$50M Winchester Ave. Project Advances
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Posted to: Housing, Dixwell, Newhallville
Science Park appears on its way to becoming a place where people live, not just work, as a developer plans to tear down two of its empty old factory buildings to make a parking lot for 158 new loft-style apartments. It has dropped retail from the plan and left room for tenants who have two cars.
The City Plan Commission approved that updated proposal Wednesday evening at its monthly meeting.
Forest City, an Ohio-based development company, plans to spend $50 million rehabbing another part of the old Winchester rifle factory, turning it into 158 apartments, 20 percent of which will be set aside as affordable housing for people with certain income levels.
The project, called Winchester Lofts, is the second phase of a transformation of the long-abandoned factory’s corner buildings at Winchester and Munson, the border of the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods.
The first phase comprised the renovation of a section of the factory for the offices of New Haven’s successful student financial services start-up, Higher One, completed earlier this year.
With Wednesday night’s approval from the City Plan Commission, the second-phase plan now needs approvals from the city Development Commission and the Redevelopment Authority, said Abe Naparstek (pictured), vice president for East Coast development at Forest City. He said he hopes to have all approvals in place by November, to begin construction in the spring, and have the building ready for tenants by the summer of 2014.
“The vast majority of financing is in place,” said Naparstek, after commissioners voted unanimously to approve his proposal. A key $4 million state grant came through this summer. Naparstek said the project is funded by a combination of state and federal historic development tax credits, money from an Environmental Protection Agency revolving loan fund, private equity from Forest City, and private financing from a bank.
Naparstek and several associates Wednesday night offered a number of new details about the project, including the number of parking spaces, the lack of retail space in the plans, basement bike storage, security, and the discovery of two old frescoes inside the building.
No More Retail In Plan
One of the zoning permissions Forest City sought Wednesday night was permission to build a purely residential building. The Planned Development District originally anticipated that the lower levels of the building would be used for office or retail, with the upper levels used for residences.
Carolyn Kone, Forest City’s attorney, said it’s clear from looking across the street that the area can’t support more retail.
The parking garage across from the building has a number of vacant storefronts, totaling 25,000 square feet, according to David Silverstone, chair of the Science Park Development Corporation board.
Recalling the “spirited discussion” about jobs that occurred when the City Plan Commission approved the first phase of Winchester renovation, Naparstek said Forest City will again aim to meet the city’s hiring goals for construction: 25 percent black and Hispanic, 25 percent New Haveners, and 6.9 percent women. In the construction of Higher One, the developer hit 31 percent black and Hispanic, 22 percent New Haveners, and 3 percent women, Naparstek said
Boston architect Frank Valdes offered commissioners some details about what the finished product will look like. He stressed historical fidelity: the project is subject to regulations on historic buildings laid out by the National Park Service, he said. Valdes said the design seeks to create community by having “pockets” of shared space for people to interact within the building.
Naparstek said the building will include 28 studio, 94 one-bedroom, and 36 two-bedroom apartments. Of those, 26 one-bedrooms and 6 two-bedrooms will be affordable housing. The average rent for the market rate apartments will be about $1,700, Naparstek said.
Engineer Rob Bomengen laid out the parking plan. He said two buildings north of the apartment building will be demolished and turned into 138 new parking spaces. Combined with existing parking, there will be 346 parking spaces available to Winchester Lofts, Higher One, and 5 Science Park.
Too Much Parking?
Commissioner and Westville Alderman Adam Marchand asked why the development needs so much parking.
Higher One continues to grow and some of the 158 new apartments could have two cars each for their tenants, Naparstek replied.
“Some will have none,” Marchand said.
Most tenants will have cars, Naparstek said. Some may leave their cars in the lot all day and bike or walk to work. “We felt that was the optimum number of spaces,” he said.
Marchand (pictured) said he was raising the question because parking lots are not an “income-generating use” for the city: “Do we really need this much surface area? ... You could build another building.”
Parking lots don’t limit the ability to do that in the future, said Naparstek. As the renovation of the Winchester factory continues and transforms the area, there may be demand for more buildings, he said. He said he looks forward to that day.
Several people spoke in favor of the plan, including Joseph Covington, who lives at the nearby corner of Winchester and Munson.
“I speak for everyone that lives in my community,” Covington said. All his neighbors support the proposal, he said. “We’ve lived for too long with this eyesore.”
Marchand asked a number of other probing questions. He learned that it would be impossible—due to historic-building renovation regulations—to install solar panels or gardens on the roof. Prompted by Marchand, Naparstek promised to look into the possibility of putting in a community garden in the courtyard (pictured). Marchand also discovered that the building will not be LEED certified, but developers are working to make it energy efficient.
Bomengen said three locations will have outdoor bike parking available, plus elevator-accessible space for 50 bikes in the basement of Winchester Lofts.
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The city really should help push statewide for 30% or 40% affordable makeup, in future projects. More than half of the population in this city needs an affordable unit.
Good luck leaving your bike outside there overnight. (Good thing, though, that there will be at least some indoor bike storage).
Good that Marchand now cares about too much parking. (Too bad he wasn’t willing to spend a penny on bringing a steetcar to town).
I think this is good news. Create the demand for retail first and it will find the people.
Science Park will take a while to fully develop but it’s clearly moving in the right direction. I would only add that the IH zone on the west side needs to be changed to permit a mix of light industrial/residential/live-work.
“It’s clear from looking across the street that the area can’t support more retail.”
But once there are all these residential units, why wouldn’t that change?
Especially if the new residents DON’T happen to have 2 cars per household. In fact, having retail right next to their residences would make it far less necessary for them to have those 2 cars per household.
The slow, slow process of teaching city-dwelling Americans to think in terms of walking out your front door and there is a store, a restaurant, a school, a dry cleaner, not just blocks and blocks of houses with cars in their driveways ... really needs to pick up speed. New Haven should be leading here, and we still are not.
Points well taken. What you describe is what I experienced why living in Europe way back when. Keep in mind that cities are always in a state of flux and what you describe will happen in due time as long as the City keeps building these types of things. Parking lots have a shelf life.
Why not put a carport over the parking lot and have that structure have a rooftop garden on it? Hell they could probably charge tenants for a 10x10 plot they get to plant a garden of their own in.