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100 College Comes Into Focus

by Allan Appel | Oct 12, 2011 12:17 pm

(28) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Downtown

Fuss & O'Neill Transparent glass will cover the seven-to-10-story building. The sidewalk will extend 25 feet from the buildling to curb, with a thick buffer of street trees. A restaurant with inviting umbrellas will bloom in an “oasis” with surrounding plazas.

Those details emerged before an audience of 40 people in the community room of the Wilson Branch Library in the Hill Tuesday night. Developer Carter Winstanley and city officials revealed the latest plans for 100 College Street, the anchor building for the first phase of the Downtown Crossing.

Proponents said the $140 million project seeks to repair the scar of 1960s misguided urban renewal. The aim is to fill in the highway canyon at grade, eliminating Exits Two and Three, creating two “boulevards” of three to four lanes on the Frontage roads including some sections with bicycle paths and pedestrian amenities. In subsequent phases the full build-out calls for street life to emerge connecting downtown, Union Station, and the medical district.

This effort will create four parcels for development for a total of ten acres; 100 College will rise on the first parcel.

Click here for a story on a previous briefing Winstanley gave to a handful of skeptical aldermen.

And here for a story in which aldermen, job-seekers, and cyclists debate a resolution urging the city to reduce from four to two the lanes of the Frontage roads that surround 100 College.

Winstanley and city officials made their presentation Tuesday as they ready three crucial pieces of the project to bring before the Board of Aldermen for approval on Oct. 24: a development agreement, a zoning change, and a transfer of land.

Winstanley and city Economic Development Administrator Murphy said the development agreement will require a minimum building of 225,000 square feet. If the project goes from seven to ten stories, it could max out at 450,000 square feet.

Winstanley’s architect, John Marti,n said that If it’s a lab building at ten stories, with 14 feet six inches from floor to floor, the “mechanical penthouse” at the top will in effect make the building rise some 50 feet higher than Winstanley’s 300 George Street. The overflow at that nearby complex helped spur the 100 College project.

“The east facing facade is all clad in glass,” Martin said of the 100 College design. “That’s a benefit to tenants allowing daylight in but allowing light and activity to spill onto Collge to make it safe. It won’t be opaque but transparent, creating a public realm welcoming any time of the day.”

All service access locations are beneath grade. All four sides are pedestrian friendly, Martin added.

Engineer Ted DeSantos, from the Fuss&Oneill firm, said that in addition to the main east-facing entrance on College, the building will have an entrance on the west side, in the plaza area between the building and its garage. The garage will rise not quite as high as the building.

DeSantos said that the plaza on the front, the eastern side with the main lobby, will stretch 25 feet from facade to curb. In the back, the west side, the plaza between the building and garage, will be even wider, at 35 feet. The walkway on North Frontage Road will vary from 15 to 25 feet and on South Frontage from 20 to 30 feet.

People would access the plaza from both Frontage roads via a set of steps. That’s because the two roads dip and drop off at different levels, while the building and its two plazas are conceived at being at the same grade.

DeSantos said 15 steps would connect the complex to South Frontage Road, eight steps to North Frontage.

A Cabbie Raises Questions

One member of the public attendance, Antoine Scott, said he was impressed with the Downtown Crossing plan. But he questioned the premise that traffic coming in on the flyway of I-95 and I-91 could be distributed according to the plan without significant congestion.

Deputy Economic Development Director Mike Piscitelli responded that traffic coming in would self-distribute. Some would spill onto Orange Street to go to Union Station. Some drivers would head straight ahead via the underground roads into the garages. A third set of drivers would head straight ahead to Church Street toward, for example, Gateway Community College.

“As someone who drives for a living, if you come in off the flyway at peak time, you’re not going to be able to get over,” said Scott, who drives a cab.

Refocusing on 100 College, Ben Northrup, one of those project’s critics, complimented Winstanley’s intentions. He questioned whether the street life, particularly at the key south east corner, would be as lively as it might be.

