Winchester Groundbreaking Offers Neighbors Hope

Uma Ramiah PhotoDennis Grimes stood by, in a white hard hat and work boots, as city officials lauded a new construction project as “New Haven’s future.” For Grimes, the groundbreaking also represents a lifeline—for him and his family.

“I’ve been unemployed for two and a half years,” he said, after a press conference Wednesday to announce the start of a five-year, $45 million rebuilding of the shuttered rifle factory on Winchester Avenue and Munson Street in Newhallville. “I’m a single man with five children—I really have to work.”

“This gave me opportunity.”

Crews broke ground Wednesday afternoon on the historic arms factory —where the rapidly expanding, New Haven-based company Higher One plans to move its headquarters once construction ends. The homegrown financial services organization hopes to keep and expand jobs in the city.

Grimes is among nine neighborhood people who hope to clean up the property for the rebuilding. They’ve just gotten training through a new local company that’s looking to link New Haveners to new jobs.

“I’m a neighbor,” said Higher One Chief Operations Officer Miles Lasater, who lives in New Haven. “So being part of the community is important to me.”

Lasater said that if construction goes according to schedule, Higher One should be set to move into the new buildings in a few months.

Svigals + PartnersThe company is partnering with Winstanley Enterprises, Science Park Development Corporation and Forest City Residential Group in the construction, which will see two vacant buildings transformed into modern, mixed-use business, retail and living spaces.

They’ve received city and state money for the project. First up for renovation: tracks A and B, Higher One’s future home.

But before the company can move in, the factory needs a good clean up. It’s a brownfield site—meaning it contains lead, asbestos and other hazardous materials. Enter Grimes and eight other workers recruited from the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods. They’re now in the final steps of completing a Brownfield Remediation Technician Training Program at Gateway Community College.

“We’re doing on the job training now,” said Grimes, standing with two other employees, Taj Edwards and Rick Goodjohn.

“Brownfield certification is such a great thing for our company to have,” said Mubarakah Ibrahim, President of EcoUrban Pioneers (EUP). EUP got the contract to do onsite training, she said.

While her employees will be fully certified once the program ends, EUP isn’t guaranteed the full contract.

“We’ll have to wait a couple weeks until the end of the training process, and then we’ll find out.”

Mubarakah hopes to be able to offer full employment to the ten newly trained workers at the Winchester site. “We’re hoping for other contracts too.”

EUP is a full service construction company, she said, with employees skilled in carpentry, masonry,  painting and now brownfield cleanup. “That’s a great certification for our company to get,” she said, “because we’re now that much more valuable.”

New Haven has 89 other brownfield sites. Her employees can also now work on removing lead paint and other hazardous materials from homes and buildings around the city—not just at Winchester.

“We’re just really hoping to stay employed,” Grimes said.

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: robn on April 7, 2011  9:10am

This is great. The building shells are amazing and their layout makes for very nice interior courtyards. Done simply with nice landscaping and without pastiche bells and whistles stuck onto the structures, this is going to be a very nice project.

posted by: Greg on April 7, 2011  10:37am

Bigger than this being a great project, is the ability to put people in the inner city neighborhoods to work. Congradulations to ECO and Dennis good to see you got the job.

posted by: Alderman Greg Morehead on April 7, 2011  11:21am

This was a great event on yesterday.  Not just because of the ground breaking on the facility and the occupants that will house the building, but also because of the minorities that were hired on this site.  Hopefully this will set a precedent for other construction sites throughout the city..
Congrats to all of the workers, EUP, Carter Winstanley, Abe Nappersack, and Higher One!!

posted by: Stan on April 7, 2011  11:46am

Good news for everyone. Hope the trend continues.

posted by: Liz on April 7, 2011  8:58pm

The new haven regional contractors’ alliance received a grant from the workforce alliance to design a training program and coordinated it with the winchester project. Thanks to the efforts of the alliance, the city and Winchester Development we.

posted by: Alan Felder on April 8, 2011  8:13am

How many contractors and sub-contractors are going to have illegal immigrants on this project in the near future is the ultimate question. There is a 35% unemployment rate in the African American community and when school is out the rate goes as high as 65%. Who has the answer to this chronic social problem?

posted by: bjfair on April 8, 2011  10:26am

Wishing both Shafiq and his wife the greatest success with their venture. Hopefully the bid process will be more open to those willing to hire individuals who reside within the city for a change.New Haven has a record of hiring outside the city while those within the city suffer high unemployment resulting in high crime. Then the outsiders look in and blame the victim for their dire conditions and declare city residents are incompetent to hold these positions.

posted by: ignoranceisbliss on April 8, 2011  2:19pm

Would someone explain to me how Mubarakah Ibrahim who last time I checked was a “modest female” fitness pioneer is now an expert in brownfield cleanup?  And as for her husband, he is a cop, so what does he bring to the table in terms of environmental or construction expertise?  Something does not smell right here.