$600M Yale Expansion Gets Final OK

Allan Appel PhotoThree walkways will connect the Greenway trail and the new campus. No gates will block the walkway linking the Greenway to Prospect Street. And a temporary landscaped area with raised picnic tables will sprout at Sachem and Prospect until the theater slated for that corner is designed and built.

These were some of the minor changes that emerged Wednesday night as the City Plan Commission unanimously approved a detailed site plan review for Yale University’s $600 million new mini-campus just north of the Grove Street Cemetery.

Ground is already being readied for the two new residential colleges, temporarily dubbed North College and South College, in an arrowhead shaped seven-acre plot of land between Sachem, Prospect, Canal Street, and the Farmington Canal Greenway.

The two colleges are the first the university has created in 50 years. The two, to be built in the same faux-Gothic style of the current campus, are to house 800 students and open for academic business in 2015.

“There are no material changes since the PDD [Planned Development District] approval in October,” said Yale Major Project Planner Alice Raucher.

Click here for a story with a fuller description of the colleges and the initial passage of the PDD. (A PDD is a zoning change created by the city to aid development.) It passed the City Plan Commission in October last year.

The Board of Aldermen’s Legislation Committee approved the plans in December. The full board gave its blessing in January 2011. Click here for an article on that meeting.

Courtesy Illustration.At the initial site plan review in October, several commissioners had expressed concerns that “Prospect Walkway” linking Prospect Street to the Greenway on the west be open to the public and welcoming.

Aldermanic representative Justin Elicker briefly revisited those concerns Wednesday night with Yale Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Lauren Zucker:

Elicker: “The walkway’s for everyone? No gates, no closed access?”

Zucker: “Currently no gates—open.”

Elicker: “‘Currently’?”

Zucker: “No plan for them.”

He also touched lightly on the status of the theater planned for the corner of Sachem and Prospect, even though that was not part of the night’s submission, as it has not yet been designed.

When Elicker asked for a timeline, Zucker replied, “We’re focused on the colleges now; we’ll come back [for the theater design approvals].”

Raucher said that until that emerges, a temporary interim landscape plan for the theater area on the corner has been decided upon. The beech tree currently at the corner will be preserved. Around it, on a raised circular concrete slab or platform reached by steps from the street, will be tables and eating and gathering areas.

A green screen of trees and vines that can be illuminated at night will connect this temporary area to the college structures. “We’re treading lightly on [the temporary] site,” Raucher said after the meeting.

The unanimous approval came with a handful of minor conditions including that Yale work out a more detailed pedestrian and vehicular plan for the Winchester/Sachem intersection; a signage plan for the colleges be submitted to City Plan before design; and a fuller interim landscape plan for the corner theater site be submitted within six months.

Elicker called on Yale and City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg to consider putting in a stop sign at the Winchester/Salem intersection and to consider other safety measures for the many cyclists who use that route to the Greenway trail.

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posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on November 17, 2011  9:31am

What’s with the apparently unmown grass in the computer renderings?  Are they planning wildflower “meadows” rather than lawns?  That would be intriguing, but you’ve got to wonder how they would stand up to foot traffic.

The “fake Gothic” is a hell of a lot nicer than the awful glass-and-steel of the new SOM.  Kind of a funny-looking tower, though.  Do I recall something about it’s going to have a ring of English bells, for change-ringing?  Or did I dream that up?

posted by: robn on November 17, 2011  9:54am

Thus Yale zooms forward into the 18th century.

posted by: Pedro Soto on November 17, 2011  10:07am

It really looks like 2015 is going to be a pretty amazing year of change for New Haven—The new colleges will be complete, the Q-Bridge will be open, the connector will be dead and buried under at least one new building, and (hopefully!) projects like the Coliseum site, Church Street South, and the work at Union Station should be on their way to being realized and/or complete.

This is to say nothing about the projects that will be already complete by then, such as Evans Hall and Gateway Community College, and the Winchester buildout.