“We’re building into the agreement active street life, transparent glass,” as well as requiring the provision of signage to attract tenants and customers,” Kelly Murphy repsonded.

WinstanleyStadium?

Antoine Scott asked Winstanley whether he might want to build a baseball stadium near 100 College to keep the commuting workers downtown in the evening.

“I’m not going to tackle putting a ballpark downtown, but in all our projects we try to keep people downtown,” Winstanley replied.

Northrup suggested Winstanley would give people more reason to walk downtown if he placed the parking farther from his building.

“We tucked the garage behind the building so it’s visually not upsetting,” Winstanley responded. “The first project can’t have the garage in another location.”

The Board of Aldermen’s Community Development Committee Thursday evening will consider a resolution to reduce the size of the planned Frontage Roads as part of Downtown Crossing.

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posted by: NHV on October 12, 2011  12:54pm

What does a baseball stadium have to do with anything? The Ravens and the Cutters both failed because of little attendance, and if we’d have a stadium, we’d just have another useless building to demolish in the future.

Why not a convention center?

posted by: Kevin on October 12, 2011  12:56pm

Okay…I’m a little confused about the steps, general grading issue with downtown crossing, and just the city’s current plan.

Those roads/sidewalks have several dips that make it unpleasant while also inhibiting active/commercial street life. I would like the area to be flattened or leveled as best as possible although this could be unfeasible with $ and traffic. Also, I’m assuming there will be handicap ramp along the entrances too?
...

posted by: disconnect on October 12, 2011  1:05pm

“Transparent glass will cover the seven-to-10-story building. The sidewalk will extend 25 feet from the buildling to curb, with a thick buffer of street trees. A restaurant with inviting umbrellas will bloom in an “oasis” with surrounding plazas.”

Monkeys will fly out of my butt.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 12, 2011  1:10pm

I’d like to see the solar heat gain calculations and the mechanical equipment sizing calculations for this building because those mechanical floors look huge (3:2 proportion of occupiable to service space?).
I also don’t see the advantage of such an irregular floor plan with curves and frequent bump outs.
I’m not sure how the “plazas” are going to work or even where they are. Public open spaces usually can’t be designed well on the architectural scale, they have to be incorporated into larger urban design schemes and given proper sites that display important public and civic buildings.
This building continues the big box laboratory district that is forming George Street and North Frontage Road, which is a very desolate and boring place to walk. I think the corner restaurant will help, but we shouldn’t act as though the goal of this project is to “stitch neighborhoods back together” or “undue the mistake of urban renewal”. This project is about creating more lab space for the medical area and capitalizing on an opportunity. And there’s not really anything wrong with that, so long as that point is honestly expressed rather than hidden behind idealized language about good urban planning that just isn’t present in the current plans (moreso on the city’s side than on Winstanley’s).

I’d like to see the city look into a plan that connects Orange Street across the connector, which would make a real connection from downtown to the train station. This can be accomplished either with a round-about or just putting a traffic light at Orange Street. I’d also like to see the Frontage Roads reduced to 2-3 lanes and without the overly-exaggerated turning radii at intersections.

posted by: Mr. Schwinnstanley on October 12, 2011  1:20pm

Hey Antoine Scott - You’re kidding, right? You DRIVE for a living?  ...

Who said anything about “driving”? The only taxis that will be allowed ... are rickshaws.

posted by: Jimmy J. on October 12, 2011  1:50pm

I think this building will really transform that entire area of town. It looks great, and really seems to fit well in between the “no-mans land” that is between the hospital and downtown. @Kevin- I would assume all the ADA regs. would have to be followed in this development. Right?

posted by: Mr. Schwinnstanley on October 12, 2011  2:15pm

NHI - Your censorship has gotten ridiculous.  Its one thing to be ultra PC but its another thing entirely to not recognize satire.

posted by: Brian McGrath on October 12, 2011  3:36pm

Allen
You are the better writer at Independent,and in addition we all love getting so much local news for free all of the time, but…
“scar of 1960s misguided urban renewal.” This line from the Independent is typical of the paper’s attitude about its elders and their accomplishments.
The use of the words “scar” and “misguided” betrays a substantial lack of knowledge of New Haven’s history and annoys me,fortunately only a little, because it is not so important what you guys write.

posted by: Curious on October 12, 2011  3:53pm

So is this going to be right behind 300 George Street?  I wish the NHI did a better job of presenting the proposed space in contrast to the existing space.

