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$362M Coliseum Site Makeover Sails Through City Plan

by Allan Appel | Oct 31, 2013 8:55 am

(24) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, City Hall, Downtown, Ninth Square

The City Plan Commission gave its blessing Wednesday night to the plan to convert the old Coliseum site into a new mixed use development.

Commissioners voted unanimously for a needed zoning change, a development and land agreement with City Hall, and a street redesign to enable the Montreal-based LiveWorkLearnPlay (LWLP) to build the $362 million development on the grave of the old Coliseum.

The recommendations now go before the Board of Aldermen, which will hold public hearings in November en route to a final board vote.

The DLDA, or development and land disposition agreement, for the Coliseum site calls for work to commence in two phases.

First come approximately 342 residential units, 58,000 square feet of retail, and 160 hotel rooms in a four-star caravansary at Orange and MLK Boulevard, along with an extensive public square and laneway focused on the Orange Street side of the lot.

The second phase on the State Street side includes another 377 rental units, and an office tower. The project is expected to generate approximately 4,700 construction jobs during the seven to 10 years of project build-out beginning in 2014, and between 2,800 permanent jobs during full operation.

Click here and here for previous stories with more detail on the project.

All the New Haven workforce requirements will apply for the utilization of resident, women, and minority contractors. The plan also calls for 20 percent of the apartments to be affordable.

In what City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg and Economic Development Director Kelly Murphy called a first, LWLP has committed to 10 percent of those affordable apartments to be two- and three-bedroom.

Developers responded to that feedback at community meetings, said Murphy

Commissioner Kevin DiAdamo sought clarification on the basic terms of the DLDA: “The city will sell for one dollar but it’ll remain taxable from day one?”

“That’s my understanding,” Gilvarg responded.

In an uncommon sight, the plan elicited rave support from city and business officials, merchants, and new urbanist advocates who have voiced skepticism about past development deals.

LWLP needs more than the city’s approval. The City Plan vote formally recommended to the alderman “an abandonment and discontinuance of public right of way” to the one block on MLK between State and Orange. The city owns half that block. The state must also give its approval to the other half so the entire block can become part of the development.

Then the two halves of Orange Street now separated by Route 34 can be reunited for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars and create a direct route to Union Station. LWLP considers that new intersection at a crossing of Orange between the Nine Squares and the Hill critical also to the hotel and the gateway face of the development.

Gilvarg said that while the total investment in the project is $362 million, the total cost will be around $395 million. That larger number reflects the infrastructure cost for the project, the lion’s share of which is the conversion of Route 34 to “urban boulevards” with a new signalized intersection allowing left and right turning at Orange.

The project is on an accelerated track. Some of the city officials who have put it together with LWLP may not be working with the new administration taking over government in January.

LWLP’s Max Reim addressed that issue at the end of the proceedings: “This will be iconic and enduring. Our greatest issues are timing and interest rates. You’ve been marvelous. If we get approvals of the state, then we’re targeted to move dirt next summer. If we have a new mayor and new people, we might have to delay and do a new LDA [land disposition agreement] with new people. Then we’re looking at two and a half years” before work begins.

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posted by: robn on October 31, 2013  9:51am

This all sounds pretty great.

posted by: anonymous on October 31, 2013  10:34am

Sounds good, but the city has a batting average of about 0.150 when it comes to major projects like this actually happening.  Anyone remember Williams Specialty Steel? Long Wharf Mall?

Much more valuable than the mega-projects like these are the billions in small renovations carried about by developers citywide, in buildings like those along “lower Chapel.” 

These sorts of small renovations have largely stalled, due to the enormous increase in taxes over the past few years. 

We spent $300 million in city funds to get new school buildings, which is nice, but the real cost of that may be the thousands of unemployed residents who might have had jobs if we had invested instead in tax-producing downtown job growth.

