Marriott Starts Over

Aliyya Swaby PhotoHotel 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

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 6, 2014  9:53am

I understand the legitimate concerns, but complaining about traffic from construction is just… meh. I have to drive down College St every day and regularly get stuck in the construction traffic for the new College and Crown apartment building, but that’s the cost of progress. No need to cut off your nose to spite your face.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 6, 2014  10:21am

It should not take more than one meeting between the management team and the developer. They should list out their concerns, and he should address them best he can and then get construction going. What’s at stake is property taxes, construction jobs, and long term jobs, many of which will likely come from the Dwight neighborhood. This adversary relationship and what sure seems like arrogance by the Dwight Management Team is not helpful or right.

posted by: ResidenceNewHaven on November 6, 2014  10:56am

It’s a shame that it took so much just to get the Marriott to meet with the Dwight management team.  The silver lining is that they have finally agreed to start over with basic community engagement.  I hope this time around, they actually take the community’s input seriously.

posted by: Walt on November 6, 2014  10:56am

I assume this means 40 neighborhood folk have priority to fill 40 low-paying jobs

If this is so,  the protestors have won something, at least, so it was worthwhile

posted by: Esteban on November 6, 2014  12:47pm

Please help me understand.  Is it a law or is it written somewhere that the Marriott must receive the DCMT’s blessing to build this project?

posted by: citoyen on November 6, 2014  1:16pm

What I find particularly encouraging here is that Mr. Cohen has not picked up his marbles and gone home in a huff, but has come back, apologized for the ridiculously obtuse first approach by Marriott, and now genuinely seems to want to work with neighborhood residents to build as good a building as he can.  This means Marriott really *wants* to locate its building here, and suggests that others will continue to want to locate in New Haven also.  This is good news.

And his apology seems genuine, without some sort of qualification of the kind that creates a non-apology apology—no “if” I offended anyone, no “but” we needed to move quickly, etc.

I do hope the neighbors will be able to overcome their NIMFY (Not In My Front Yard) syndrome and realize that whatever inconvenience might occur during construction, it will be only temporary, and afterward the city will have a new asset that will both provide new property tax revenue and increase neighborhood activity and security.

posted by: Nathan on November 6, 2014  1:31pm

It’s amazing and a gift to the city that yet another stick-up of a developer hasn’t turned them away.  This proposal should have been fast-tracked, approved, and in construction, leading to those new jobs paying locals sooner.  The cost of the politics is coming from the delayed paychecks for those workers.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 6, 2014  3:26pm

Fwiw, the vast majority of people living in the Park-Howe-Dwight neighbor are very much in favor of this project happening. (And that’s a fact which has not been represented in these articles, nor in the Dwight CMT meetings.)

Those immediate neighbors I have spoken with are excited about the street presence and walking safety that an active Residence Inn will give to the Elm-Howe intersection, and they are hopeful this development might lead to other positive Howe Street developments.

Also, if city employees are to continue getting raises, we all should be more tuned in to the need to grow the Grand List. Plus we need the jobs!

Anyway, it sounds as if everyone is heading towards being on the same page, and maybe this development will happen after all.