Could This Be Long Wharf?

Perkins EastmanImagine this day spent on Long Wharf: You take a trolley or bike through the “stormwater” park that strategically connects to the Farmington Canal trail to the expanded IKEA “village,” where you buy furniture or browse shops and restaurants. Then you jump back on the trail and head to the New Haven Food Terminal to pick up fresh produce and other sundries for a picnic. You take your bike and picnic lunch on a water taxi that ferries you across the Long Island Sound for an afternoon at Lighthouse Park.

You can’t do any of that in the city’s Long Wharf District now. If a preliminary new vision unveiled for the district takes form, you just might be able to.

Those were some of the initial ideas that neighbors and a team hired to design a strategic development and economic plan for the city’s Long Wharf District dreamed up during an inaugural community meeting Tuesday night.

More than 50 people packed into the Betsy Ross Magnet School cafeteria to hear from the men who designed and planned a $2 billion transformation of a mile and a half stretch of Washington D.C.‘s Southwest waterfront.

Now the men are turning their attention to New Haven’s Long Wharf. The city has hired them to create a plan that transforms a nearly 60-year-old filled-in waterfront district that is currently a disconnected mashup of transportation, maritime use, manufacturing, retail, lodging, and entertainment into a cohesive destination that is a grand gateway to the city.

Eric Fang, who is leading the Long Wharf project for Perkins Eastman, said he and firm principal Stan Eckstut have never seen anything quite like the Long Wharf district. And that’s saying something. Their team has designed projects all over the world.

“It’s kind of interesting,” Fang said. “This area is very unique in that everything is coming together here. You have a mix of uses that didn’t happen in any real planned way.” But that’s not a bad thing, he said.

“The opportunities are tremendous,” he said. “We just have to figure out how to re-jigger it.”

5 Long Wharfs, Not 1

The Long Wharf District encompasses nearly 400 acres and is about a mile across from end to end. But the Eastman Perkins team said they see within it at least five subdistricts that are defined by what’s there now: Sports Haven, IKEA, the Food Terminal, Assa Abloy, and Jordan’s and the former Gateway Community College.

Fang said his team has spoken to managers at IKEA who admitted the way their stores are built in the United States—isolated big box stores surrounded by parking—are an anomaly for the popular Scandinavian furniture chain. In Europe, IKEA stores are surrounded by other shops and restaurants which encourages foot traffic that benefits all the businesses.

When it comes to the food terminal, the team sees an opportunity to make it a more pedestrian-friendly destination by possibly creating a public market similar to one in Vancouver where people buy fresh produce and other products direct from the wholesalers who operate in the area now.

In the Assa Abloy and Jordan’s and 1 Long Wharf, or what they call the West End, which has become a hub for medical offices, the Eastman Perkins team sees an opportunity to attract complimentary businesses such as other home-related business and manufacturing, health and wellness-related business, along with restaurants.

Fang said that Jordan’s Furniture, which also is home to an indoor ropes course and other entertainment, could be more of a draw to the district “if they turned themselves inside out,”  and making it more apparent that there is more than just furniture in the building.

A key challenge for making Long Wharf a more attractive destination is making it as walkable as the rest of the city, Eckstut said.

“What makes a city is walking. It’s not the suburbs where we’re driving. The real value in New Haven is all these walkable districts and a walkable downtown. That’s what makes it so special.”

Eckstut said the district, like the rest of the city, has great bones. It’s a matter of enhancing what is already here, particularly the city’s underutilized harbor.

“We’re not looking to take something from other places and bring it here,” he said. “We’re trying to make something that is one of a kind and unique to the world because this is unique to the world. There’s no place like it.”

Planning Ahead

Eastman PerkinsOne not-unique suggestion Eckstut made: using stormwater parks to mitigate the area’s potential for flooding. The city is already engaged in repairing and shoring up infrastructure damaged during big storms like Irene and Sandy. He said such parks are used throughout the world to deal with flood waters.

He said even Frederick Law Olmsted used them in his design of the linear park system known as the Emerald Necklace that protects Boston (and a similar plan for New Haven that never was fully implemented). In New Haven, such a park and trail system would weave around the existing buildings and connect to the waterfront but also back to neighborhoods like the Hill and Wooster Square. Eckstut said the New Haven harbor, the largest in the Long Island Sound, also is underutilized.

