high tech companies, not what is being offered today, “want fries with that?”
Having an airport in the city and close to the city center is a plus for the area but only if the last impediment is removed, the limited runway and coming soon will be the federal judges decision that will allow that last deficiency to be corrected.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 4, 2017  5:14pm

Esbey,

Though there appears to be some reticence in revealing the identity behind your moniker, a light-bulb finally went off about your nickname.

Esbey = S.B. = the opposite of B.S.
Now that is a fitting name for somebody attempting to toe the company line. 
Certainly better than Truth Avenger, who I haven’t seen on here in a while.

Let’s face it man—we are opposites—somewhere in the middle is the truth!

Why do I all of sudden feel like New Haven is a ‘psychic’ replica of latest reboot of Twin Peaks?
The only difference is we have a better script…....

posted by: Matthew from New Haven EDA on June 5, 2017  1:16am

Esbey is definitely not me, but whoever he or she is “they” make a lot of sense.

As our current 35 year formal partnership comes to an end, the City has been looking for a renewed long-term deal with the State to jointly oversee a refreshed station and parking garages, both the current one and the proposed new one.

The “100 year” title comes from the fact that the current elegant and historic station was begun in 1917 as part of a set of three “civic leadership” projects from a 1911 “future of New Haven” Commission: the enormous rail station, the new public library on Elm Street and a new, wider Temple Street re-imagined as a grand boulevard connecting these buildings. The two Cass Gilbert brick buildings became a reality - an amazing achievement for a small city - the boulevard connecting them did not. 

Still, 1917 & the middle of the first world war was probably the then high point for New Haven as a national economic force. It was our peak population - about 160,000 - top output at the time for Winchester, Sargent, Candee rubber boots, textiles & the New Haven railroad and all were hiring thousands of people.

Our new freight yards at Cedar Hill were some of the largest in the country.  Even the specialty car body and accessory firms - left over from our carriage making days - were all making lots of goods for the war effort.

So, 100 years is also the vision for “next” 100 years for Union Station by the Harp Administration and a reminder of the huge vision and optimistic statement it embodied 100 years ago in the City.

Having put the vision out there, we are optimistically looking forward to a renewed partnership with the state that will secure the Station as our gateway through 2117.  Of course it might be greeting autonomously driven flying buses or pneumatic tubes whisking people to California or Europe…but whatever it is in 100 years, we think the vision outlined in Thursday’s plan can be effectively implement in two to five years - not 100!

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 5, 2017  3:11pm

Not Esbey,

I am glad that there are attainable short-term goals in the station’s development as a travel hub.

But the fact that the plan is titled Union Station:100 Years Forward (as reported in other news sources) kinda says it all, doesn’t it.

If the name was meant to convey what you describe, the plan would have been called ‘Union Station—Building on 100 Years of History’, or some other well-thought out title that links the past to the future, without being extravagantly over-reaching.

Twist the words in the wind all you want—there might be an upcoming position for you in DC…..

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 6, 2017  8:49pm

As an end note, I think that LOCO-Motion should have been somehow incorporated into the title, because the City of New Haven is crazy to think that they have the resources to manage regional transportation.  The State barely can.