New Haven is now on several of these lists: http://m.us.wsj.com/news/interactive/CITIES2013?mod=e2tw&mobile=y

Hopefully, the LWLP project will happen - Malloy should recognize that it is very important to Connecticut’s economy, and chip in some funds to make sure that it does.

posted by: DrFeelgood on October 31, 2013  10:43am

I wonder what the 20% of affordable actually means.

posted by: A Contrarian on October 31, 2013  10:46am

Unless we have to wait another 2-1/2 years to begin…  Perhaps I should take a nap as did Rip Van Winkle and it will all be magically transformed when I awake.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 31, 2013  10:50am

Outstanding! The $1 is ok…the property taxes from day one is even better. This is really the optimum of what ought to be done in development.

posted by: DingDong on October 31, 2013  12:13pm

Someone should ask Elicker and Harp if they will delay this project, if elected.  Get a commitment from them now to fast-track it.

posted by: webblog on October 31, 2013  12:36pm

“Property taxes from day one” does not mean from the day construction begins, it means from the day of certificate of occupancy, which is 10 years from “build out” starting in 2014 running to 2024.
State law as well as the city charter allows for a construction tax freeze during construction.

In as much as the 20% affordability is concerned, that will depend on a renters income measured against a percentage of the Area Medium Income in 2024.

The sweeteners are always in the construction jobs… in this case.. “All the New Haven workforce requirements will apply for the utilization of resident, women, and minority contractors” which never seems to materialize.
Additional sweetener is the offer of 2,800 permanent jobs…. yea right…
Remember 360 state St? Didn’t quite work out according to that LDA. They are still in court over the property assessment of 2011 which far exceeded the city plan and economic development said at the time of the LDA agreement.

Not so fast on this one, hold your water buckos.

posted by: Kevin on October 31, 2013  1:42pm

@DrFeelgood

My recollection from the meeting was that 10% of the units would be affordable for households with incomes up to 50% of the area median income and another 10% for households with incomes up to 125% of AMI. I believe under the former provision, a two-person household with an income of up to $33,000 would pay a rent of around $825 for a one-bedroom unit (i.e., 30% of their income).

@weblog

I believe you are overstating your case. The land will be taxable starting on day one. With regard to the buildings, CGS Sec. 12-53a states “Partially completed new construction of real estate shall be liable for the payment of municipal taxes based on the assessed value of such partially completed new construction as of October first of the assessment year.”  Individual buildings wil be subject to the full property tax once they receive their COs, which is a condition for them be rented out.

Neither you, I, or anyone else knows what AMI will be in 2024. The affordability calculation will be based on current data.

posted by: Kevin on October 31, 2013  1:46pm

One small additional point. The developers are looking to the state for the Route 34 infrastructure money.

posted by: Esbey on October 31, 2013  2:16pm

@anonymous, I think you are being a little too pessimistic about smaller scale development.  There is an approved apartment project on (I think) Chapel and Howe, there is the old “colonial brick” bank building across from the Green, there are the Forest City apartments at Science Park and there is the renewed plan for the Star Supply site (which we are both disappointed isn’t even denser, but it is still much better than what is there now.)  Perhaps there is still the 11-story-ish apartment building going up between Crown and George on College?  And supposedly maybe even something on the burned-out inner block behind Church and Orange.  Even without that last one, I think this is maybe 700-800 apartments?  Plus the Winstanley building over the old highway, with hundreds of daytime employees.  If all that is being finished while this Coliseum site project gets underway, then we have some real momentum.

posted by: robn on October 31, 2013  2:50pm

ESBEY,

I agree. The real question is, having this momentous sweet spot of some hopefully meaningful tax relief queued up by the DeStefano administration, will the next mayor push it forward or will he/she snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

posted by: anonymous on October 31, 2013  2:52pm

Esbey: Fair enough, but I was talking about smaller buildings - the kind owned by small-scale local developers, not out of town corporations.  Small buildings and multifamily homes comprise the vast majority of our city’s housing stock and storefronts.  I’d classify all of the projects that you listed as “large-scale” projects, and from what I’ve heard, it is highly unlikely that they will all happen on schedule.

posted by: A Contrarian on October 31, 2013  3:18pm

anonymous:  The smaller projects you were talking about I took to be something like Robert Orr’s building and The Bourse.  I’m amazed by the people who want Downtown’s success to miraculously be transplanted to various neighborhoods when there’s still so much work to be done in Downtown.

As to the big projects, only Science Park Apts. and the Cross & Cross landmark at the corner of the Green are at present moving forward.  All others are likely—possible—maybe—hopefully…  and can easily be delayed for years without much reason.

posted by: Stylo on October 31, 2013  4:08pm

This is great and hopefully starts construction next year.

