$160M Mixed-Use Project Unveiled

Beinfield Architecture One of New Haven’s last downtown holes is about to be filled by yet another 269 market-rate apartments, a project that drew kudos and some traffic and parking questions when the developer unveiled it Monday night.

The developer, Spinnaker Real Estates of South Norwalk, plans to build the seven-story apartment building —  plus 4,000 square feet of stores, a 715-car garage, and a pool and rooftop deck —  on 285,000 square feet on the northwest corner of the block bordered by Audubon, State, Grove, and Orange streets. The company aims to break ground in 2017 on the development, called Audubon Square.

The project drew some initial kudos at a Downtown/Wooster Square Community Management Team meeting Monday night for taking what some consider to be an under-utilized surface parking lot for Frontier Communications employees and injecting a sense of community into the mixed-use development. (The block used to house the New Haven Register before the paper moved to Long Wharf in the mid-1980s.)

Spinnaker CEO Clayton Fowler and a team presented plans for the mixed-use development, in which residential and retail space of varying heights wrap around the core parking garage, to the management team at its meeting at City Hall.

“We felt this was a critical place to enlarge downtown and create a much more energetic community,” city Economic Development Administrator Nemerson said, citing Spinnaker’s track record with developments that fit contextually onto the street and “activate first floors.”

Michelle Liu Photo Nemerson pointed out that the four-acre lot, as is, generates little tax revenue. “We got very lucky.”

Two phases of construction totaling 18 to 20 months would bring the number of apartments up to 500 and cost up to $160 million, according to a news release from the city. Spinnaker is not seeking any aid from the city for the project. While it does not need zoning relief, it does need building plan approval from the City Plan Commission.

Most or all of the apartments in phase one are expected to charge market-rate rents, according to Nemerson. He observed a dearth of market-rate units currently in the area, adding that the development would create an income-integrated neighborhood. A high-rise public-housing complex for seniors and the disabled, McQueeney Towers, is right across the street from the Spinnaker block at 358 Orange St..

The project will extend the busy Audubon arts district. It continues the torrid pace of new apartment construction in and around downtown — including a 232-apartment “Lofts at Wooster Square” project Spinnaker plans to begin building in 2017 on Chapel Street between Union Avenue and Olive Street.

A city news release describes the Audubon project’s design as having “the look and feel of renovated factory site” with “lower, set-back and present more of a town-house feel along the narrow and picturesque Audubon front. The design will seek to create some public plazas that can be enjoyed by the community as well as offering private spaces for residents.”

“When completed this new complex could bring well over 500 new units of housing and create a retail corridor on Orange Street that has not been seen in over 50 years –  when the next-door Arena was torn down,” the release quoted Mayor Toni Harp as saying.

Fowler Monday night said Spinnaker agreed to let Frontier employees to park free at the garage during the day as part of its purchase of the property from the phone company. He said his tenants will have ample parking space in the evenings.

Former Downtown Alder Abigail Roth, who used to live a block up Audubon Street from the planned development, voiced skepticism at Fowler’s explanation for the day/night parking set-up. She said many of those she knew who lived in the area were either retired or walked or biked to work — meaning that they might be fighting Frontier employees for parking spaces during the day.

Fowler explained that Frontier requires only 525 of the 715 spaces set to be constructed (“They sold the land; they drove the boat,” he told the Independent of the number of spaces.) The remaining spaces can easily accommodate residents of the planned 269 units, he said.

New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell (pictured) asked for more details: What about the private road Fowler had mentioned that would cut through the site?

The two-way street would be publicly accessible, as would plaza areas stemming of the road, Fowler stressed. There is already an accompanying traffic study Spinnaker will submit to the city this week.

Farwell pressed further: What kinds of traffic signals would the street entail?

“I don’t know. I have not read the traffic study yet,” Fowler said.

He anticipated that after the garage is built first, it will be functional even as the wrap-around units and retail are constructed. Fowler added that Spinnaker has already communicated with neighbors such as the Trinity Baptist Church on the corner of State and Grove Streets, the only part of the block Spinnaker does not own.

“It’s still well thought out, and will be thought out in the future,” management team chair Peter Webster said of the plan.