“This is an area of the city with no amenities,” he said. “It’s all parking and hardscape. The truth is, if we can get something out of stormwater management that creates an amenity, there will be more private investment.”

After his presentation, neighbors were turned loose to think through their own ideas about an improved Long Wharf District — like making it easier to navigate under the highway to get to the waterfront and more public transportation to get around Long Wharf and back to downtown. Other ideas included providing some sort of city-run trolley and water taxis service that can take people from the harbor to Lighthouse Park and even Long Island.

Downtown Alder Abby Roth said she’d like to see an outdoor amphitheater on the waterfront. She noted that she does a lot of walking from downtown and though Long Wharf is close, the aesthetics of the area make walking around in the district mentally challenging. Stormwater parks would go far in making things more pleasant but so would better light for safety, she said.

Many in attendance praised the idea of creating a public market in the Food Terminal section of the district to make it more publicly accessible. They also suggested emphasizing New Haven’s history along the waterfront, including by keeping the Freedom Schooner Amistad in the Harbor year round.

Acting City Plan Director Mike Piscitelli said the Long Wharf District is home to more than 2,000 jobs. This plan will determine how the city will “stitch together this district for the next generation,” he said.

“Long Wharf is a very important district for the city and the region as a whole,” he said.

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posted by: LorcaNotOrca on January 10, 2018  8:58am

Hey maybe in another 50 - 100 years, some of this might happen!

posted by: 1644 on January 10, 2018  9:28am

The article doesn’t mention it, but the top drawing shows a lot of boats in the foreground.  Fusco had planned a marina when it built the Maritime Center, but was blocked by environmental concerns about dredging contaminated silt.  A marina would be a great addition, and would bring wealthier folks to an area that is largely vacant when the offices are closed on the weekend.  It would, also, be consistent with the state’s policy of using waterfront property to support water dependent activities.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 10, 2018  10:57am

This was fun and potentially useful. But I was struck by the fact that the participants where overwhelmingly white. Some of my best friends are white, but the city needs to find a way of broadening the conversation.

Lorcanotorca, I’m a bit more optimistic. The city’s waterfront is a hugely undervalued resource. Apart from the environmental benefits of coming up with a sounder response to storm water, there is serious money to be made by bringing people to the waterfront to live, work, and play.

posted by: new havener on January 10, 2018  12:17pm

It’s OK to dream but my bet is this will never happen, as the public(Fed, State & Local) will have no stomach for the financing needed to get this from vapor-state to reality. Honestly, look at the first concept photo at the top…it calls for removing the Maritime Center garage, the adjacent shipping terminal, Lenny & Joe’s, etc…

It took the city way too long to even get the boat-house on it’s way, as a small example.

To Mr. McCarthy, why would you suppose there was not more minority representation at the meeting? What drove the lack of interest?

posted by: RobotShlomo on January 10, 2018  12:52pm

Yes, there are always “big plans” for Long Wharf. We were told the same things twenty years ago. Just like twenty years ago I was told the Knicks were going to finally win a championship. Neither happened. My guess is we’ll be waiting another twenty years for both.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on January 10, 2018  1:49pm

Hmm, interesting. When Mayor Toni Harp and some other developers first started talking about this project I actually thought to myself that Long Wharf should have its own “Downtown” which should include better transportation, more biking and walkable trails and also better connection between Downtown New Haven, Wooster Square, Union Station and the Hill District. That was a beautiful image of what the waterfront could end up looking like in the future at the beginning of the article. The marina, the water taxis and trolleys would all be great additions for the area. I honestly think that another great addition for the area would be a bridge that connects West Haven to the East Shore area. I think that would benefit people who live outside the city. It’s exciting. I’m hoping that a lot goes into this.

posted by: Elmer Shady on January 10, 2018  3:08pm

My Hovercraft is full of eels.

posted by: BenBerkowitz on January 10, 2018  5:00pm

Granville Island, the public market in Vancouver, is the perfect example of a best case scenario for a very industrialized, overpass filled waterfront. Glad it is shown here.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 10, 2018  5:04pm