This city has to change its ways. In the past, it’s done an amazing job at stalling development.

posted by: anonymous on October 31, 2013  4:08pm

Contrarian - I agree.

posted by: TheMadcap on October 31, 2013  5:45pm

So off the top of my head, projects in New Haven that have started or look likely to start soon are:
-Route 34/100 College St
-The old Winchester factory
-Star Supply
-New apartment building at Howe and Chapel
-New apartment building across from Co-Op high school on College
-The city’s redevelopment of Farnham Courts(and the factory in Fair Haven they’re remoddeling to house people)
-The coliseum site

Are they more? That’s not a bad list. Also Yale is building what they said is going to a house a small movie theater among other things at the corner of Prospect and Sachem. The good news is if I recall it will be open to the public. The bad news is they’ve been doing stuff there for years and there’s still not even a foundation.

posted by: A Contrarian on October 31, 2013  7:28pm

Stylo:  Much can change quickly if the area across from Union Station actually was rebuilt.

TheMadcap:  Not a movie theater planned but rather performance space for Theater Studies Dept.  Will be next to new residential colleges slated to open in 2017, but just a dream right now.

posted by: Stylo on October 31, 2013  9:30pm

@MadCap - there’s also that building at the corner of the green that’s being converted to apartments. And the conversion of NH Register into a mega Jordan’s store.

Where do all these projects stand?

Wasn’t the College Street project supposed to start construction this month?

Why hasn’t the Howe project broken ground yet?

posted by: A Contrarian on November 1, 2013  11:45am

Stylo:  This is last paragraph of NHI article on the College Street complex—Allan Appel, August 1st.

“If all goes well, Landino said, they hope to break ground in the spring of next year and complete the building by the fall of 2015.”

Doesn’t read as the firmest of schedules, and I wondered about the delay myself.

posted by: abg22 on November 1, 2013  1:41pm

Too bad the City didn’t get the Tiger V grant for site improvements and stormwater infrastructure in this area. The City’s application would surely have been improved by holding at least one public hearing or input-gathering session.

posted by: Stylo on November 1, 2013  1:46pm

@A Contrarian

Would be great if that broke ground in the Spring. I wonder about Howe, I feel like that was approved even earlier.

One great thing about all this is imagine how vibrant New Haven will look from 95 where millions of people pass weekly: you’ll have the Coliseum development, 100 College, 360 State, the new interchange/bridge/redone highway, and I’m sure Jordan’s lit up like a Christmas tree where the Register was all visible. Perhaps the new boathouse too.

Perception is everything. Look how abysmal Bridgeport looks from the highway.

posted by: anonymous on November 1, 2013  1:52pm

Guys/Gals, the projects may not be happening. If you have been around New Haven for a few decades you know that there are many other reasons to go through approvals like this and never actually build a project. See Williams Specialty Steel, above. Hopefully at least one of the projects you listed will happen.

posted by: A Contrarian on November 1, 2013  3:56pm

Stylo:  Couldn’t agree more about “perception.”  That’s why the Union Station area is crucial.  And I say the efforts in the next few years should focus on the big gaps Downtown.  The Howe St. project is bound to happen sooner or later as the housing is needed and the proposed building is rather cheap to build.  Unfortunately, it also looks cheap, but there’s not much to be done about that now.

anonymous:  Point well taken.  Let us not forget that the old Union & New Haven Trust Bldg.—205 Church at Elm—was slated to be transformed into a luxury hotel and now years later after that was abandoned, will become market-rate apartments.  We lost five years because of the Great Recession plus whatever momentum existed from the previous decade.  It’s easy to stall something in NH, and of course, the perception and near-reality is that the loudest voices oppose just about everything for one reason or another.

posted by: Scot on November 1, 2013  4:20pm

I agree these are all very exciting. I would add Yale’s expansions to the list.  The new SOM is almost done and plans to open in a few months.  Yale is also planning to add 2 new undergrad colleges:
http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2013/10/01/250-million-gift-propels-growth/

While these won’t add to the grand list, they will contribute greatly to the economy through construction jobs, more students to spend money around New Haven, more people needing housing (in the case of SOM), and all the supporting business that comes with Yale being 15% bigger than it is now (more faculty, groundskeepers, cooks, custodians, etc).

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