By George, Look At That Block Now

Markeshia Ricks PhotoSVIGALS + PARTNERSDowntown’s fastest-changing block continued its transformation, as site plans for market-rate apartments and an extended-stay hotel got the city’s go-ahead.

At a Wednesday night meeting, the City Plan Commission approved the plans for the five-building “Metro 301” at 301-305 George St. and 274 Crown St, as well as for the neighboring short-term rental  extended-day hotel and retail development at 323 George St. and 9 and 15 High St. (Read previous stories about those projects here and here.) (Developer Bob Landino has already opened a 160-unit luxury apartment complex at the other end of the block.)

Developer Bob Smith of Metro Star Property Management is putting up a 37,750 square-foot development on .86 acres, spanning Crown to George Streets between College and High Streets. He plans to knock down a single-story retail building at 274 Crown St., a warehouse building and a rehab center on George, and then put up four buildings, including three connected “mews” buildings along a walkway on Crown. He’s doing so on property that used to house a squatters’ lair where police discovered a dismembered torso in July.

The development company will also renovate a chapel building according to state standards, after collaborating with the New Haven Preservation Trust, said architect Sam Gardner, of GWG Architects. City Plan staff asked the developers to take out plans for “uplights” highlighting some of the site’s features, but let them keep the “monument lighting” highlighting the chapel.

“There’s a fair amount of ambient light already,” he said. The “mews” or alleyway between the buildings between Crown and George will also be well lit, he said.

Electronic gates will provide entry and exit on George and Crown.

GREGG WEIS & GARDNER ARCHITECTSPeople will be able to walk through the mews on the George Street side during the day until it is locked at night. “The gate is open during the day. It will lock at around 10 p.m.,” Smith said. The Crown Street gate will be locked all day.

Commissioner Adam Marchand expressed worry about someone heading into the development during the day, staying hidden overnight and breaking into someone’s home at 3 a.m.

Smith said the neighborhood would likely change to be more active and busy with around 300 people moving in. He said he would make any necessary changes as the project went on.

A parking lot with a below-ground parking garage will provide parking spots for the entire development, with the garage accessed from 297 George St., said architect David Golebiewski, of TPA Design Group.

Corner Goes MOD

Aliyya Swaby PhotoJust down the street at 323 George St, brothers Josef and Jacob Feldman of MOD Equities are building 108 furnished studios in an extended-stay hotel they hope will feel like “home” for those without one in New Haven. The hotel, said lawyer Matt Panelli, will “complete the block” of George Street, replacing a budget car rental company.

The Feldman brothers also plan to preserve and renovate a historic home at 15 High St. for additional guest rooms.

The “concierge activity zone” will share the first floor with a coffee shop, said architect Jay Brotman. The development has about 2,000 square feet of retail space, big enough for one restaurant or two smaller tenants, he said.

“It’s a different style of housing,” he said. The developer seeks tenants who need a comfortable place to stay short-term, including students who are at Yale for only a few months and don’t want to invest in furniture. Floors two through six include different types of common spaces where tenants can leave their studios and be in the company of others.

Within each 400 square-foot studio, a tenant will have his or her own kitchen, washer/dryer unit, bed, hot water heater, and air conditioner, among other amenities, said Brotman (at right in photo).

Since it is zoned similarly to a hotel, it does not need parking, the way a residential development would. A 15-space lot on-site would provide parking either for retail or tenants. “Most tenants that come won’t be coming with cars. They would go to parking garages in the neighborhood,” Brotman said.

Panelli said the developers are considering getting a Zipcar service to run out of the parking lot, to service the tenants.

The neighboring developers have talked about how to move their structures forward in a mutually beneficial way.

At Smith’s request, Feldman agreed to move the top floor of the hotel back 10 feet in order to allow light to permeate through to his development, Feldman said. “We have a good working relationship,” he said. Eventually, he said, tenants could stay a few months in his hotel until they got settled and then lease an apartment in Smith’s development.

Both projects are required to be reviewed by the traffic department—so applicants can discuss putting pedestrian-safe infrastructure such as rectangular rapid-flashing beacons and crosswalks on George.

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posted by: Adelaide on December 17, 2015  10:20am

Does anybody have an idea as to how much is “market rate” ?? I have a feeling these millions of dollars developers don’t shop at the same “market” I do!

posted by: Bradley on December 17, 2015  11:18am

There are actually two separate markets, one for new apartments (think Landino’s project) and the other for long-term lodging (think Residence Inn). I suspect most city residents will be unable to afford either development, but the regional housing market (which is the relevant one) is much larger and richer.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on December 17, 2015  11:50am

With reference to MOD Equities and 323 George:

Q: When is an overly-dense apartment building, with no parking,—called a hotel?

A: When it’s convenient to do so in order to circumvent zoning laws!

