Hotel developer Douglas Cohen offered the Dwight neighborhood an apology and promise of an estimated 40 new permanent jobs, as he began repitching his plans to bring a Marriott Residence Inn to Elm and Howe streets.
In the face of neighborhood opposition, Cohen, president of Newport Hotel Group, has formally withdraw plans pending before the city to build the proposed six-story 115-room inn in back of the existing Courtyard Marriott Hotel on Whalley Avenue. He started over by visiting the Dwight Management Team at Amistad Academy on Edgewood Avenue Wednesday night to start the process over, with neighbors’ input. The developer needs zoning relief to build the project, and neighborhood opposition was derailing prospects for that relief.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, he expressed contrition for not having effectively communicated with the Dwight community in the past. He fielded preliminary questions and concerns about the project..
“The first thing I want to say is: I apologize,” Cohen said. “I take full fault and blame for it.”
The proposed inn, aimed at extended hotel stays and featuring a mix of studio-style and one-bedroom suites with kitchenettes, would provide about 100 jobs during the 12-15 month development process, Cohen said, and between 40 and 50 permanent jobs—“front desk clerks, housekeeping, restaurant servers”—once up and running.
Curlena McDonald, co-chair of the management team, said she will work with the rest of the team to develop a method of ensuring Dwight neighbors’ input is not only heard but also incorporated by developers.
After Cohen and his lawyer Jim Perito canceled a planned appearance at last month’s Dwight community meeting, McDonald was one of many who said the developers should be willing to start from the beginning or scrap the project altogether.
“We want to make sure the input is handled properly,” she said on Wednesday. “I’ll be letting you know when that’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. You won’t have to just hear it in the papers.”
Cohen told the Independent afterward that he missed October’s management meeting because the developers “had received a lot of input about the look of it, and the windows, and the architecture, and the entrance on Howe and Elm … I didn’t want to come to the meeting without plans that were fully thought through.”
Questions after Cohen’s apology revolved around the basics of the plan: the effect of the Residence Inn on street parking, the location of the entrances and exits, the benefits for New Haven residents.
Linda Townsend Maier, who heads the Greater Dwight Development Corporation, asked Cohen to make sure large trucks do not continue to stall and make deliveries to the Marriott on Elm Street, instead of the designated Dwight Street location.
“That’s a great point. I didn’t even know that,” Cohen responded. He said he would take it into account going forward.
“Why choose that area?” asked Demetria Lindsey, who lives in the Seabury Cooperative Homes across the street from the proposed inn location. She said increased traffic would increase danger and reduce parking options for Seabury residents.
“We worry about safety because we do have elderly and kids,” she said.
“We don’t want to park cars in your property,” Cohen said.
“People are going to do it anyway,” she said. “And if you’re doing construction, that really is going to inconvenience us to the max.”
Cohen said construction projects are never “pretty,” but good communication with neighbors is necessary “to explain what is happening and when its happening.”
McDonald said the management team will try to “expedite” the process of managing community input, so it happens as soon as possible.
Previous coverage of this proposal:
Marriott Pauses to Get Dwight On Board
Marriott Snubs Dwight
Marriott Residence Inn Hits Roadblock
Opposition Surfaces To New Courtyard Marriott
Courtyard Marriott Plans A Downtown Residence Inn