@new havener, I don’t know - hence the observation. I did speak with Markeshia this afternoon, who noted that the Hill South Community Management Team was meeting at the same time. Even community-minded people can’t be two places at the same time.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on January 10, 2018  10:22pm

THis State has no money but it can waste $450K on s pipe dream.

posted by: Mooks on January 10, 2018  10:47pm

Maybe I missed it in the article (or a previous one) but where is the funding for this going to come from?  The State can’t even afford to take care of it’s own infrastructure projects and the Federal government is not really showing any love to the region. Will this be privately funded and owned? Bonded by the City?

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on January 11, 2018  9:32am

@Kevin,
Being optimistic is great—I think it would be fantastic if all this happened. But being realistic, I know it never will. Not only does the state have no money, but add the snail’s pace at which anything gets done (or not done) here and it’s pretty clear. For some reason, and I don’t know why, CT can’t seem to do anything good in any short amount of time. It’s a shame, given how much real potential New Haven has.

posted by: LookOut on January 11, 2018  9:34am

@NewHavener:  I completely agree that it will be incredibly difficult to do this with tax dollars.  Both the city and state have huge obligations coming in the next few years and no idea how to pay for it. 

Best plan would be to take actions to encourage private investment (and then to get out of the way).  The new tax system is creating corporations with extra money in the bank.  Some are giving bonuses and hiring more people but I’m sure that at least a few are looking to make big investments.  Let’s show them how they can get a return.

posted by: 3jan46 on January 11, 2018  10:02am

Sounds great but a lot of money to displace the food trucks!

posted by: JCFremont on January 11, 2018  10:14am

Looks like an adult after school project. That first drawing has the entire waterfront blocked off it reminds me of NYC’s Peter Cooper Village meets Caanes, France. Recent news shows that Dannel planes to throw a tantrum during his last year in office by cutting all those big transportation projects and telling the people of Connecticut what he wouldn’t say in
his campaignes but what the people already knew about the state’s finances. How about we actually finish the Farmington Canal and connect the Long Wharf area first. In the end bike trails are nice but if you want to include commerce many people will still need to drive there. Hey maybe the Pirelli Building can become a garage.

posted by: new havener on January 11, 2018  10:25am

“I honestly think that another great addition for the area would be a bridge that connects West Haven to the East Shore area.”

uhhh, we already did that. twice. The Quinnipiac bridge, then replaced by the Pearl Harbor bridge. If you’re looking for something farther out in the harbor, you have no concept of need, money, or wave and height requirements, and infrastructure placements on both ends. holy smokes. New Haven is a working harbor, a nice bridge would have to have 100’ clearance to the water!

posted by: RobotShlomo on January 11, 2018  10:52am

I saw Nemerson on the news last night, and he said that the plan was to get the food terminal and Sports Haven to “start to consider the value of their property”. So in other words their “plan”, as always, is they want to PUSH OUT those businesses that employ people, pay taxes, and have been there for decades, and then HOPE everything works out and the developers don’t take the money and run when the economy collapses yet again. Figures.

New Haven can never figure out a way for things to coexist with each other. It’s always tear something down, and then usually build something back up half way, and then when it fails stand around and say “golly gee, we don’t understand why it didn’t work, all our research said it would, next time will be better, we promise it will”. How many times do we have to go through this same song and dance? How many gallons of snake oil do we need stocked up in the basement? At this point I’d rather have nothing at Long Wharf than a pipe dream that only goes half way, and benefits NO ONE.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on January 11, 2018  12:13pm

@new havener

For a project like this to happen it would actually be smart to build a bridge that would basically bypass the harbor and connect the West Haven Beach area to New Haven’s far eastern coast where both the Airport and Lighthouse Park is located.

posted by: new havener on January 11, 2018  1:01pm

@__quinnchionn__

“smart”??

with what money??

