Yet Another Wooster Square Housing Plan Debuts
by Paul Bass & Liana Teixeira | Jun 17, 2014 7:06 am
Posted to: Housing, Wooster Square
The envisioned expansion of Wooster Square to the downtown border has taken another leap, as a third-generation New Haven builder unveiled a proposal to build a 325-apartment community on Union Street.
The developer, Noel Petra, brought his plan to a community meeting attended by two dozen people Monday night at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James at the corner of Olive and Chapel streets.
Petra has quietly shopped the plans to city officials in recent weeks. His 2.59-acre project—tentatively entitled “87 Union Street”—would replace a series of warehouses and a plumbing supply store with six wood-framed stories of market-rate studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and townhouses, plus some ground-floor retail on Olive Street. The project would face Olive Street, Union Street, and Fair Street—which, Petra hopes, the city will extend to connect Olive and Union.
Petra’s project is right next to another proposal, which has come further along, to convert the empty Comcast building at Olive and Chapel into 200 luxury apartments. That project is already on its way to city approvals.
Petra told the gathering Monday night that he wanted public feedback on his plan, “and we’ll work on the endgame from there.”
“We believe this is a better community-oriented venture,” said David Waldman, president of David Adam Reality in Westport. Waldman has supported multiple retail leasing projects in downtown Westport, and is now part of Petra’s development team on the 87 Union Street project.
Petra and his team showed the two-dozen attendees the potential design of the complex. The group received mixed results in return—support for the idea of bringing house and a neighborhood feel to the area, concerns about a lack of subsidized housing and a broad city zoning approach to the district’s changing architecture and function.
Like the developers of the Comcast project, Petra is not seeking any public subsidy, and is seeking zoning relief: a change from a warehouse-oriented district to a BD-1 zone, which allows for denser development and for mixed-use development; and a text amendment allowing for a roof height of 70 feet. He also seeks permission to include less than one parking space (0.75 spaces, to be exact, per apartment).
Taken together, the two projects would bring more than 500 new apartments to the no-man’s land connecting Wooster Square with downtown. They would effectively bring Wooster Square right to railroad tracks dividing the area from downtown.
And immediately on the other side of the tracks, the 32-story 360 State Street tower has brought hundreds of new renters downtown, while developer Max Reim of LiveWorkLearnPlay has obtained permission to build a $395 million mini-city of apartments, stores, offices, a hotel, and a public plaza atop the old New Haven Coliseum.
In other words, housing is hot. People want to build downtown and in Wooster Square, and people want to live there. The closeness of two train stations, the lively mix of restaurants and nightspots downtown, and the growth of medical and high-tech jobs in the area appear to be helping to drive the revival.
Petra said the biggest demand these days appears to come from Baby Boomers and early-20s “Generation Y”-ers. In an interesting twist on how public amenities can spur private development, he predicted that a popular new neighborhood dog park across the street from the property will help lure renters.
Petra said his team looked to notable buildings in the area in designing 87 Union Street in order to give it a distinctive New Haven feel. It drew on some of the windows at Union Station and at Chapel Street’s English building as well as a the Liberty Building on Temple Street, the brownstone on Court Street, and the massing at the John Pitkin Norton House on Hillhouse, where the roof levels vary. The overall idea is to avoid the look of a big giant box.
The plan also calls for a courtyard that opens out on Olive Street.
City Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said the city is encouraging the spread of housing. He also said he likes the idea of reconnecting Olive and Union with Fair Street; it’s unclear at this point if the city will have the legal authority to extend it.
At Monday night’s meeting, Alder Dolores Colon praised the design for inviting people and families to interact with their friends or kids on the sidewalks. Unlike the 360 State Street ‘s secluded apartments and private park on the roof, 87 Union Street sounds more like a “neighborhood” with easy accessibility to the streets and shops, she said.
Colon said she would like to see some low-income housing offered, since many working families cannot afford high market rents.
Michael Rose (pictured), who has lived on Olive Street for 17 years, echoed that sentiment.
The 17-year Olive Street resident said the developers should be catering not only to the college students, graduates and professionals who may occupy the apartments, but also to the ethnic and working community already living in the city.
“If you come in, make it applicable to everyone,” he said.
Anstress Farwell of the New Haven Urban Design League cite the Comcast project next door, which also seeks specific zoning relief to build bigger than the law otherwise allows. She called the design for 87 Union Street too high and dense. “It’s another mega-project,” she said.