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posted by: wendy1 on November 15, 2016  7:39pm

Sounds wonderful.  I can’t wait.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 15, 2016  8:05pm

Again no apartments for the poor or working poor. Like I said.New Haven will be in stage two of Gentrification by next year.

posted by: quinn127 on November 15, 2016  10:06pm

So the second phase of this project will be the same type of development? Or just office space?

posted by: Renewhavener on November 15, 2016  11:05pm

“The project will extend the busy Audubon arts district. It continues the torrid pace of new apartment construction in and around downtown.”

Unless you are not paying attention, the “torrid pace” has become more of a “running in place” for the last few quarters.  It will be good to see another start of this magnitude and am looking forward to the article and the eventual project.

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on November 15, 2016  11:12pm

This is wonderful news! I’m looking forward to seeing this come to fruition and connect Upper State more with downtown!

posted by: Bradley on November 16, 2016  6:53am

I live a few blocks from this site and am fine with this proposal. But I do wonder about the developer’s ability to fill the retail space in light of the experience at the Novella and other recent developments.

BTW, I had thought PMC had sued Spinnaker, again, to block its Chapel Street development. Any news on that front?

TNNH, I share your sentiment. But this project is downtown, about a mile from Upper State.

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016  9:27am

“Stage Two of Gentrification” is when commenter Threefifths admits that, because the city is allowing development on empty lots, we are getting lots of new housing with no displacement of poor residents.  They remain undisturbed in their existing homes.

“Stage Three” will be when Threefifths realizes that if we *stop* new development on empty / underused lots, then richer folks will bid up the price of existing properties.  Those properties will indeed by “gentrified” and poor residents will be driven out.  See: San Francisco and some Brooklyn neighborhoods, where “liberals” blocked most new development and the poor were absolutely driven out.  You may hate Texas and North Carolina, but cities there allow new development and housing prices stay low even while cities grow.  Blue state cities should learn from that, we want people here, not there. 

Increased supply reduces prices of existing housing units.  Talk to any landlord of older properties downtown or in East Rock; they know.

posted by: anonymous on November 16, 2016  10:02am

Only about 40,000 out of 130,000 city residents drive themselves to work every day.  But the vast majority of us pay way too much for housing - many paying over half of their income towards it.  That is a crisis.

New Haven treats cars better than it treats people right now.  Regarding the parking requirements, I don’t see why the city would want to indirectly subsidize free space for parked cars instead of creating lower-cost space for people. 

Waive the parking requirements throughout New Haven.  This way, developers can build as many housing units as possible within the other zoning laws, and let the private market provide parking spaces.

Other than the federal or state governments subsidizing more than a handful of units each year (something that seems less likely than a gigantic meteor hitting the planet, at the moment), the only way to lower housing costs is to allow the construction of more units by doing things like eliminating parking requirements. 

To 3/5ths point, new units are almost always “luxury” units—because they are new.  That’s the way things have been in New Haven for the past 300 years. When new units come online, they help make the older units throughout New Haven more affordable.

Also, there’s this: Carless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use
http://usa.streetsblog.org/2016/08/19/carless-renters-forced-to-pay-440-million-a-year-for-parking-they-dont-use/

posted by: HewNaven on November 16, 2016  11:55am

Oh boy! I’m going to pull up a lawn chair and popcorn for the impending strange encounters between the current tenants of the Public Housing complex and these future high-rent tenants. What a treat!!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 16, 2016  2:01pm

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016 9:27am

“Stage Two of Gentrification” is when commenter Threefifths admits that, because the city is allowing development on empty lots, we are getting lots of new housing with no displacement of poor residents.  They remain undisturbed in their existing homes.

They may remain undisturbed in their existing homes. But what about the people who rent apartments?They are the ones who are being displaced. Ask the people at Chruch Street South.


Stage Three” will be when Threefifths realizes that if we *stop* new development on empty / underused lots, then richer folks will bid up the price of existing properties.  Those properties will indeed by “gentrified” and poor residents will be driven out.  See: San Francisco and some Brooklyn neighborhoods, where “liberals” blocked most new development and the poor were absolutely driven out.

Not true. I am from New York. Did you know that Brooklyn is the Unaffordable Place To Buy A Home or Rent a Apartment In America.Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Values in the borough, where almost 70 percent of residents rent, have been surging as wealthy New Yorkers priced out of Manhattan displace the poor.