This development is not a hotel, and the City is in danger of setting a horrible precedent. Once these apartments are built, (hint: they have kitchens), what’s to keep the owners from abandoning their short-term concept and morphing the project into just plain apartments? Seemingly nothing, and if the City plays dumb to the ruse, expect many copycats to follow.

Maybe I’m just old-school, but a hotel/motel has always been a place were you can rent a room for a night. (A boarding house is where you rent rooms by the week, and apartments are month-to-month, or on a year’s lease.)

Shame on the City for being in too much of a rush to build up the Grand List. This project is not a hotel, and the Feldmans should be made to play by the same rules everyone else has had to play by.

posted by: HewNaven on December 17, 2015  11:55am

Adelaide,

“Market Rate” is the going rate for new construction in a given location. It’s pretty general terminology. If you’re implying that it may be used to hide the real purpose of new development (i.e. to attract wealthy residents) in a town where most people are struggling to pay rent/mortgage, you’re probably right.

Here’s a poem I wrote:

Future Haven
The poor will receive subsidized housing.
The rich will call it the Greatest Small City in America.
The working class will LEAVE in droves

posted by: Pedro Soto on December 17, 2015  12:04pm

Market rate is whatever they can get to fill up the apartments. In New Haven’s market the new units are tending towards higher-end and higher rent amounts. So you are correct that these the market they are looking for is on the higher side, but every apartment that has opened to date has not had a problem filling up to an occupancy level to support those rents.

The big question is whether all of these apartments will lead to a glut of apartments on the market, but to date that has not been an issue. The expansion overall of apartments in the city with our insanely low occupancy rate is great for the overall housing supply, since it will put a lot of pressure on underperforming landlords, since people overall will have more options.

posted by: robn on December 17, 2015  12:12pm

HN,

Subjugation of the poor begins and ends with presenting them the illusion that excluding wealthier people from the city will help them. Leftist class warfare has been waged for too long in New Haven and its time to stop it.

posted by: HewNaven on December 17, 2015  12:38pm

robn,

False binary. The question isn’t to exclude or include the rich. It’s should we focus all of the energy of new development exclusively on the wealthy? Alternatively, should we include more plans for affordable and workforce housing (instead of waiting for suburbs to change)? And, what can we do (other than new development) to ease the burden of ALL taxpayers?

I keep hearing that new development will pressure bad landlords who charge too much rent to change their tune. Just like the idea of waiting for suburbs to fill our need for affordable housing, I WON"T HOLD MY BREATH.

posted by: RobotShlomo on December 17, 2015  12:46pm

Are they designing these buildings using Legos? They all look EXACTLY the same. A square “block” Cold War era Soviet Kruschyovka. You could put this anywhere in the world, and you wouldn’t be able to tell where it came from, or who built it. No discernible style at all. At this rate we might as well change New Haven’s name to “New Moscow”, da comrade?

@robn
Oh, there’s “class warfare” alright The rich that have been sticking it to the poor for the last thirty years now.

posted by: robn on December 17, 2015  1:10pm

HN,

Except I’m not making a binary argument; I’m critiquing your rhetoric. Your rhetoric is the same BS thats been spewed out of New Haveners mouths for decades and it sends a message that people of wealth are unwelcome in New Haven. Well guess what? No capital influx = no job growth.

posted by: RobotShlomo on December 17, 2015  3:03pm

@robn

It’s not enough that we just roll out the red carpet for wealthy people, build them luxury apartments, and then sit back and HOPE they all create jobs for us washing their limos, walking their Bijon Frise (which I REFUSE to believe that like all dogs, is a descendant of the wolf), pouring their latte’s, or cleaning said apartments. A recovery happens when growth stems from the middle out. The wealthy can simply not spend enough money to create jobs for the rest of us. The whole of being nice to rich people and then the benefits will trickle down to the rest of us is a myth. In the process they are going to create yet another housing bubble that New Haven always seems to get caught with their pants down, and then takes DECADES to recover, if it recovers at all.

Economic recovery in New Haven or any other city for that matter, is not going to happen by putting up an apartment building, and then wealthy occupants all go to work for the hospital or in Stamford, and then they buy a heated dog water bowl on Amazon. All that does is exacerbate the problem.

posted by: robn on December 17, 2015  3:44pm

RS,

“Trickle Down Theory” was a campaign slogan. Are new residents going to give a middle school grad a job doing brain surgery? No; of course not. However, the ability of capital influx to stimulate jobs is neither a slogan nor a theory.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 17, 2015  3:50pm

In the twenty-first century, the visions of J.C. Nichols and Walt Disney have come full circle and joined. “Neighborhoods” are increasingly “developments,” corporate theme parks. But corporations aren’t interested in the messy ebb and flow of humanity. They want stability and predictable rates of return.