I see buffer zones on each side fo the building, but not sidewalks drawn on them.  Artist’s omission, or what?

Keep the sidewalks wide so bikes and pedestrians can use them, and nip in the streets a bit.

Key to making this palatable and attractive is for the buffer zone around the building to have some picnic tables scattered liberally throughout, so that people who work in the building can have lunch outside.  300 George is surrounded by concrete, you eat inside or off-site.  There’s one or two sad picnic tables outside, adjacent to an alley, but it’s not enough.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 12, 2011  4:48pm

Where is the development agreement? What are the details as to taxes, permit fees, phase in etc? Kelly Murphy has proved adept at not providing these details or glossing over them, or low-balling them. The details of this project from top to bottom, estimated tax payments, schedule, the full agreement - absent that, this project should be put on ice.

posted by: john wysolmerski on October 12, 2011  4:50pm

No-one will want to sit outside in proximity to a 3-4 lane road with cars going 40 mph plus.  Get real about this - either make frontage road 2 lanes in each direction and make the cross streets narrower or don’t bother with outside plazas. There is no way that you can create a block-wide strip bordered by 2 3-4-lane roads and expect it to be anything other than strip development.  The only way that this development improves the city fabric (as opposed to just the grand list) is that it includes residential possibilities.  And that is impossible if you create essentially a median strip between a divided highway.  I wouldn’t live there.

However, I do live in New Haven and work at the Medical School/Hospital and drive from East Rock to work every morning via 91 and 34.  New Haven rush hours are short and not that bad.  I would gladly add 10-15 minutes extra to my drive in order to have this area become a densely developed new residential area where students, physicians, nurses and other YNHH folks could live and walk to work.  Also, YNHH and YMS could easily stagger their work-shifts more broadly in order to spread out traffic pressure.

It would be a monumentally stupid lost opportunity to blow the chance to redevelop this part of the city for any traffic concerns other than making sure that the roads are wide enough for an ambulance to pass. That does not take 3 or 4 lanes.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 12, 2011  5:08pm

Brian,
Describing the unfinished Oak Street Connector as a scar can imply one of two things. Either it means that the incomplete highway only acts as a scar now because it will never be fully realized; or that the original plan was to create what is essentially a scar in the center of the city. I don’t know for sure that we can determine which of those two opinions Allen has - whether the unfinished connector is a scar, or that the original plan itself called for creating a scar. Regardless, I think both views are valid.

Towards the end of WW2, many European cities were bombed by the Nazi Army and priceless buildings and streetscapes were lost for ever. In many cases, however, the cities rebuilt from the rubble with contextual buildings.
Oltrarno, Florence in 1945 in the area around Ponte Vecchio:
http://tinyurl.com/6kmkr4k

http://tinyurl.com/6l987y3

Today:
http://tinyurl.com/6eeppnc

In the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, New Haven inflicted the same type of damage onto its urban fabric at the bequest of business and political leadership. We essentially bombed our cities with bulldozers and wrecking balls. Most unfortunately, we did not take this opportunity to rebuild a better place for people.

1934:
http://tinyurl.com/6dfgpjp

1965:
http://tinyurl.com/6bbln3c

Not only did we lose hundreds of businesses, housing units, and institutional buildings but we have little to nothing to show for it now other than massive amounts of expensive infrastructure that primarily serve non-residents. What exactly was accomplished during urban renewal?

posted by: robn on October 12, 2011  5:24pm

BRIANMCGRATH,

The only thing historically inaccurate about Allens phrase, “scar of 1960s misguided urban renewal” is the date. The accurately labelled scar was proposed by Maurice Rotival in the 40’s.

posted by: HhE on October 12, 2011  8:45pm

I think “scar of 1960s misguided urban renewal.” is too kind.  The Rout 34 Connector is a case study in the failures of Urban Renewal.  I have read City, End of Urbanism, and a number of other works on the history of New Haven.  I am a member of the Historical Society.  I will concede I have not lived her long enough to be historical—only 10 of my 45 years.

