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Papers Signed. Promise Made. Puck Slapped

by Paul Bass | Dec 13, 2013 1:04 pm

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

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, City Hall

The incoming mayor promised not to “drop the ball.” The outgoing mayor offered a parting slapshot to Coliseum fans who told him to “puck” off. Then pens came out, and the largest proposed downtown development project in New Haven’s history became a reality—at least in ink.

LWLP That project is the $395 million plan advanced by a Montreal builder called LiveWorkLearn Play. The city has formally sold the company the land that used to house the New Haven Coliseum. The company promises to build a busy new-urbanist mini-city with 76,900 square feet of new shops, 785 parking spaces, 719 new apartments, a new 160-room hotel and 4.6 acres of office space. Plus a public plaza. (Click here for all the details.)

Paul Bass Photo Developer Max Reim and Mayor John DeStefano formally signed the papers transferring the property and codifying other details of the deal at a City Hall ceremony Thursday afternoon.

The project won’t get built, though, unless the city can convince the state and federal governments to send $20 million to reconfigure Orange Street and a stretch of the Route 34 Connector mini-highway-to-nowhere. (Read about that here.) That task will fall in the lap of Mayor-Elect Toni Harp. “I want to assure the public I believe in this project, and that when Mayor DeStefano and his fabulous development team headed by Kelly Murphy gives us the ball, we will not drop that ball,” Harp said at Thursday’s event.

Kelly Murphy, the city’s development chief, teared up as she noted that this is her final major public announcement after eight years in the job, shepherding major projects to approval. (She will not be staying on with the Harp administration. She and nine other mayoral appointees received letters from Harp at City Hall earlier on Thursday informing them their contracts won’t be renewed; Murphy had already announced she was pursuing new jobs elsewhere.)

“The key here is the jobs,” Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said of the project. “Whether you are a businessperson with a PhD in economics, or you’re simply a blue-collar worker that wants to be a carpenter or ... to fix leaky faucets .... The jobs are very important to us.”

Developer Reim spoke of how his company “believe[s] in your potential to be a world-class city that is known from sea to sea.”

Mayor DeStefano, meanwhile, brought a prop: Hockey pucks that opponents distributed in 2007 when the city tore down the old New Haven Coliseum, home to rock concerts, circuses, and minor-league hockey. The puck showed DeStefano’s face with a line through it.

“Do you remember where you were on Jan. 20th, 2007? I remember where I was. I was at the Temple Street Garage. It was cold. And the Coliseum exploded,” DeStefano recalled. “I started getting these little love letters. Do you remember these? ‘Mayor DeStefano, puck you.’ These were special things I got. ...

“The Coliseum project was envisioned in the 1960s for a very different city of New Haven. A city that was auto-focused ... using highway construction to demolish neighborhoods and create separations. ... The market for what creates healthy cities had changed. What we’ve learned is cities that invest in people rather than places are cities that grow and succeed ...”

DeStefano said the proposed new project “reflects a vision of the city that the market drives and a real competitiveness and authenticity that is New Haven today. It is not a vision looking backward. It is a vision looking forward. It is one that relies on a city where people live, where they walk and bike to work, where workplaces are proximate to where they live.”

And he offered these parting words:

“To those of you who sent me these, you know where you can put them.”


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posted by: anonymous on December 13, 2013  9:08am

Good to see development that may happen, but it’s a shame we’re still designing pedestrian and cycling infrastructure like it is the 1960s.  For all the nice talk about “complete streets”, the reality is that the streets around this area will still be hostile to people who take wheelchairs and walk. This was a major opportunity to fix the city for everyone, not just the planners, Mayors, and suburbanites who drive everywhere.  We are losing that.  When will our aging leaders catch up with the economic reality of the past 20 years?

posted by: FromTheHill on December 13, 2013  9:32am

The mayor seems rather silly holding a grudge for ten years

posted by: Threefifths on December 13, 2013  9:47am

The project won’t get built, though, unless the city can convince the state and federal governments to send $20 million to reconfigure Orange Street and a stretch of the Route 34 Connector mini-highway-to-nowhere. (Read about that here.)

Were is the money going to come from.The city and state are in debt.Again snake oil and Three card monte being sold.Keep voting them in.

posted by: robn on December 13, 2013  9:56am

Classic Mayor D. I’m feeling nostalgia already.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on December 13, 2013  10:11am

Hey I have that puck to. :)

posted by: Dwightstreeter on December 14, 2013  11:18am

Once again the City officials delude themselves that this time a new development will solve the financial problems of the City by increasing the taxable base.

It hasn’t worked and it won’t work.

Check out Stamford, home to an endless stream of corporate buildings and luxury housing.

Folks there are bracing for new tax increases and wondering why when there is so much new construction and roads clogged with workers. What does it take to make a tax base healthy? If Stamford hasn’t done it, can it be done at all?

The tax exemptions for the wealthy non-profits do not make
sense any more. They have become part of the 1% and the oligarchy. No amount of PR can conceal that fact.

But let our elected representatives continue doing the same thing over and hoping for a different result.

Hasn’t that been the program since the 1960s?

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