Waldman and Petra responded that decreasing the density of the complex, while possible, wouldn’t allow the same relationship between residents and the city to take place. A smaller design would mean fewer apartments and no stoops leading down to sidewalks like those seen on Court Street, they said.
Residents would essentially be “getting a view, but it’ll be of parking,” said Waldman.
Farwell also decried the lack of planning for the area as a whole. She said city officials should take a more comprehensive approach to changing zoning in the space between Wooster Square and Union Station, instead of considering one-off zoning-relief requests from different develops.
Other concerns raised included increased traffic on already congested Olive Street.
In response, Petra (pictured) said his team seeks to focus car movement on the Union Street side. There is also the possibility, he added, of opening up almost 25 public parking spaces on Fair Street. Those plans have yet to be finalized.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Petra called the feedback a good start for the project.
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I’m not sure I love this design but what i do know is that the city needs to stop granting zoning relief to developers who show highly articulated buildings in renderings and then after gaining relief, change the design to a plain box (as was done by Landino on College Street).
posted by: shadesofzero on June 17, 2014 8:30am
Given the sort of “dead end” situation over in this neighborhood, is it possible the city would possibly add another bridge over the train tracks? Maybe even a pedestrian/bike-only one?
Amen, Robn, amen.
The whole process is a joke, and the neighborhood should get final drawings before conditional relief is given.
And again, where is City Planner Karyn Gilvarg?
The activation of this wasteland is very exciting. This is prime real estate for mixed use projects and increased density.
While I don’t love the design, I loathe the renderings. With just a few hours in Photoshop, these images could look bright and friendly. The ROI would be huge if people are looking at beautiful, sunny, people-filled portrayals rather than these dark, grim, and scary haunted house posters.
I would be glad to offer my services for a reasonable fee!
This looks like a great plan. I hope the city grants the developer zoning relief and allows this to move forward. New Haven desperately needs more housing to keep up with demand.
The BOA needs to stop asking for more low income housing every time a development is proposed here. New Haven already has the most low-income housing of any town in the region.
It’s not sustainable for the City to continue to house the majority of the region’s poor. Nor is it good to cluster the majority of poor families in a single town. There should be a regional solution to this problem that doesn’t rely on the generosity and the wallets of New Haven taxpayers. New Haven needs more market rate housing. Build the low income housing in Woodbridge, North Haven or Guilford. New Haven is already doing its part.
I don’t think the city will build a new bridge any time soon simply for the fact it’d be pretty expensive. Plus between Water St, Fair St, Chapel St, Court St, Gove St and Grand ave there are 5 bridges in just over 1/2 a mile, we’re not short on them there.
I do like how there will be 3br apartments. A small factor in family flight from cities is for a family that has at least 2-3 kids and wants 2 bedrooms for them, there’s a difficulty finding that in cities as 3br apartments are not plentiful, and housing will be on the extremes of the scale(very expensive neighborhoods or very poor neighborhoods)
This is a great plan that will transform the relationship between downtown and Wooster square. I agree with the concern over continual zoning relief, but that is a problem with the zoning laws, not the project. It would be insane to let bad laws stand in the way of good projects, that is a way to kill a city. By the way, 0.75 parking spaces per unit is too high. Development in the walkable city center should have no parking requirements at all.
And then, of course, Anstress Farwell repeats her mantra: “too high and too dense.”
Everyone who wants fewer pedestrians on our streets (day and night), who wants lower tax revenue and higher tax rates, everyone who wants to deny opportunities for young people to move from soulless suburban apartment complexes to lively urban neighborhoods, everyone who thinks less urban density (and more commuting) is the solution to global warming, everyone who is very sure that restrictions on supply drive down prices —- all such folks should be writing checks to
Suburban Design League
c/o Anstress Farwell
1. Higher density is good. Those who want lower density in what is now a wasteland are being extremely foolish.
2. Parking is not an issue. We’re in a city.
3. No taxpayer subsidy - love it. This will generate more money for the city budget than Winstanley’s sweetheart/corporate welfare deal.
4. Stamp approved. And say “thank you.”
I don’t think the hope/plan is for a new bridge, I think it’s simply to connect Union and Olive Streets via a continuation of Fair Street. (Right now if you want to go to Pepe’s from downtown via George Streetyou have to jog either up to Chapel or down to Water.)