Curious, while it is a common practise, one ought not ride on the sidewalks if one is old enough to drive.  It is a $175 fine which I wish my friends in the NHPD would pass out like candy.

Well said john wysolmerski.

posted by: Ora on October 12, 2011  9:40pm

O-O! No financial details,delayed permits perhaps? Defer the taxes? O-O think they are pulling a Kelly Murphy job again and we the taxpayers will be coughing up again!

posted by: Antoine Scott on October 12, 2011  10:59pm

The 100 College Street is an impressive project.  We need more projects like this to make New Haven realize it’s true potential. 

By the way, the reason why the other three minor league teams failed…Was that there was no local affiliation with major league baseball clubs.  Imagine, walking to a downtown baseball stadium and seeing a minor league team of the 27 World Champion New York Yankees, New York Mets or even the team from Boston.

posted by: streever on October 13, 2011  12:43am

Brian McGrath
I know some of the architects of the misguided urban renewal, and they all regret the work now.

In addition, that language is practically lifted from the cities own website on Route 34.

“Today, Route 34 ..... is a physical and psychological barrier”

The language was more harsh in the early days of planning for the so-called Downtown Crossing, but as the cities vision has become more tax dollar oriented and less community building it has been watered down.

However, I would encourage you to read the original grant proposal, which describes Route 34 in very unfavorable terms.

posted by: Stephen Harris on October 13, 2011  9:48am

Come on Brian everyone knows the connector turned out to be disaster! Just because that type of urbanism was all the rage in America back then doesn’t mean it was a good thing. Yes, Jane Jacobs was right.

As to the current project, while it’s better than nothing it could be much better. Planning for present day commuters without an eye towards the future is short sighted. As the energy problem steadily gets worse the extra road capacity won’t be needed.

New Haven should be planning for more housing and commercial/industrial space because more people will be living and working in the city to be close to work.

If we think about the future the whole area between the train station and medical area should be rezoned as a fairly high density (say four-story) mixed-use neighborhood to support the medical area with housing and stores.

Take a look at premodern European towns and cities and use that template. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 13, 2011  12:39pm

robn,
Neither Rotival’s 1941 plan nor his 1944 plan had a Route 34/Oak Street Connector. His plans did, however, call for widening many existing streets and turning them into highways essentially. From what I can find, the Oak Street Connector doesn’t appear until the Redevelopment Agency’s 1953 plan.

Antoine,
The advent of widespread television ownership and cable service, local sports really declined beginning in the mid-20th Century because professional games are now accessed from nearly every household’s living room. There are also other minor league teams in the surrounding region, which cut into the market for a future New Haven team.
I used to love going to the Raven games as a kid, and it’d be great if New Haven could get a viable minor league team to use the existing ball field on Derby Avenue, but this is someting that is way down on the list of things to do. There’s no room for a downtown baseball field and the cost of creating it would outweigh any potential benefits.

The city needs to focus on creating viable neighborhoods and communities where people have access to meaningful employment, choice of shopping, civic gathering places, and safe recreation space.

posted by: Paulette Cohen on October 13, 2011  12:44pm

Some ideas to think about from the Urban Design League’s community workshop:

First, the problem is not whether to build a biotech building, but for the City and its inhabitants to agree on a vision for the development of the reconnected neighborhood that will surround the building.  Such a plan is important for every one, even Mr. Winstanley, even in the first phase of the project.  It encourages development that can take advantage of a long term plan, while discouraging steps that would preclude implementation of that long term plan.

