Hill Alderwoman Dolores Colon liked the European-style square, the rooftop gardens and farms, and the posh new hotel proposed for New Haven’s next downtown big development—as long as it has a union label.
Colon was giving an early but positive response Thursday night as she hosted the first open-to-the-general public meeting about a $250-$300 million plan to build of the old Coliseum site redevelopment plan drawn up by the city’s preferred developer, LiveWorkLearnPlay.
About 75 people from all around town gathered in the cafeteria of the Hill Central School Thursday night to hear the pitch of the Montreal-based LiveWorkLearnPlay team for how to turn the four and a half acre graveyard of the old New Haven Coliseum (now a parking lot) into a future “destination” as well as a “gateway.”
The builders hope to construct 524 residences in five-to-six story mixed income buildings with retail all along the landscaped streets; a distinctive hotel rising on the corner of MLK Boulevard and Orange Street that would run along Orange across the Connector into the Hill; an office tower on State Street; a fitness center; a public square vibrant with community-planned events; and a"laneway” with spots for 35 “best of the best” entrepreneurial, unique, carefully screened New Haven businesses.
Click here for more details in a previous story on the plan as unveiled before the New Haven Development Commission last month; and here for how it previously played to the Downtown/Wooster Square Management Team.
Planners now need approvals from both the city and state, and LWLP needs to find the money, to pull it off. Officials said the project is seeking no public subsidy at this point; at a later point they plan to discuss whether to help the developer add affordable housing.
Alderwoman Colon called the plans “positive, well matched for New Haven.” She cautioned thought that the hotel needs provide living0wage jobs. “Hope it’s a union hotel to make for people to be able to earn a living,” she said.
Right now the site is a surface parking lot. LWLP’s Max Reim said he aims to transform it into a spot not for cars but for fun human activities, a destination for concerts, running clubs, yoga work-outs out, a place to meet your pals again again for the the greatest bagel of their lives, a hub of local and regional activity, and a new gateway to the Elm City. In the process, he said, he hopes create hundreds of new jobs .
When Reim and his colleagues finished limning their proposed plans and the hoped-for benefits, a general murmur of approval came from the room. They fielded no public questions. Instead they invited any and all suggestions via tete-a-tetes while participants also took in ample sandwiches, cookies, and coffee.
Eric Daniel (pictured) introduced himself as the represented of the Greater New Haven Business and Professional Association,which represents African-American businessmen and contractors. Would Reim address his group so they might be able to get in on the opportunities potentially opening up? Daniel asked.
“Be my pleasure. Consider it done,” Reim responded as he and Daniel exchanged business cards.
The new general manager of the New Haven Hotel two blocks up George Street, Michael Scandariato, dropped by to see what kind of hotel Reim wanted to attract to the site.
“Brand or boutique?” he asked.
“Flag hotel,” replied Reim. He told Scandariato that recently he tried to get a room at the new manager’s hotel, but it was filled up. The city needs more hotel space, Reim said. The two men exchanged cards.
Is An Orange Street Crossing Essential?
Reim said he liked suggestions he has heard so far from the public. One person who proposed a jewelry store with New Haven-inspired wares. Other people have proposed what he described as “a celebration of Hispanic food and flavors at a seasonal market” in the development.
City economic development officer Chris Canna said the next stop for the LWLP road show is a private meeting with the New Haven state legislative delegation because a centerpiece of the plan—extending Orange Street across a dismantled Route 34 and re-connecting it to the streetscape of the Hill—is vital to LWLP’s vision.
He said City Plan staff has been working diligently with the state Department of Transportation on related traffic and engineering issues.“We’re doing everything we can to get the Orange Street crossing,” Canna said.
He described it as indispensable to the current configuration of the project, but not necessarily a vision breaker should it not come to pass.
“Personally, I’m very optimistic,” he said.
No date has yet been set for the meeting with the state delegation.
posted by: Righteous Cyclist on June 7, 2013 7:11am
I learned a great deal about civics from alderwomen Colon during the High Street sale.
I’m not union, so I don’t care about Union Jobs. I’m not in the Hill, so I don’t care about economic development there.
They can bulldoze the houses on Congress ave for a highway flyover, and start dumping nuclear waste in west river for all I care, because I. Don’t go there. In fact, let’s sell off the Boulevard to Yale in exchange for $200,000.