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 11, 2018  1:45pm

quinnchionn, that actually was considered as an alternative when the new Q Bridge was being designed but was rejected as costing too much.

posted by: Hill Resident on January 11, 2018  1:57pm

This was a very informative meeting and I am excited about the Long Wharf development prospects. As far as the lack of ‘minority representation and interest’ statement and question posed by Kevin McCarthy and @new havener ... I think it is a matter of mis-perception of who makes up the minority based on color and physical attributes.The residents of many neighborhoods/districts were invited to this meeting ... the Hill (primarily black and hispanic), downtown (primarily white) and Wooster Square (primarily white). Also attending were residents from East Rock (primarily white) and Morris Cove (primarily white). So figuring in the 15-20 representatives from the city and the developer, there were about 48-50 people from 5-6 neighborhoods in attendance. That balances out to about 10 reps from the Hill ... out of which 7 I counted (including myself) were black or hispanic. I think we were pretty well represented. Could it have been better? Yes but there was a regular meeting of the Hill NORTH community Management team (not the Hill SOUTH) held at the same time in a different location. There is no lack of interest - but there is a LOT going on in the Hill with the Hill to Downtown Crossing and Church Street South, and we can ‘t be everywhere. But rest assured, the Hill was represented: a state representative (hispanic), 2 Alders (hispanic), 2 City Planning Commissioners (black), homeowners and active Management Team participants (black, hispanic & white) & business owners (black, hispanic & white). But good looking out!

posted by: wendy1 on January 12, 2018  3:19pm

Aint gonna happen.
What are these guys smoking??  Our economy is in the shitter and Big Money is hoarding while waiting out the crash.  Read The Mandibles by Shriver.

Look at the boathouse project—-still under construction, very slowly.  Living expenses rise like train and bus fares, utilities, and taxes this year alone while wages and salaries decrease or disappear.  The mayor gets a raise but nobody else in town does except for Marna, or Pete, or David, or Bruce.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 12, 2018  8:45pm

posted by: new havener on January 10, 2018 12:17pm

To Mr. McCarthy, why would you suppose there was not more minority representation at the meeting? What drove the lack of interest?

What drove the lack of interest.The one’s I have talk to told me they will not benefit from things like this.I had a feeling that they was going to do something with Long Wharf and build something like this.

Need a place to play?  Chelsea Piers is Manhattan’s most popular destination to learn, practice, play and compete in 25+ different sports.  Located on the scenic Hudson River, Chelsea Piers offers instructional programs and sports leagues for youths and adults, a world-class health club and multiple dedicated event spaces.

https://www.chelseapiers.com/

posted by: JOHNILUVHN on January 13, 2018  2:17am

Back in the 90’s I was part of a think tank group made up of citizens etc called Vision New Haven.  What I envisioned then still holds true now for the Long Wharf area…..

More Restaurants ranging from private to possible chains,located in a people friendly addition to the food terminal…

Transform the Sports Haven building into an Aquarium-.the building has the perfect shape for the main tank to be in the center of the building with exhibit rooms on each floor around the main tank

Design and build an eye popping structure that would symbolize the Long Wharf area. This would help attract visitors out of initial curiosity. The structure could then be made into a symbol which would help identify the Long Wharf district through area signs and banners

Lastly a HIGH SPEED FERRY FROM NEW HAVEN TO PORT JEFFERSON!

Just saying….lol

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 13, 2018  8:05am

3/5ths, thank you. Do you have any thoughts on what should happen with the site?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 13, 2018  10:30am

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 13, 2018 8:05am

3/5ths, thank you. Do you have any thoughts on what should happen with the site?

Low and Moderate income housing.

posted by: RobotShlomo on January 11, 2018 10:52am

I saw Nemerson on the news last night, and he said that the plan was to get the food terminal and Sports Haven to “start to consider the value of their property”. So in other words their “plan”, as always, is they want to PUSH OUT those businesses that employ people, pay taxes, and have been there for decades, and then HOPE everything works out and the developers don’t take the money and run when the economy collapses yet again. Figures.