Second, why are we only looking at options that turn the existing connector into a driveway to two garages—the Air Rights Garage and the biotech building garage—and then builds out what is in effect a street level highway on either side of the connector?  This will not “reconnect” Downtown Crossing.  And, as much as I admire the energy and work of the biking community, adding bike lanes on either side of the proposed street level highway, and rounding the few intersecting street corners, will not reconnect or regenerate the neighborhood either.

One alternative is decking over the connector, which really would allow the City to reconnect the urban grid in ways that promote high quality mixed use and mixed income neighborhood development.  (A high quality grid, informed by a clear vision, in an area bordering many busy districts, can become a self-seeding mecca for local development.) The connector, now tucked out of sight, can still connect to the garages and provide service lanes for hospital equipment and supplies, but it can also provide multilevel underground parking for the neighborhood, the hospital, and the biotech building.

I am hoping that the City, and Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro, will use their considerable political skills to negotiate sufficient time for New Haven to get phase one of this massive project right.

posted by: Stephen Harris on October 13, 2011  1:28pm

@ Jonathan Hopkins

FYI.

Go to the City Plan Dept. and take a look at Rotival’s plan for the city; it’s on a foam core board somewhere. It involved ring road highways inside the city, towers in the park for Wooster Sq. and a, I think a heliport behind City Hall.

Good thing that never happened.

posted by: Ben Northrup on October 13, 2011  4:56pm

Re: baseball stadium

This topic is a bit of a distraction.  In general, I am opposed to chasing big projects.  I believe we should focus on small-scale, incremental infill, and making good neighborhoods.  Then big investments, like sports stadiums, will seek us out.

However, I feel compelled to address one statement by Jonathan Hopkins.  In general, I agree with him on just about everything, but I disagree with this statement:  “There’s no room for a downtown baseball field and the cost of creating it would outweigh any potential benefits.”

The urban answer for baseball parks is to go back to the more compact, urban friendly designs of the early 20th c., such as Wrigley field in Chicago, which sits comfortably in the street grid on two regular blocks, surrounded for the most part, not by parking, but by apartment buildings, townhouses, and stores.  Yet it manages to fill the stadium with fans using public transit.

The most articulate advocate of this is Philip Bess, an accomplished New Urbanist and architect, who wrote “City Baseball Magic”.  Quoting its blurb, this “is a polemic on behalf of the traditional urban baseball park, and an exercise in “pragmatic idealism.” Today’s new “retro” baseball stadiums look wonderful, but they are outrageously expensive and do not provide the intimacy nor foster the sense of community that was possible with the classic neighborhood ballparks (built in the early 1900’s) because they are conceived as suburban buildings. They are a drain on taxpayers, they yield seating arrangements that are worse for the average fan in the upper deck, they result in huge ticket price increases, and they tend to destroy the physical and spatial fabric of cities. But most of these liabilities can be ameliorated by once again understanding the baseball park as an urban building subject to the physical constraints of urban networks of streets and blocks. To demonstrate this thesis, Bess offers the wonderfully conceived Armour Field plan, a proposal for neighborhood design and a new ballpark that was originally presented in the late 1980’s as an alternative for the new stadium that the Chicago White Sox were determined to have built to replace the venerable old Comiskey Park on Chicago’s south side. Still relevant today, the proposed ballpark addresses social, cultural, and economic issues, as well as issues of baseball and urban aesthetics; and demonstrates the superiority of the traditional urban baseball park over the modern stadium in ways both tangible and intangible.”

As the book explains, the trick is in the section.  The upper deck should stack on top of the lower deck.  What you lose in a few obstructed view seats, you gain in intimate fan experience and a compact footprint that nestles into a neighborhood.

So, yes, I’m all for a New Haven ballpark, properly conceived.  But if the choice were for a modern ballpark or nothing, I hope we’ll be as brave as Milwaukee and say no.