Can we get better aldermen?
posted by: swatty on June 7, 2013 7:12am
Wow. This would transform the area - and the city! This org seems to have gotten it! Their past successes are very impressive.
Cudos go to our Economic Dev and LCI for all their hard work. These folks are doing amazing work for the city!
Can’t wait to see this area revitalized!
posted by: Josh Levinson on June 7, 2013 7:28am
I don’t understand Alderwoman Colon’s demand for union jobs for a living wage. Aren’t Unions only necessary when employers don’t treat their employees well. Isn’t it possible to pay a living wage without a union?
Personally my employer has treated us pretty well and there’s never been a real need to organize. Unions definitely have their place and remain a important part of allowing workers to organize and look out for themselves, but to demand them as an absolute starting point seems crazy to me.
posted by: robn on June 7, 2013 7:49am
Once again, BOA member Delores Colon, who is also a member of union Local 34, blatantly crosses the conflict of interest line.
posted by: anonymous on June 7, 2013 8:31am
Swatty, the corner office tower should be offered to a company such as Google or Facebook. They are opening large satellite offices in many smaller cities and college towns.
posted by: Righteous Cyclist on June 7, 2013 8:35am
It’s not so much a conflict of interest, as it’s a disregard for everything outside of a narrow interest agenda. We’ve traded one system of cronyism and patronage for another.
Now the Yunion will put its considerable resources behind Senator Harp, and we’ll have another corrupt administration, aloof and condescending toward the majority of constituents.
C.R.E.A.M, dollar dollar bills, ya’ll.
posted by: Curious on June 7, 2013 9:04am
Robn and others….
Anyone concerned about the behavior or conflict of interest of a member of Local 34 can look them up at Yale and drop them an email.
Also, the City of New Haven has a clear Code of Conduct on the website.
Please feel free to cite any violations and make them actionable!
posted by: SaveOurCity on June 7, 2013 10:24am
The only needs now are city approval, state approval, and funding. In other words its somewhere between a dream and an idea right now.
After the bait and switch tax deal at 360 State, it will take a very naive investor to write a check for this.
posted by: TheMadcap on June 7, 2013 11:33am
Now the real question is will it be done within the next decade. I mean how many of us looked at Rt.34 for years thinking “Oh, they’re finally going to do something with it soon”
posted by: Stephen Harris on June 7, 2013 12:02pm
This rendering looks better than the last one which showed the square as an intersection. The square now has some enclosure making it look like an outdoor room. I hope they find the funding because it looks to be a great development.
posted by: K Harrison on June 7, 2013 8:33pm
It seems so early in this process. SaveOurCity, I laughed at your phrase: “somewhere between a dream and idea.” For example, look at those imaginary pictures! With trees on top! Why do I think the trees will not make it to the final stage? Architects need to stop putting imaginary trees on the tops of their buildings.
The affordable housing mention is a good one. I want to see the process stick to that all the way through. Let’s keep thinking of this development as something that can serve all kinds of people in New Haven, just as we keep in mind the need for investors to see returns.
posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on June 7, 2013 11:12pm
New Haven must be more business friendly. Every time a developer shows interest in New Haven, special interests show up to DEMAND payoffs or union jobs. Alderwoman Colon is bad for New Haven. A real disgrace. She ought to stop holding people up.
There’s a reason why the coliseum is still a parking lot and its because of people like Colon. Let the market determine if the jobs will be union or not.
Eric Daniel has a much better approach. He’s formed a professional organization and is ASKING for an opportunity. Businesses and developers are like the rest of us; they like to help people but hate being bullied or threatened.
posted by: TheMadcap on June 8, 2013 1:23pm
The coliseum is still a parking lot because no one was even going to seriously look at the site until the Rt.34 project was planned and set in stone and the whole economy crashing into the ground the year after the coliseum was imploded doesn’t help. It’s like once Downtown Crossing was finalized and the economy started to pick up, we suddenly started seeing stories about investors being really interested in the site, such as this one!
posted by: Dew U Getit on June 8, 2013 7:20pm
Looks good on paper, but why don’t we put it out to bid for contractors, union or not. With those bids you can do background checks on low bidders to insure quality or is that to much work for our alder’s. Also, wheres the parking for this? Hard enough to find parking in this city, never-mind business suppliers and landscapers for your garden. What about security? Is the over worked police department going to add to the force?