All of these recent apartment complex ideas all look wonderful and beautiful. However, why doesn’t the city concentrate on finding ways for more factories to move back into the city rather than getting more people to live in the city. What’s the point in all of these beautiful complexes if people don’t have jobs to pay the rent to live in them. The city as a whole would be a lot better off if they got factories moving in that provided good paying jobs with good benefits.
“New Haven desperately needs more housing” is an understatement. I would like to see this site developed as a pair of towers with twice the density proposed here (600 units). As a city we just don’t realize what the impact of population change is going to be over the next 10-20 years and how many tens of thousands of new housing units we need as a result.
Adding some low and moderate income housing mixed in is a nice idea but only if it doesn’t kill the project. The best way to do that is to get Governor Malloy to spend $400 million on housing subsidies for the middle class instead of spending it to widen two miles of highway outside of Waterbury as he currently plans, something which is a subsidy for rich people and Saudi Arabians, not middle class CT residents.
“It’s not sustainable for the City to continue to house the majority of the region’s poor. Nor is it good to cluster the majority of poor families in a single town. There should be a regional solution to this problem that doesn’t rely on the generosity and the wallets of New Haven taxpayers. New Haven needs more market rate housing. Build the low income housing in Woodbridge, North Haven or Guilford. New Haven is already doing its part.”
If you ever wonder why 3/5th rails against the perceived gentrification so much, it’s comments like this. Like I’m sorry, but that comment just reeks of wanting to kick the poor out of the city. The city is for poor people, the city has ALWAYS been for poor people( and I mean cities in general, not NH). A good deal of poor people can’t afford to live elsewhere, like yeah living in Guilford will be great when you can’t afford to own a car.
If you’re convinced that New Haven alone should be responsible for supplying virtually all of the low-income housing in southern CT, what does your plan look like?
Do you keep raising taxes on the handful of wealthier neighborhoods to pay for the services these lower income residents need?
Do you continue to unsuccessfully beg the state for more money?
It would be wonderful if New Haven had the financial resources to supply the entire south central region of Connecticut with low-income housing, but I don’t see a way to make the math on that work with New Haven carrying almost 100% of the burden.
What does TheMadCap affordable housing plan entail?
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 17, 2014 11:22am
Are the Friendship Houses up the street from this site not urban? I think that is the type of project that Anstress envisions as appropriate for this site. It is built to the sidewalk, entrances face the street, open space and parking are in the center and rear, the buildings form a continuous but undulating street wall.
If a retail component is designed, then perhaps the Whitney-Grove or Audubon Court projects are a more appropriate model. Though both those project also include office components, which should be encouraged in this area of the city, but doesn’t need to be part of this particular development at this time (though it should be planned for).
What is the city?
Is it merely what is included inside the arbitrary political boundary of the City of New Haven? Is it the urban and suburban growth located around major streets and roads in New Haven, lower Hamden, West Haven and East Haven? Does it include the high-way oriented development of shopping malls, business parks and housing subdivisions?
Currently, the majority of the region’s poor are concentrated in a few urban and suburban neighborhoods in New Haven, West Haven, lower Hamden and East Haven. Aside from a few trailer parks, there is virtually no low-income housing in ex-urban areas of the region. Vast areas of the region’s economy are inaccessible to people without cars. Is there answer to continue allowing these places to be inaccessible and concentrate the poor in a handful of neighborhoods?
I agree with Wooster Squared. New mixed-income housing should be built in ex-urban locations near where jobs already exist (shopping malls, business parks, traditional centers). If 15% of the region is limited-income, I don’t think 30% of Newhallville should be while 5% of Woodbridge is. If your point is that the region cannot support this type of change in its current form, then obviously that’s true, but that is why the region needs to change - not remain the same.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 17, 2014 11:31am
While neighborhoods like Westville, East Rock and East Shore are wealthy by New Haven standards, they really aren’t wealthy in the context of the Greater New Haven Region. New Haven’s wealthier areas are a microcosm of the entire region - there are some wealthy people, a lot of middle class people and some poor people. Its places like The Hill and Upper Hamden that are the extremes in terms of housing disproportionate numbers of poor or rich. Due to historical circumstance, a larger number of low-income neighborhoods happen to exist within New Haven’s municipal boundary and a smaller number of low-income housing options exist within Madison’s border.
We can continue to allow things to continue the way they are going - the poor moving out to suburban neighborhoods in Hamden and West Haven where they become poorer - or we can chart a new course that entails a region-wide solution.
