Hotel Builder Woos Wooster Square & Downtown

The latest stop on the Marriott Residence Inn’s neighborhood appeasement tour: downtown and Wooster Square.

Developer Douglas Cohen spoke to the neighborhoods’ community management team at City Hall Wednesday night to provide updates on the planning process and solicit feedback on how to proceed with the proposed six-story 115-room extended-stay inn he hopes to build on Elm and Howe streets. Two weeks earlier, he had made a similar stop at the Dwight Management Team, the first since formally withdrawing plans in the face of neighborhood opposition.

Aliyya Swaby Photo“Nothing is set in stone,” Cohen, president of Newport Hotel Group, told the gathering Wednesday night about his evolving revised plans.

The original proposal had sought two zoning changes, to install 215 instead of 267 parking spaces and to build a larger structure than permitted. Now that he has heard from the community, Cohen said, he concluded he needs to ask for two more exceptions—one to keep a 10-foot gap between the proposed Residence Inn and a neighbor’s building on the north side, and another to back a trash truck out over the sidewalk.

The management team’s response was generally positive.

Hill Alder Dolores Colon asked Cohen if he had brought the newer proposal to Dwight neighbors, who had opposed the perceived lack of community involvement throughout the original process.

“I wanted to make sure you started at the source,” Colon said.

Cohen said he had and would probably have another conversation with them as the project continued to evolve.

Anstress Farwell, head of the Urban Design League, suggested the developers figure out a way to make sure cars enter and exit the parking lot on Howe Street without endangering pedestrians, “so the driver doesn’t just pop out onto the sidewalk.”

Cohen said he will take that into account. He said the proposed plan would eliminated all “curb cuts” on Elm Street, which means a net positive of on-street parking spaces.

Farwell said that besides a few design details, she was happy with the proposal, which “relates equally to the Dwight neighborhood and Broadway district.”

Cohen said he would ideally start construction by next spring—assuming this time around, with more public support, he gets approvals from city planners and zoners.

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posted by: Brian Tang on November 21, 2014  2:33pm

If they are going to get a waiver from having to replant street trees, can they at least be required to offset that stormwater impact through a green roof, grey water reuse, bioretentions, or other stormwater mitigation measures?

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 21, 2014  3:37pm

Important data points from the meeting:

1. The equivalent of forty full-time jobs, with the majority of them set to go to New Haveners. (Cohen said that two-thirds of the workforce of his New Haven Hotel and also his Marriott Courtyard, come from the city.)

2. Hundreds of thousands of needed tax dollars. (One current Newport Group hotel pays $450,000/year, the other $550,000/year.)

3. If this hotel was zoned CBD, (Central Business District), there would be no parking requirements whatsoever.

4. Some neighbors have asked that ZipCars be included in this project, which would be convenient for both hotel guests and neighbors.

Finally I want to point out that if City workers want to continue getting raises, we need to continue working hard to build the tax base. Mayor Harp knows that we can’t push property taxes any higher, without the risk of tipping the cart and driving middle-class folks out of New Haven.

posted by: Bradley on November 21, 2014  8:09pm

Brian, I don’t think there was a request in the original application for a waiver from the Parks Department tree replacement policy. The issue did not come up in this meeting.

While the stormwater mitigation measures you mentioned are all useful, I don’t think the zoning code requires any of them. A number of developers, here and elsewhere, are including them in part because they can be used in marketing developments.

Anderson Scooper, you may recall that Cohen noted that he was supportive of having ZipCars on site, but it is not his call.

Finally, I’ve see lots of developers at management team meetings and BZA hearings. Cohen struck me as unusually receptive to input.

posted by: dwightowner on November 22, 2014  9:57am

Not a single sidewalk tree is shown in the rendering yet this neighborhood has plenty. While I’m for the hotel going up, it should fit in more with its surroundings, especially the street/sidewalk component. This is looking more like the study hotel with its tiny sidewalk. The Dwight management team should worry more about street/city esthetics and wider sidewalks that fit in with the style of the Dwight neighborhood. We are going to end up with a large building surrounded by no trees and a sidewalk so narrow that 2 people will not have the space to cross each other.

posted by: A Contrarian on November 23, 2014  5:33pm

The sidewalk at The Study is no narrower than that of the corner apartment building, the Art School across the street, and many other buildings on this stretch of Chapel.  Should buildings be constructed up to the property line or not?  Cities are built this way.  Suburbs are not.

posted by: dwightowner on November 25, 2014  10:50am

The hotel expansion is happening on Elm st and that section has trees on most sidewalks. Great cities leave sidewalk space for pedestrians, that’s what makes it pedestrian friendly.

Like i said, I don’t think there is space in front of the study hotel for 2 people to pass comfortably.  A sidewalk that narrow is found in the suburbs,  where there is far less foot traffic.