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Builder Agrees To 2-Month Delay
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 3, 2012 8:09 am
Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Housing, Dwight
The developer of a controversial 136-unit Chapel West apartment building agreed to postpone his planned project by a couple of months. He agreed to add add some more brick to the facade and put awnings on the first floor.
But he’s not budging on the amount of parking, or on his plans to take down a historic house.
Randy Salvatore (pictured) made those positions clear at a meeting of the Dwight Community Management Team meeting Tuesday evening. He showed up to pitch his plan to build a large new apartment building at the corner of Chapel and Howe streets.
On a 53,000-square-foot lot made up of what is now three separate properties, Salvatore hopes to build a five-story apartment building with a retail space on part of the first floor. He’d finance the project privately, with no public money or tax breaks, he said.
The area now comprises a parking lot (pictured) and three historic houses, two of which Salvatore proposes to renovate. The other house, at 1249 Chapel St., would be torn down.
Salvatore first pitched his plan to the general public last month at a meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), where he put in a request for 10 different zoning variances. The BZA is scheduled to vote on that next week.
Salvatore had some strong support at the BZA meeting. He also faced some stiff neighborhood opposition from neighbors concerned about too much or too little parking, among other objections. The opposition followed the proposal to its next public airing at the City Plan Commission a week later, where the tenants of 1249 Chapel testified against the plan.
On Tuesday night, Salvatore addressed some of the concerns that have been raised about his proposal, but made it clear that he’s not going to change some key components.
Most notably, Salvatore volunteered to delay submitting a site plan for review by the City Plan Commission by two months so that he can sit down with neighbors and work on addressing their concerns.
Dwight Alderman Frank Douglass is also pushing for a public hearing on the plan. He has submitted a proposal to that effect to the Board of Aldermen.
Several dozen people braved pouring rain to hear Salvatore’s pitch Tuesday evening, delivered in the gym of the Amistad school on Edgewood Avenue.
Salvatore said he’s trying to balance community needs with “economic feasibility.” He said he’s confident he can get bank financing—with his own equity—behind the plan as it is. That includes demolishing 1249 Chapel (pictured), he said. If the house stays where it is, “we couldn’t build the project.”
Salvatore said he tried to buy the property on the other side of 1249 Chapel but was outbid. He said he’s heard “through the grapevine” that the people who did buy have not been able to finance the construction they were looking to do.
“If I can acquire that property, I’ll relocate the house over there,” he said. “I can’t let it stay where it is if this project is to go forward.”
He said if anyone wants to move the house, he’d donate the money he was going to pay for demolition towards the cost of relocation.
Salvatore said he’s changed the plan for the first floor of his building so that the facade would better conceal the parking there. He said he’d put up “canopies” to make it look more like retail space. There would be lit windows, possibly with photos in them, he said.
If it turns out after construction that the planned 90 parking spaces is more than is needed, the first-floor space could easily be converted into retail, Salvatore said.
He showed off some new renderings depicting added brick on the building’s corners, which he said was a request of some neighbors.
He promised to sit down with a group of people who are still concerned, not to meet all their demands, but at least to tell them why he can’t.
“I’d love to become an active part of this community,” he said. “I have no desire to be an adversary to anyone.”
During a question-and-answer period, 1249 Chapel tenant Akimi Palitz (pictured) asked Salvatore why he can’t build taller and narrower, thus sparing her home.
Salvatore replied that it wouldn’t be economically feasible. If the building were any taller, it would need to be made entirely of steel and concrete, increasing his construction costs by 50 percent, he said.
Susan Bradford, who owns the apartment building next door on Howe Street, asked if Salvatore would retain ownership of his building after it’s up.
“It’s not my intention to sell,” Salvatore replied. He said that “at certain times you exit” when “markets dictate,” but that he has no plans to do so.
Neighbor Olivia Martson (pictured) raised concerns about a “dead zone” on the street, where there would be no retail, only parking on the first floor.
“I can’t have less than 90 spaces,” Salvatore said. The bank won’t finance the project with fewer spaces, he said. “My opinion on that is not going to change.”
The alternative is to have the parking lot sit there for another 35 years, Salvatore said.
Florita Gillespie (pictured), chair of the management team and a champion of the new building, volunteered to set up a meeting between Martson and Salvatore and others. “Let us move forward,” she said. “We want to make our community a livable nice place to live and work.”
What about the BZA vote next week? Martson asked.
Carolyn Kone, Salvatore’s lawyer, said that can’t change. The BZA has already heard all the public testimony it will hear and will go forward with the vote.
“We want you here,” Martson told Salvatore as the meeting ended. “It’s not like we don’t want you here.”
Celeste Greer, who lives in 1249 Chapel, said she found the meeting frustrating. Palitz, her housemate, agreed. She said Salvatore is refusing to make needed changes to his plan, while using the threat of walking away and leaving the neighborhood with a parking lot as leverage to force his vision through.
