So Long Lots. Hello Homes

Paul Bass PhotosNo one parks at this Wooster Square “parking lot.” Two of its neighbors would like to see a community garden take its place. A new house might go up there, instead.

The lot is on Chestnut Street near St. John. The city owns it. But, even though street parking spaces are sometimes hard to find, the city has long stopped renting spaces there. And, according to neighbors, nobody parks there.

The lot is one of four the city has put up for sale in Wooster Square. The city wants people to buy them and build two- to three-family homes on the lots.

The four lots, run by the parking authority, are under-used, according to Erik Johnson, director of New Haven government’s Livable City Initiative (LCI), which is handling the sale.

He noted that Wooster Square is a popular neighborhood. Lured by a picturesque central Green, historic homes, and a short walk downtown, people want to buy homes or rent there. It makes sense to find investors to build homes on the underused lots and build up the tax base, Johnson said. He said that in considering bids, LCI will be looking for plans that fit into the neighborhood’s historic character.

Johnson said he doesn’t have an estimate of how much revenue he hopes the land sales will produce.

The city is accepting bids until noon on Nov. 27. After a committee reviews bids, Johnson will make the call on which to accept; then the Board of Aldermen will have to approve the sales. Click here to register to view the city’s bid request.

Wooster Square Alderman Michael Smart applauded the decision to sell the lots. “For years, constituents have wanted homeowners to buy those properties and develop them,” he said.

Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen, too, applauded the plan. He had opposed another one-time revenue proposal the city tried last year, to sell parking meter revenues. This is different, Hausladen said: The lots don’t add value to the city, but their sale would. At a recent aldermanic Finance Committee hearing, Hausladen urged city finance officials to see what other underused property could be sold.

Hausladen also applauded the idea of selling the lots now, rather than next spring. Last spring the city tried to unload a downtown parking garage to fill a budget hole; but it had too little time to obtain a favorable enough price before the budget needed to be passed.

One Wooster Square neighbor, Katie Buick, said she’d rather see the more centrally located lots remain parking lots. She said the neighborhood needs more parking. She has a monthly permit for one several blocks from her home.

“I’ve been trying for seven years to get into the one across the street,” she said while walking her ariel terrier Duffie past another of the to-be-sold lots, at Olive and Greene Street (pictured).

Cary Ward and Thomas Norris, who rent separate apartments in the house next to the abandoned Chestnut Street lot, said they have no problem with a new house going there. They said they’d prefer a community garden, though.

Norris, a student, said he would rent a parking space in the lot if the city decided to activate it again. But having to park a couple of blocks away sometimes isn’t that big a deal, he said. Ward agreed: “I lived in Queens awhile” and had to master a true “parking dance.”

Besides the beautiful central neighborhood green, Wooster Square could use more green space, which is why he’d prefer a garden, Ward said.

But “in general the neighborhood would be improved by new construction,” said Ward, a consultant by trade. “That lot looks just pretty nasty. Some of the weeds growing outside it looked fairly suspicious ...”

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 13, 2012  5:56pm

I actually heard some disgruntled Wooster Square residents recently lamenting the availability of new housing and the possibility of reduced home values due to lack of scarcity.  Nothing quite like putting your own property values over your community to build togetherness in the Elm City.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 13, 2012  7:34pm

Scarcity usually drives prices up, if I remember my economics course correctly.

The Victory Garden on the Fenway in Boston is a masterpiece of urban diversity and ingenuity.

If this lot is developed, keep it in mind as something to do elsewhere.

Start checking your local Plan of development now so you don’t find yourself fighting something that increases the tax rolls, but doesn’t fit with the neighborhood.

Can you spell v-a-r-i-a-n-c-e-s?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on November 13, 2012  10:56pm

AIREDALE terrier.  Not “ariel.”

posted by: HhE on November 14, 2012  2:09am

I wish I had the means and opportunity to restore the yellow building in the back ground.  I admire it every time I visit Cary Ward and his family.  (Great people, and he is one smart guy.)

posted by: parejkoj on November 14, 2012  11:53am

HhE: Someone has been working on that yellow building on and off. They seem to have stopped for the winter, but there was a fair bit of interior cleaning/stripping going on this summer, and someone was replacing studs inside.

posted by: HhE on November 14, 2012  3:29pm

parejkoj, I am glad to hear it.  I know these projects typically take more time (by three) and more money (by at least twice) than expected.  Ask me how I know.