As always on point.

posted by: Betterdays on January 13, 2018  11:39am

Before we consider new development, can anyone shed light on the current redesign of the roadways? Getting off I-95 S. to Long Wharf is treacherous when West Haven is backed up. There are no much needed dedicated right turn lanes at on and off ramps, leading to great backups and dangerous maneuvers by drivers. The food truck area is way too narrow, with everyone (up to 18 wheelers) parked in the insufficient travel lane. All of this needs a revisit before any new amenities are added.

posted by: wendy1 on January 14, 2018  1:37pm

To Hill Resident—-Thank you for confirming the obvious but denied, New Haven is horribly segregated.

To.JOHNILUVNH——There actually was an acquarium in the middle of Sportshaven a while back above the bar with mostly small sharks in it.

Many good funny comments here including Shady and JCFremont.

posted by: Hill Resident on January 15, 2018  11:33pm

My comments were neither to confirn nor deny what wendy1 calls the obvious ... that New Haven is horribly segregated, because I don’t think it is. We have doctors, business owners and other high earning professional people of color who live in East Rock as well as the Hill because they WANT to. My comments were to address what was asked about minorities being under-represented at the Long Wharf meeting and I explained that the black and hispanic population of the Hill was very well represented at the meeting. The development of Long Wharf in MY point of view is not a race or minority representation issue. It is about developing this area to be one that will draw $ and jobs to New Haven. The jobs and the $ will benefit all who live in New Haven including the non-white population which happens to be the majority population not the minority. And if folks make more $ they can buy or rehab a house from the already existing housing stock in neighborhoods like the Hill, Newhallville, Fair Haven or Dixwell which will have a positive impact on the neighborhood. Some of us non-white folks want to live around people who look like us & who we have cultural commonalities. AND some of us non-white folks don’t think EVERY neighborhood has to have low and moderate income housing. I believe downtown residency should cater to higher income earners. I believe that if a builder wants to build high priced rental units, they can do that cause it is THEIR money. I don’t have to nor do I WANT to live there. But you work hard, you step up, work harder, you can step up higher. Some of us non-white people believe that not everyone should get a trophy for effort. I don’t think there should be ANY housing built on Long Wharf aside from hotels. But if that’s what we do, I don’t think it should be low income or moderate. There ... now I stated the obvious - what some want to say it but don’t want to hear or deal with the backlash. But that’s my entitled opinion - and that’s ALL I’m entitled to!

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on January 16, 2018  9:35am

Hill Resident, thanks for your comments.

I am curious about your opposition to housing in the area. There are clear environmental reasons for not building housing on the waterfront itself, particularly in light of sea level rise. But why not in the Pirelli Building?

posted by: Hill Resident on January 16, 2018  2:49pm

Thanks Kevin McCarthy for your response. I don’t think the Long Wharf needs to have residential units at all ... let it be strictly for retail, commercial, arts, entertainment, business, waterfront activity. The Pirelli Building would make a wonderful FREE open to public arts (local and commissioned) and maritime/lLong Wharf historical museum space on the lower level. The visitors bureau could be moved there, it can house a ticket outlet for any venues taking place on the Long Wharf (Long Wharf Theater, water taxis, ferry, trolley passes), and the Long Wharf ‘services’ facility (grounds maintenance and security). The upper levels can be used for office space. Just my thoughts.

posted by: abg22 on January 17, 2018  4:39pm

What an ideal moment for the Connecticut DOT to bulldoze the Vision Trail for an equipment storage area… just as we are re-envisioning Long Wharf as a pedestrian-friendly district with strong place-making elements and connectivity to downtown and the train station. Great timing.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on January 19, 2018  12:36am

@abg22

Good point. I actually thought that the vision trail would have been a great way to connect pedestrians who were coming from Long Wharf that are either commuting to the train station, walking back Downtown or to Wooster Square have a more convenient route. I originally had an idea that there should be a pedestrian bridge built over the train tracks so that it would be easier for people who are trying to get over to the train station from the trail. I also thought that it would have been smart to extend that part of the vision trail to the other side of Long Wharf by having it bypass IKEA, the newly built rail-yard, the food terminal, the underpass of the Church Street Bridge and then having it connect to Hallock Avenue and Long Wharf Drive. Unfortunately, the trail had to be shut down because they are making more room to build more tracks for trains that will travel up to Meriden, New Britain, Hartford and Springfield, Mass.