Tanner Colby


We are taking one step forward and two steps back as gentrification in some neighborhoods and continued deterioration in others leads to the removal of vitally needed lower-cost rental housing.

(Nicolas Retsinas)

posted by: anonymous on December 17, 2015  4:14pm

“The wealthy can simply not spend enough money to create jobs for the rest of us.”

True, we need comprehensive reforms and better tax policies.

However, in the meantime, the “wealthy” (people like lawyers, helicopter engineers, nurses, computer programmers, doctors, and instructors at the community college) have to live somewhere. 

One of these situations has to happen:

We build new housing—> the “wealthy” live in the city center.

We don’t build new housing—> the “wealthy” can’t find enough housing in the city center where they want to live, so they move into the neighborhoods and displace those residents; AND/OR they move to the suburbs, where they contribute their tax dollars (rent, etc) to suburban gated communities, and where they vote for pro-suburban policies that would hurt cities and poor people.

Which situation do you prefer?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 17, 2015  9:17pm

I largely agree with Robn and anonymous on this one, but I also think there is an important discussion to be had regarding how recent market rate rental housing development fits into a longer-term view of city change.

In my view, the municipal boundaries around New Haven, while politically and administratively relevant , are arbitrary in almost every other sense (economically, socially, experientially, physically, geographically, geologically, topographically, etc.). As Bradley, points out, it is important to measure against the region - not what happens to fall within archaic municipal boundaries.

I take the approach that all neighborhoods (as defined by a compact geographical area populated with homes, businesses, institutions, and/or organizations with which groups of people identity) should include a cross-section of the entire region’s characteristics in as close proportion as possible to the demographics and land-uses of the overall region. Some exceptions would include the importance of ethnic enclaves to support vibrant small businesses districts, and the inability for outlying low-density residential areas to realistically incorporate low-income households, transit, and mixed-use development. In essence, regardless of whether or not you’re a janitor, teacher, or principal, you should be able to find affordable and desirable housing anywhere in the region.

As it stands now, middle-and upper-income households tend to reside in the outlying towns of Orange, Branford, Guilford, Woodbridge, etc., while New Haven, West Haven, lower Hamden, and East Haven generally contain a large concentration of the region’s low-income population. Though distinctions between neighborhoods do exist, there is comparatively more variety within New Haven.

This has been a long way of saying that new market rate rental housing in New Haven aimed at upper-income people helps bring the city closer to the demographics of the overall region, which is good. (continued…)

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 17, 2015  9:37pm

(continued…)
The next important discussion to have is how dedicated affordable housing can be preserved in traditionally working class neighborhoods in appropriate proportion AND included in traditionally higher-income suburban neighborhoods so that displacement from urban development does not become a real concern in the future (as it might in coming years if nothing is done in anticipation). That discussion involves transit improvements, mixed-use redevelopment of suburban commercial centers, denser building in suburban neighborhoods, and zoning reform in order to make affordable housing possible, practical, and desirable. It is also important to include families in our thinking about the character of the city core since the recent housing boom in New Haven has been geared to single-occupancy households.

Whether we’re talking about Downtown, Newhallville, Orange, Westville, or East Haven, every place should aim for creating integrated neighborhoods where people - regardless of background - can find work, affordable and desirable housing, go shopping, entertain themselves, and be civically active. While the strategies for achieving that ideal vary depending on the unique conditions of the given neighborhood, the goal for every place should be the same - reflect a cross-section of the entire region’s characteristics in as close proportion to the demographics and land-uses of the overall region.

If anyone is interested, I go into greater detail about these ideas here:
https://newhavenurbanism.wordpress.com/new-haven-urbanism/a-future-for-greater-new-haven/

posted by: Esbey on December 17, 2015  11:06pm

Some folks talk as though the city is choosing to build market-rate projects instead of choosing to build affordable housing. 

That is like saying that I choose to walk to work instead of choosing to flap my arms and fly to work.

There isn’t money to build affordable housing.  This is a private project on private land, with no money from the government.  As usual, the “other choice” is a parking lot, in this case for rental cars.

It is as though folks were chiding me for walking to work instead of flying, when the real choice is to either get to work or not get to work.

And, AverageTaxpayer, why would it be a problem if they started renting out these studios on a longer term basis?  What terrible thing would happen?  Why do you think this wouldn’t have been approved if the apartments were leased on an annual basis?  I think they would have been approved anyway. 