In a deal completed last month, a renovated 1890s townhouse in the Park Slope section sold for $10.78 million—a record for the neighborhood and Brooklyn’s third-most-expensive purchase, the Curbed real estate blog reported yesterday.The median rent in Brooklyn was $2,858 in October, up almost 6 percent from a year earlier, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-04/brooklyn-worst-in-u-s-for-home-affordability

Part One.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 16, 2016  2:26pm

Part two.

You may hate Texas and North Carolina, but cities there allow new development and housing prices stay low even while cities grow.  Blue state cities should learn from that, we want people here, not there.

I have friends who live in Texas and North Carolina. They are having the same problem to with the Gentrification Vampires

Gentrification Rolls On in Dallas, But Will It Grow Up?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ginger-mcknightchavers/gentrification-rolls-on-i_b_5697768.html

Even North Carolina are having the same problem to with the Gentrification Vampires.

Ever since the New York Times highlighted Durham as one of the best new cities to live in the South, gentrification has been steadily creeping.

Gentrification Rocks North Carolina’s Historic Black Community: Old Hayti & Black Wall Street

http://www.newblackmaninexile.net/2013/10/gentrification-rocks-north-carolinas.html


“Stage Three” will be when Threefifths realizes that if we *stop* new development.

I never said that you should stop development. I said why is there no new development for poor and working class people? In fact as I always say.How come New Haven will not call in Omni New York LLC run by “Mo” Vaughn who Builds housing for the poor and working Class?

http://www.onyllc.com/

http://www.wickedlocal.com/x415950135/Mo-Vaughn-s-housing-plan-a-hit

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016  3:48pm

3/5’s, your comment about high prices in Brooklyn reinforces my point, not yours.  Before the 1960s, zoning laws were not that strict (although they existed) and poor folks lived throughout the NYC boroughs, including lower Manhattan.  In those days, when housing demand increased, housing of all types was built and the poor found homes (sometimes old and not so great ones, but they could afford to live in Manhattan.) 

In the early 1960s, there was a massive NYC down-zoning that took effect over that decade (but as that zoning was phased in, tons of buildings went up.)  In the 1970s and 1980s, there was little demand for new housing, but by the late 1980s housing demand grew and yet it was illegal to build in most places. Many classic older buildings in NYC would be in violation of the new rules, if they weren’t grandfathered in.  Mayor Bloomberg up-zoned a few places (the Brooklyn waterfront) where rich folks might want to live, but actually downzoned many neighborhoods further out, where immigrants and poor folks might move.  I

The result of this restrictive zoning, in the face of rapidly rising demand, is very high prices.  Poor folks are almost 100% driven out of San Francisco (with strict zoning) but not Dallas (with weaker zoning.)  NIMBYs are the friends of the rich, not the poor.  You can have zoning (we don’t have to be Texas), but it has to allow for a lot of housing to be built.

You think that you can stop gentrification by stopping new buildings.  That is like trying to stop spring from coming by not planting any flowers.  It is true that the crocuses predict spring, but they don’t cause it.  You have the causation reversed.  Rising demand is creating pressure whether buildings go up or not.

posted by: LookOut on November 16, 2016  4:32pm

@Esbey - I really appreciate your well thought out comments.  We need more folks in the city (and city/state government) to realize that additional controls and restriction almost always drive up costs and therefore hurt those at the bottom.  If we would just get out of the way and let teh market dictate volume and pricing, there will be plenty for everyone - and especially some units that are naturally affordable.

posted by: robn on November 16, 2016  4:44pm

HN,

The only thing strange or unusual about the people who live in McQueeney Towers is that they seem to enjoy their outdoor plaza in front of the building in a very civil manner.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 16, 2016  4:51pm

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016 3:48pm

You think that you can stop gentrification by stopping new buildings.

I never said this. Read what I wrote.I said why is there no new development for poor and working class people?

I also told you about the Omni New York LLC run by “Mo” Vaughn who Builds housing for the poor and working Class?

Read it.

posted by: HewNaven on November 16, 2016  5:06pm

robn,

Take another look at that rendering of what Orange Street will look like… and try not to laugh.

posted by: yim-a on November 16, 2016  8:39pm

Call me naive or uninformed, but where are the millions of dollars for the downtown New Haven real estate boom coming from?  Is this part of the wave (billions of dollars) of Chinese investment in US real estate?  Just wondering…

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 16, 2016  8:46pm

HewNaven,
Doesn’t that juxtaposition already exist on Audubon Street with McQueeny Tower and Audubon Court, the luxury townhouse development built in 1987?

posted by: Bradley on November 16, 2016  10:33pm

HewNaven, picking up on Robn and Jonathan Hopkin’s points, I’ve lived a five-minute walk from McQueeney Tower for 25+ years. I’ve never seen any friction between the residents (seniors and people with disabilities) and their neighbors.