Now, back to the pressing issue:  how to adjust the Phase I public infrastructure investments so that they support a good long-term plan.  More importantly, what exactly is that long-term plan?

posted by: Curious on October 13, 2011  7:55pm

With so many empty storefronts downtown, why doesn’t the City turn one of them into a display for the Downtown Crossing project?

Just like the empty fronts on Howe are being used to display outfits on mannequins from local shops, the Planning Department could put up diagrams, blueprints, maps, and models of the Downtown Crossing Project on display.

That way more people would be engaged, and get to see what is being proposed.

posted by: robn on October 14, 2011  8:53am

JH,

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a drawing of Rotival’s describing Rt34.

posted by: robn on October 14, 2011  9:03am

JONATHANHOPKINS,

No dates but the drawing style is very 40’s-ish. May I rest my case?

http://tinyurl.com/ROTIVAL-01

http://tinyurl.com/ROTIVAL-02

http://tinyurl.com/ROTIVAL-03

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on October 14, 2011  12:00pm

Ben,
Since there is a large baseball field on Derby Avenue already and there are competing regional minor league teams nearby in Brideport and New York, I don’t see a new downtown stadium being built. If we assume that parking wouldn’t be an issue (using existing garages maybe) where would the stadium go downtown? Would it really be worth it for a minor league team? Stadiums with proper urban design are great, but I don’t see it being relevant for New Haven.

Robn,
I stand corrected, Rotival was still working for City Plan in the 50s and producing drawings.
I am familiar, with his plans from the 40s prior to the Highway and Housing Acts, which are usually only credited with him, while his later drawings are included under the umbrella of Redevelopment Agency and City Plan documents even though he was te primary planner.

posted by: Ben Northrup on October 14, 2011  1:50pm

@Jonathan Hopkins re baseball stadium:

I am using this side-discussion about a ballfield to make point about how we tend to think of these venues as large, suburban-scaled ventures that destroy urban fabric.  It is possible to think of them as genuinely urban amenities embedded in neighborhoods.  So I was only addressing the issue of space, not of market or demand.  I’ll leave it those of you who know more about the sport and local competition to make a judgement about its appropriateness or viability. 

To follow the hypothetical thread:  if an in-town ballfield were a priority, there is plenty of space for a traditional, compact baseball field.  I agree that there need not be any additional parking built.  It could depend on existing parking (of which there is plenty) and it would generate demand for alternative means of transportation.  Going to ball games is one of the few activities in modern America where suburbanites routinely take mass transit.

The ballfield could occupy so-called Parcels B & C and some of the underused space south of Route 34, if the new boulevard hugged the north side of the site.  Or it could be closer to Union Station, easy walking distance from Metro-North, in the present location of Church Street South, or south of Union Station, in the Long Wharf area.  The possibilities are enormous if the footprint is compact and the parking limited.

I would also add that it does not have to be downtown.  The two baseball fields in Chicago were located in neighborhoods, one on the north side, one on the south.  Wrigley Field still thrives, but the new Comiskey Park destroyed its surrounding neighborhood with its enormous modern footprint and loads of parking.

In any case, space considerations aside, a new baseball field does not sound like a viable option in downtown New Haven given what little I’ve heard in this forum.  I tend to be skeptical of attempts to revive cities by subsidizing large attractions.  I would rather see us focus on building good streets and neighborhoods.  As you point out, there is a good ballfield on Derby Avenue.

But if we ever do consider similar large attractions in downtown New Haven, I propose that we apply some of Philip Bess’s logic to make them compact, urban-friendly destinations.  The Colliseum was an urban nightmare that did violence to its context, even as it provided a valuable gathering space.  It could have been different.

posted by: robn on October 14, 2011  2:30pm

WRT baseball

I think that Bridgeport’s model is a good one. The stadium is in formerly undesirable industrial property and right next to two major transportation nodes (I-95 and Metro North)...so its very visible, accessible and affordable for 10s of thousands of commuters. New Haven has space like that near Union Station with the added benefit of already constructed parking that could be exploited during its slack time after business hours.

http://g.co/maps/gmaq3

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