And if you are actually a tax payer, what do you have against increasing the share of taxes paid by someone who is not you?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 17, 2015  11:15pm

Trickle-down Gentrification

Luxury condo development can’t solve the affordable housing crisis — only public housing can.
by Karen Narefsky


Today, millions of poor Americans are caught in a similar trap, with the collapse of the housing boom helping stoke a severe shortage of affordable apartments. Demand for rental units has surged, with credit standards tight and many families unable to scrape together enough for a down payment for buying a home. At the same time, supply has declined, with homebuilders and landlords often targeting the upper end of the market.


https://www.jacobinmag.com/2013/12/trickle-down-gentrification/

posted by: Scot on December 18, 2015  12:29pm

I don’t know why each time a new private development is announced people cry about lack of affordable housing. I personally would like to see more of both. I think we need more affordable housing, and I think we need more middle and upper-middle income housing as well. And if the economy supports it, as it seems to right now, more office/commercial/lab space as well. Everyone knows NH has a low vacancy rate; it’s low across all price levels. Its like someone announces a store is going to open to sell fruit, and people get all upset because they think there should be a vegetable store. There is plenty of vacant land in New Haven, parking lots, and old vacant buildings where housing can be added. Private development does not preclude affordable housing nor vice versa (maybe in Manhattan but not New Haven). 

If you want more affordable housing, simply tell your elected leaders that. They are the ones who determine how much gets allocated to affordable housing (versus healthcare, transportation infrastructure, schools, military, and all other public spending). But why try to shoot down a private development, which is also needed, that’s on land that has long been unused or under-utilized? (as is the case with all of New Haven’s new developments). Its not the developers fault if there’s not enough funding for affordable housing. Its a bit unrealistic to think developers will come in and build low income housing on their own good will without public funding.

posted by: RobotShlomo on December 23, 2015  11:28am

@anonymous

So we’re all supposed to be grateful that the wealthy are going to grace with their mere presence, so once in a while we can have a glimpse of a Bentley Continental or see them walking their dog? That seems to feed into this skewed, Bloombergian hyper-gentrification vision of what an economic recovery, and this sanitized idea of what new urbanism looks like, where the landscape is dotted with chain restaurants, banks, and pharmacies. Even if they do live in the city, their voting habits will still favor their own interests, and not result in this “trickle down voting” that you suggest.

@robn
“Trickle down theory” is more than just a campaign slogan. For many it’s an article of faith that if you cut taxes for the wealthy, then they will take that money and invest it and the benefits will spill over to the rest of us. It’s an idea that’s been called a joke by the IMF.

http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/15/news/economy/trickle-down-theory-wrong-imf/

This hyper-gentrification is just trickle down in another form, rather than using tax breaks, they’re using real estate. There has to be a better solution than just “oh, let’s have all wealthy people move into downtown, and HOPE everything gets better”. Because no matter how many hashtags someone comes up with, eventually somebody is going to realize they are paying New York rents without the one thing that justifies them, and that’s “New York”.

posted by: robn on December 23, 2015  12:34pm

RS,

We’re not talking about tax cuts for the wealthy. We’re talking about not rejecting the wealthy so that they’ll consider inhabiting portions of the city so that their expenditures on rent, services, food and products are made in the city. There’s a difference.

posted by: HewNaven on December 23, 2015  1:01pm

Yesterday, I was speaking to a staff person at Elm City Market. He told me how much the business had changed now that private investors from outside the community had taken over from member-owners. He also commented that the new signs in the windows of 360 STATE inviting people to “Live Here, Work Here, Shop Here” are insulting to most of us in New Haven. I can only afford to “Work Here”, he told me. The other 2 suggestions are not meant for me. So clearly there are efforts to make current residents feel unwelcome at these new developments. And, it’s not necessarily that someone wanted to make this person feel uncomfortable, but that’s the reality right now.

I’ll add this: if our working-class/poor neighborhoods weren’t so hard to live in, I don’t think it would be a problem to have concentrated wealth living almost exclusively downtown. But, as the neighborhoods are mostly unpleasant places to live, a majority of New Haven’s populace will reject the current drive to attract more affluent residents, since their issues are not being addressed.

posted by: robn on December 23, 2015  2:04pm

HN,

People feeling uncomfortable about those who are weathier is not a metric for downtown development, nor will barring wealthy people from downtown ever alleviate the discomfort of less wealthy.

posted by: HewNaven on December 23, 2015  3:45pm

People feeling uncomfortable about those who are weathier is not a metric for downtown development, nor will barring wealthy people from downtown ever alleviate the discomfort of less wealthy.

Indeed. This is why the poor are forever willing to reciprocate their “discomfort” unto the wealthy.

posted by: robn on December 23, 2015  4:04pm

The assertion that local wealth will not be spent in the community is simply wrong. Take a ride out to Westport and ask any of the 1000s of people working in downtown businesses (retail, restaurants, etc) if it matters whether or not wealthy people live near Westport.

posted by: HewNaven on December 23, 2015  4:50pm

robn,

My honest aspiration is that in 10 years you and I will have this same conversation and I will happily admit that I was wrong, and that New Haven is now (then) more prosperous then ever. Honestly, I want to believe you and others, but I have to check your vision a bit.