@ Madcap. Cities are not universally for poor people. In other parts of the world many cities are affluent (i.e. Zurich) and poverty is a uniquely rural phenomenon (The alpine region of Switzerland). I don’t know if that is a better state of affairs but certainly it demonstrates we don’t have to be locked into the idea that cities are for poor people. I don’t think that benefits cities or poor people.
Vibrant cities provide opportunities to people of all economic stations but they do not happen by accident. There needs to be a favorable environment for a diverse group of citizenry to both create good jobs and be qualified to fill good job openings, to develop land and to occupy these developments in a way that is profitable to developers. When this balance is struck (taxes v. services) you don’t need sweetheart deals and tax breaks from the city to encourage development; it happens organically and creates opportunities that lift all boats.
“What does TheMadCap affordable housing plan entail?”
Well, in an ideal world, slightly higher wages, bylaws that give incentives for companies to actually hire people from NH. I forget what the exact numbers were but the NHI ran a story with this data some months back highlighting something like 70% of the jobs in the city are filled by non residents. Rent control along with national policies that are far, far beyond what NH alone can accomplish. As for the suburbs, 1. the suburbs do need to stop specifically implementing policies that are meant to keep out the poor, but 2. the poor generally don’t want to live there(in their current state, if they had more money it might be a different option) unless we’re talking about a suburb like WH, lower Hamden and such that are basically just extensions of New Haven. Also when looking at poverty demographics, one also has to look at the racial disparity. Minorities make up a much larger percent of the poor population. Even if the option was available I’d be curious to know how many would want to move to say Gulford or Ansonia just because we’re talking about places where lily white is an understatement. Also remember, the wealthier neighborhoods aren’t immune to being kicked out. NH’s tax rate is in fact no excessive, what has been happening is property values in certain neighborhoods have been soaring. The old “wealthy” people of NH were just upper middle class(seriously, check out the census data for say East Rock and Westville, their median incomes are all quite a bit lower than most surrounding suburbs) people who were wealthy by city standards, and you’re all now being replaced by actual high earners at an astounding pace. At least over in Dwight and say Newhallville, we don’t have to worry about being driven out immediately.
As for factories, NH has tried to get some manufacturing back on River St, but the fact is most factories don’t want to move to cities anymore. Modern factories want sprawling, ground level complexes that are not really conducive to cities.
Poverty is a rural phenomena in the United States as well. Zurich may be a special case, but in general cities are the same everywhere, whether it’s the US, Europe or say India or Nigeria. They’re simultaneously both affluent and a refuge for the poor. What is different in the US though is most cities(at least when comparing to other first world nations) while they may have stagnated didn’t experience the urban decay, crime and population loss most American cities faced in the 70’s through early 90’s along with disastrous urban renewal projects before then that we’re all still trying to rebuild from.
@J Hopkins, if Farwell said what you said:
built to the sidewalk, entrances face the street,
open space and parking are in the center and rear,
the buildings form a continuous but undulating street wall
I would be interested in the conversation.
But what she actually said, as always, is that she wants fewer apartments in the same space. This development is roughly the height of a 19th century Paris apartment building on a main boulevard. But in 21st century New Haven, on wasted industrial land across the train tracks from a 30-story building, we are told it is too high! Urban, smurban. “Anonymous” is closer to correct, maybe it should be higher, with less parking and more people.
What happens to Farwell’s supporters when they visit the residential areas of the Upper West Side of Manhattan—do they faint from the horror?
Opposing density because of concerns about gentrification leads to decreased housing supply, which drives up prices, drives out the poor and leads to gentrification. See: San Francisco where a “progressive” anti-housing policy is quickly leading to an all-rich city with almost no African American population. But, on the other hand, their new apartment buildings are almost all short.
I look to the tower at State St. and Chapel St., then the apartment buildings of Ninth Square owned and operated by the Time Warner company. The occupancy has been steady, and they are mixed income. Yes there are some problems, but compared to the success of the overall residential nature near the downtown area, and the rail line, they are good models. The increase in the tax base, and the transformation of a piece of property that was developed after the New Haven “Redevelopment” of 1960 are both good. I hope it goes through and gets completed. The further we move away from 1985 the better the city gets.
The residents of the Wooster Sq. neighborhood were indifferent when the Friends of the Dwight Historic District opposed the change of zoning for the RMS project to BD-1 to allow for Ninth Square type building.
And now BD-1 has come to YOUR neighborhood!
Nobody is safe.
We told you so.
Great. So the NHI consensus is as big and ugly as you want to build it? (Cuz we’re desperate for the tax dollars!)