Say what you will about these projects (and I’ve said a lot), these are pretty amazing things to be happening in an economic environment such as this. As the city and the nation recovers, I sincerely hope that this is just the start of an even greater transformation!

posted by: HhE on November 17, 2011  10:15am

Robn, your comment gave me a smile, but better that than a new airport terminal (SOM).

posted by: Westville Mom on November 17, 2011  12:25pm

Nice renderings ... does anyone know if the modeling was done in Revit?

posted by: westville man on November 17, 2011  1:05pm

What I’d be most interested to know is what we’ve lost off the tax rolls (if we did) for this project. Nice to worry about walking and biking through, but what about the tax base that yale is gobbling up.
My recollection is that one of the houses went for over 1 million dollars when it sold to Yale. Is the annual tax revenue lost now?

posted by: robn on November 17, 2011  1:24pm


Touche mon frere!

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 17, 2011  1:36pm

While I’m extremely displeased with the demolition that occurred for the construction of these college and Yale’s unwillingness to spend a few pennies of $600 million project to move some historically and architecturally significant houses to another location (perhaps vacant lots in Dixwell), I am very excited to see if Stern’s firm can design buildings that stand up to Roger’s very high bar. From the renderings it appears that Stern’s design will be adding something contemporary to the gothic architectural language in the same way that the collegiate gothic of the 20s and 30s built from the Gothic Revival of England and the American version of the 1860s, as well as Saarinen’s medieval gothic inspired colleges. I also hope that the contractors are up to the task of constructing these buildings correctly.

Westville man,
I’m pretty sure that all of this land has been owned by Yale for a long time and was already tax exempt. I might be wrong though.

posted by: dm on November 17, 2011  2:09pm

@westville mom—Almost all of the properties previously and currently on that site are Yale-owned.  So, there is basically no loss of tax base on this project.

posted by: Freedom of The People on November 17, 2011  2:09pm

Yale is one of few who have the money to do large developments or anything for that matter in this economic climate. I always think of the slave funds made and how much that looks in relation to their total worth as an institution in this day in age. I think about the families who for centuries profited off of chattel slavery and have sent their kids and great great greats to yale and donated money yearly to the cause of the institution I’m just another succesfull african american looking at reality behind wealth in america and the ACTUAL source of that wealth and how many white americans actually think that they did everything on there own because of some natural resource from the sky some time ago and even in this present day.

posted by: westville man on November 17, 2011  2:57pm

If this project encompasses the house at 94 Prospect Street, near the corner of trumbull st intersection, then that was a private, million dollar plus home that Yale purchase 5 or so years ago. A law firm that owned it hit the lottery when Yale purchased it. And it will be now be off the tax rolls.
If it doesn’t include that location, then i stand corrected.

posted by: RobS on November 17, 2011  3:25pm

The property was tax exempt (not all property owned by the University is - just educational uses, which the previous uses were), so no change there.  There will be increase to the City in revenue from this project in three ways:
1) building permit fees, which should be in the seven figures,
2) State PILOT dollars - figure 50-60% of the value if the property were taxable (this revenue is from the State, so taxpayers foot the bill - mainly our friends down in Fairfield County - not Yale, but it’s still revenue to the City), and
3) Yale’s Voluntary Payment.  Back in 2004 or 2005 when it started, the formula was $250 times the number of resident students and full time employees (FTEs), indexed for inflation and adjusted every three years for new student and FTE numbers.  So that’s a minimum of $200,000 annually plus the inflation adjustment since 2004, as well as any FTEs added with these buildings.

That’s in addition to economic impact, construction jobs, etc.

posted by: Westville Mom on November 17, 2011  3:30pm

[dm—I think your post contained a typo, but just for the record, I have no connection to “westville man”, whoever he is.]

No one (that I know of, anyway) wishes to diminish the tragic history of slavery in this nation—however perpetuating the myth of “collective guilt” with regard to a generic “white” population is itself a form of discrimination and prejudice and I find it highly offensive.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The word “slave” derived originally from the the enslavement of the “slavs”—not the Africans, and they were not black.  Many groups of people have been oppressed, murdered, and discriminated against—not the least of which have been and continue to be women. I have experienced blatant discrimination myself—and not once, but many times. 

The ancestors of most of the people I know, including myself, came to this country long after slavery ended.  They did not “profit” off of anybody, but rather toiled in lowly jobs, grew their own vegetables, made their own soap.  My own grandparents never learned to drive and never owned a car.  Same for my mother, God rest her soul.  None of them even graduated from high school.  In order to profit “off of” somebody, you have to have a profit!  Not everyone who attends an elite university is descended from the Colonists or is rich and that should be obvious to anyone who reads.  I did and I paid for most of it myself.