Bradford said she’s still hoping the BZA will vote to deny the variance requests. If the board doesn’t, she’ll probably appeal the decision, she said.
“Nothing is going to make everyone happy,” Salvatore said. “Unfortunately some people just don’t like change.”
Tags: Chapel West, Randy Salvatore, parking, BZA, City Plan, zoning, development, Dwight Management Team
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Let me just say it (because it’s the kind of thing people don’t write in comments): this is good news.
I have trouble believing the bank would not agree to give up a few parking spots though if the developer pushed for it.
People need to understand that this isn’t a 360 State, or even a Winchester or Downtown crossing-style process. This is a private development, not taking a dime from the city or state.
So while community input is a good thing to help inform the developer to put something in more amenable to the area, ultimately Mr. Salvatore is free to put in whatever BZA and City Plan allow him to put up.
Also, don’t forget there are some pretty large rental unit owners who face added competition where they previously enjoyed many years of having the neighborhood to themselves, who are likely in opposition to this.
Ding dong, I’m actually almost certain that if the bank is requiring something like parking, then there isn’t much that can be done to “push back.” Bank financing these days is pretty black and white, and a project of this size, like has some stringent demands. That being said, totally enclosing the parking, and designing so that retail can be added in the future, I think is the best compromise going forward.
At the end of the day, a giant parking lot is going to be turned into an apartment building with ground floor retail, further making Chapel west a livable walkable community. How is this not a good thing?
I agree with Pedro, this is a great development. The “historic” building on Chapel should be torn down or moved, as the benefits of filling in a parking lot and making Chapel Street more vibrant and safe more than outweigh that cost.
However, going forward, residents should stand up for themselves and get City Hall to eliminate parking requirements, as many other cities have done. Eventually the banks will catch up.
The costs of NOT eliminating parking requirements are more cars traveling through the Hill and Dwight, which are already overburdened with pollution and traffic (which directly leads to many dead and asthmatic infants). These costs are too great to ignore and we must do something immediately. If we don’t change the regulations, we’ll see more traffic, and more dead infants.
City Hall doesn’t care because literally not a single person who works there lives in the neighborhoods that are impacted by this. Witness how they approved this, around the corner:
Get Ready to Stop & Pump, and Give Local Kids Cancer:
The developer needs to be aware that he can’t change his plan on the fly. The Board is set to vote on the proposal as presented. There can be some tweaking at site plan review, but no substantial changes from what the Board will approve.
Anon, your comment about the city not caring about infants is a bit too much. That corner was never going to have a house built on it. Sometimes you take the development you can get, even if its not ideal.
Stephen, I disagree. This is probably not the place to debate a different development from the subject of this piece, but since it is a block away maybe it is relevant - the fact is that gas stations are not allowed next to buildings full of children in many other places, and if the gas station had been proposed next to a nursery school full of rich children, it would never have moved forward. People will be dying as a direct result of that choice. The choice is in conflict with every previous citizen plan for that area, and there’s a good reason for that. The issue is that those voices were ignored.
Your comment that “a house never would have been built there” seems very odd to me - in many other cities, building an affordable housing development there, bordered by a nice park, would be a perfectly normal thing to do.
posted by: BenBerkowitz on October 3, 2012 6:52pm
This is an interesting proposal regarding the moving of the home. I wonder if there are enough historic buffs in New Haven area who would want to donate to the relocation of the home. Kickstarteresque campaign anyone?
posted by: Save1249Chapel on October 3, 2012 8:08pm
The redesign presented at the meeting is still a giant rectangle that is too large for the plot of land Mr. Salvatore is trying to build it on. I think it is actually a downgrade from what was presented at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. He wants to swap windows out for faux storefronts along the border of the proposed parking garage and Chapel. Neighborhood safety is aided by eyes on the streets. Awnings over pictures will not detract from crime. The windows to the parking garage are better because people might witness and report crime on the street from the garage, or vice versa.
At the meeting Mr. Salvatore tried to make the argument that the house at 1249 Chapel is not an active use of the street and does not reduce crime. As a resident, I can say that the residents have witnessed and reported crime occurring on the street. We see out our windows, are outside gardening, sitting on the back balconies, and I like to sit outside and draw with sidewalk chalk on the front walkway.
The area currently has yard space that people from around the block use, which will be eliminated by the apartment building. A neighbor using that space deterred someone trying to break into the house, and was ready to call the police on our behalf.
Mr. Salvatore has not thought about how his building design could foster or deter crime. He is refusing to make any changes to his plan that are not purely aesthetic. It is a shame he has convinced people that this is how the design has to be by drawing arbitrary lines of economic feasibility. Scaling down the building would be better for the neighborhood, would save the house, and would be less expensive. It’s a great corner that would host a quality residential building that would be profitable. It does not need to be a giant rectangle. The city needs to do its job and make sure the building plan respects the needs of the neighborhood.