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016  11:01pm

Threefifths, I hear you when you say that you are not opposed to developments such as the one being discussed here.  I have to say that I didn’t get that from your repeated comments, but good.  We agree on that.

You then ask a serious question.  Why isn’t there much new housing for poor people?  The major reason is that the government isn’t offering subsidies for housing. Even putting land costs aside, the construction cost of new housing, built to code, exceeds the ability of poor families to pay. 

You ask why Mo Vaughn isn’t building here.  No one is stopping him! There *are* non-profit housing developers who do build some low-income housing.  They are great, but it doesn’t add up to that much. 

As noted by others here, new housing holds down the price of older housing, which otherwise would become more expensive in the face of rising demand. So new housing helps lower income families.  But this may not seem not enough.

Other solutions:

—Find some way to build housing more cheaply. Can building codes be changed while maintaining safety?  Are there new building techniques?  This is the biggest issue in my opinion.

—Find ways to better regulate “slum lords” who run properties into the ground and abandon them, in a worthless state, with unpaid taxes. The same for banks who mismanage foreclosed properties. 

—Convince the government to offer more housing subsidies (I don’t think the recent national election helped with that.)

posted by: Renewhavener on November 16, 2016  11:10pm

Clay Fowler as quoted here:
https://www.bisnow.com/new-york/news/commercial-real-estate/spinnaker-ceo-clay-fowler-on-collisions-developing-in-the-burbs-and-what-tech-is-doing-to-worklife-balance-59510

“We’re highly invested in New Haven. We’re finishing an office building rehab into apartments there and we’re cautiously optimistic. That’s one place, because it’s got that natural existing urban fabric. But it needs a more favorable political environment.”

Exactly.

posted by: HewNaven on November 17, 2016  9:15am

You guys are right. New Haven is a great town, where if you have a ton of money -or if you have absolutely no money - you can live it up in the heart of downtown and enjoy all the surroundings. If you’re a working class person, especially families, you’d be much better off in one of the suburbs. Yay!

posted by: robn on November 17, 2016  9:59am

Bottom Line

More housing, whether its market rate or subsidized, increases housing stock and decreases upwards pressure on rent. 

More Supply=Less Demand=Lower Price

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 17, 2016  1:42pm

posted by: Esbey on November 16, 2016 11:01pm

You then ask a serious question.  Why isn’t there much new housing for poor people?  The major reason is that the government isn’t offering subsidies for housing. Even putting land costs aside, the construction cost of new housing, built to code, exceeds the ability of poor families to pay.

Not true.Public housing is real property owned and managed by the government.

You ask why Mo Vaughn isn’t building here.  No one is stopping him! There *are* non-profit housing developers who do build some low-income housing.  They are great, but it doesn’t add up to that much.

Not true.Take a look at the list.

Outside of New York State, through ONY’s affiliate Omni America LLC, the company owns 5,219 units of affordable housing throughout the United States.

  94 units in Wyoming
  558 units in Massachusetts
  772 units in Georgia
  964 units in North Carolina
  750 units in South Carolina
  1,262 units in Virginia

  61 units in Florida
  506 units in Maryland
  252 units in New Jersey

As far as no on stopping him.The problem are the NIMBYS that do not want low income housing.How come the city has not reach out Mo Vaughn?

posted by: mbedford on November 17, 2016  3:10pm

I am generally in favor of building new units, but the incentives offered to developers are sometimes ridiculous. It looks like Spinnaker is doing this right, accepting no assistance from the taxpayers except for a zoning variance.

My issue here is that Orange Street (especially off of the highway at Trumbull Street) are horribly congested. 500 units with many more cars is not going to help the commute any.

posted by: Bradley on November 17, 2016  5:18pm

MBedford, you’re right that Orange Street is congested. But developments like this attract tenants who routinely walk or bike. I bike this stretch of Orange nearly every day, and am not looking forward to the construction season. But I suspect that in the longer run, people will adjust their travel patterns.