And I’m sick and tired of people claiming we somehow “owe” others for the very streets we drive on.  If anyone ever read the printed word, they probably “owe” several of my male ancestors/relatives who labored for decades at low wages in a printing machinery factory.  This is absurd logic.

I’m frankly bored and excruciatingly weary with the politics of oppression.  And I dare say it’s part of the entire “attitude” problem with this country right now.  Is it that we “can’t” or that we “won’t?”

Yale is far from perfect and I have my own criticisms of its practices, based on my own ideas of policies that could be improved—but trying to dredge up the history of slavery in connection with some new buildings at Yale is, quite honestly, a real stretch.

At the very least, with 800 new students, New Haven will benefit from 800 new consumers each year, 800 new families to serve as tourists and visitors, and 800 additional alums to come back and patronize restaurants and bars—each year and for many years to come.

The real concern should be—what happens to New Haven if Yale somehow loses its financial footing?  It may seem crazy, but if the student loan bubble bursts in the major way some have predicted and/or if a worldwide depression hits, as some others have predicted, New Haven’s golden goose might stop laying its golden eggs.  Then New Haven residents won’t have the Endowment to kick around any more and might have to seriously examine and re-evaluate themselves.  Perish the thought.

posted by: I thought Yale was poor? on November 17, 2011  3:36pm

I wonder, if after spending $600 million on this project, will Yale actually increase their staffing to accommodate for the increased work load.

posted by: anon on November 17, 2011  7:04pm

It’s almost like another college landed in New Haven.  This will be a national news story when it breaks ground.

Few cities are seeing projects of this scale, especially ones that will have such an enormous long term economic impact.

To prepare for the impact of this, Yale has already scaled up staff and faculty in some areas. They will be adding hundreds more positions. There is a report on the Yale website that explains all of this in great detail.

posted by: HhE on November 18, 2011  12:31am

To be sure, robn, the SOM building sets the bar very low.  Unless Yale built a strip mall and some quonset huts as its new colleges, it was sure to better than that disaster.  I do think the SOM building might work as Idlewild Airport’s terminal 9.

I agree, Johnathan Hopkins, that it is a shame that Yale did not move the good buildings on the site.  Yale may be mindful of its traditions and history, but it is brutal on its beautiful buildings.

At the end of the day, I think this will be good for New Haven.  This will create more employment, more business for local merchants, and let’s not forget the increase in the local brain trust—perhaps our greatest asset.

posted by: Stephen Harris on November 18, 2011  10:05am

In my mind Gothic is the apex of western architecture.

The SoM is horrible as is the new High School on Water Street. I still can’t figure out how that passed muster.

posted by: robn on November 18, 2011  12:00pm

At least an airport is considered to be a metaphor for the future. I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised when the SOM is finished.

posted by: anon on November 18, 2011  1:29pm

Robn is correct that SOM will probably raise the bar for how to do a large building.  It may not end up being quite as pleasant as Kroon Hall, the new Yale Police HQ, or the water plant on Whitney, but those are much smaller scale achievements.

posted by: HhE on November 23, 2011  7:32pm

Stephen Harris, I should like to add Late Victorian Houses and Beaux arts to that.  I think the answer to your question is strong drink, arrogance, threats, and the fear to telling architects that the Emperor is stark naked AND in need of a bath.  As bad as it is, the original version of the SOM building was so bad, the Yale Board of Trusties told Norman Foster to go back and get it right, and not fob of the work on one of his associates.

Robn, good point, but still a bad building.  That said, I’ll take “Pan Am” over “Mad Men” any day (it’s my guilty pleasure).  I should like to be pleasantly surprised, but my experience tells me the drawing usually looks much better than the real thing, and when my four year olds bring their A game, they do better than the plans for the SOM.

Anon, I am sorry, but I have no idea what you are on about.  Kroon Hall is a beautiful building with much to commend it.  Yale Police HQ shows how a University building can be a great asset to the community even if it reads as a stack of Amtrak cars.  The water plant is interesting, but it hardly blends.  When the novelty wears off, and it pretty much already has for me, it become a metal tube lying in some weds.  As much as I should like to see the SOM move into the same league as HBS and North Western, the only thing to be said for its new building it that the parking is being moved underground.