I find it curious that the collective Dwight - Management Team aka Development Corp aka Investment Corp - are such ardent supporters of this developer who has had some recent and very rotten reviews on a like project in Stamford. Makes me think a large donation to one of those 501-C3’s must have been made to garner such adoration. Probably needed the cash to help them with their new gas station development on the land the city just gave them for one dollar so they can collect some more rent from Stop and Shop. God knows how all that works behind the curtain and who really benefits in the end.
This developer seems to be very well connected to the institutional real estate investment crowd. Can’t build’em and flip’em fast enough I bet! I think the Dwight collective is kidding itself if it really thinks RMS will be sticking around to be a part of the “community”. What’s gonna get stuck is the neighborhood - with a monster building that overwhelms the corner - and - a monster problem once some distant investment company that has no pride of ownership except its net income, runs the place into the ground. From the view of the tenants in Stamford, that won’t be hard to do and soon to come.
I would not worry about having a parking lot there for “another 35 years” either. I’m sure Joel Schiavone could find another buyer shortly, if he’s willing to take a little less profit on the sale. The changes proposed Tuesday night are not substantive and along with the two-month delay, are just ploys to smooth things politically. Both are pointless if ZBA approves this thing. The ZBA needs to say NO to the ten variances and special exception until there is a plan of reduced size and scale that would remedy all opposition.
This was a rather rushed meeting. There were many more questions to be asked and comments to be made.
I heard no one discuss the awkward traffic situation that will arise due to the Dwight Street entrance to the parking lot. All cars using this entrance must necessarily traverse the intersection of Edgewood and Dwight…an awkward intersection historically plagued with frequent traffic accidents. This plan will only exacerbate those problems.
Mr Salvatore’s repeated use of “economic unfeasibility” as an excuse to fend off complaints about reducing the number of units, reducing the number of parking spaces and the necessity of demolishing a perfectly lovely home in which the tenants seem perfectly happy, rings hollow to me in view of the fact that an excellent plan for that corner already exists! All Mr. Salvatore has to do is pay attention to Chapel West’s plan for the entire corridor drawn up by architect Dean Sakamoto in 2006. This master plan addresses the objections to Mr. Salvatore’s project.
Obviously Mr. Salvatore will profit somewhat less by adhering to a plan that addresses neighbors’ concerns, but he will gain in regard and stature. Let’s hope that’s important to him.
Sven , you are correct that the developer should be asked for funds to help add traffic calming to the Dwight Edgewood intersection.
To the person who told me in a previous article that the property was well cared for and no longer had a lawn full of straggling weeds….it wasn’t true, and the photo above proves it. Five-foot weeds towering over others is not a picture of a well-maintained property. I don’t care if the back is nice, out front it looks like it’s all but abandoned.
ConcernedCitizen, can you provide more information about the project in Stamford you wrote about? Perhaps a link or other reference? Thanks.
HhE, see links below. In case the links do not post well, the website is apartmentratings.com and the property is The Blvd, 1201 Washington Blvd, Stamford, CT. It was built and sold quickly in 2011 using the broker in the second link, Institutional Property Advisors, institutionalpropertyadvisors.com. Mr. Salvatore indicated Tuesday night that he retained an ownership interest to some extent, but denied any responsibility for its current management.
posted by: Save1249Chapel on October 5, 2012 11:07am
Dear Garden Police,
The owner wants to make a buck off the house’s destruction, so why would he put effort into making the garden nice? As a tenant, maintaining the garden is not my responsibility, but I do take on tasks because I love the house. I rake that yard out every spring and plant sunflowers. This year the sunflowers didn’t work out so I didn’t put as much effort in.
The ‘weeds’ you’re referring to started growing in the spring. I kept them around because I was curious as to whether they were saplings that would grow into trees or if they were one of the species of plant that are used to make the type of sunflower I was growing last year. Sunflowers are hybrids their seeds can produce whatever plants were hybridized to make them. I’m a science nerd. Sorry I was curious. Now that they’ve grown up a bit, I’m pretty sure they are a sunflower hybrid making plant. Now that I know, I’ll take them down since it seems to bother you so much.
If you’d like, you can click the Save1249Chapel link and see pictures of the sunflowers I grew. They were really tall!
Gardening is a relaxing activity. You’re welcome to plant a corner of my garden if the house isn’t knocked down. You seem a little uptight worrying so much about other people’s plants. I think it might be good for you.
Thank you ConcernedCitizen. The first link was particularly telling.
It is an ugly building, and the extra brick only helps a little. I find the scale not unsound given some of the other apartment buildings, but the issues of owning over false store fronts and all that would have me giving a resounding “NO!” if I were to make the call.