What happened to open space requirements? What happened to setbacks?
And harmony with the existing neighborhood?
I’ll just point to the Star Supply development while stating that these developments don’t have to be all or nothing propositions.
It seems like the “taxes-are-too-high” people are the same as the “don’t-like-density.” Let’s just understand, some people were born to complain and others are interested in progress.
Onward toward a better New Haven. Bring the people back to the city.
Esbey’s attacks on the Urban Design League and Anstress Farwell are a distortion of the opinions and expertise found in both the organization and Ms. Farwell. Disagree, but don’t distort.
Were I able to direct your remedial education in urban planning, I would have you read or re-read Jane Jacobs “Death and Life of Great American Cities” dating back to 1961.
posted by: BillSaunders1 on June 17, 2014 2:56pm
As for the Ground Floor retail, may I suggest Dominoes…..
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 17, 2014 3:37pm
Friendship Houses has 60-units on a 2-acre site (30-units/acre)
Audubon Court has 70-units on a 1.5-acre site (46-units/acre)
Whitney-Grove has 37-units on a 1.32-acre site (28-units/acre
The Comcast Site will have 200-units on a 2.27-acre site (88-units/acre)
This proposal calls for 325-units on a 2.72-acre site (120-units/acre)
I ask again: are Friendship Houses, Audubon Court, and Whitney-Grove not urban?
Urbanism isn’t solely or even primarily about density. Urbanism is the pattern of development based around walking - that’s it. Wooster Square is primarily detached houses - does that mean it isn’t urban?
This area of the site between Olive and State Streets isn’t exactly Wooster Square and it isn’t exactly Downtown - it’s something in between. That is the argument Anstress is making. BD-1 is for the urban core of the Ninth Square, Crown Street and the Oak Street Connector - it isn’t a good fit for Chapel West, Audubon-Whitney, Amistad Park nor this area of Wooster Square.
In the short-term the city might need a BD-2 zone, in the long-term we need a new zoning ordinance.
God bless, Ms. Farewell, though does seem she is pretty much in her own League, so maybe the Indy can just quote her as her, rather than spokesperson of sorts. And it does seem more Suburban Design League if she stands against high density. The latter is urban and what New Haven needs to promote. As for subsidized housing, there’s actually quite a bit already within a few blocks of this site—Liberty Housing, WinslowCelentano, also the strong coop housing nearby on Artizan, Wooster, etc.
@JH, those neighborhoods are urban but would also be comfortable in many built-up suburbs, like West Hartford. Farwell is constantly pushing those lower density areas as the *only* “urban model, and I don’t think that overall attitude is very “urban.” Maybe I should have said “The Not-Too Urban Design League”.
@Dwightsteeter, I am discussing Farwell’s direct quote in the article above, and many other similar comments she has made over the years. If her words distort her views then she should say different words. A “continuous street wall” is not the same concept as “short.”
I am sure I need much remedial education, but I have read Jacobs. She was right that moderate density neighborhoods are nice, but empirically totally wrong about higher density neighborhoods not working. She was explicitly wrong about the Upper West Side, which she thought could never be a good neighborhood for families because of its buildings. Ironically, of course, it is now much easier for families to live on the UWS than the Village, precisely because there is better supply of housing there. Her Village is now for the super-rich and mostly childless (she herself moved to Toronto), whereas the UWS is possible for the merely well-off with families. That’s because of, not in spite of, the density and in fact very many folks really like it. Jacobs said a lot of great stuff, but on this point she was just plain wrong. A lot of time has passed and it would be odd if we had learned nothing since 1961.
Unfortunately, it is her supposed followers who, by opposing new housing supply, have created the virtual expulsion of the lower classes from San Francisco.
@meta, like this? (less than 5 minutes of work)
“Urbanism isn’t solely or even primarily about density”
Urban by definition implies density, namely population, it’s basically the main characteristic of an urban area. How dense the buildings should be to be optimal is a different argument. I would say Wooster Sq is pretty dense though. Like it’s not dense by downtown across the track standards obviously, but it’s still more dense than any suburban area usually is(and I’m talking about suburbs like WH and lower Hamden). There are row houses and multi unit apartments. It’s definitely more dense than East Rock, Newhallville and Westville.
@Stylo, that’s a little better, but putting some pink on an ugly building doesn’t really help. It’s still ugly. Aggressively ugly. ‘Let’s plop a 7-story prison blockhouse right next to a neighborhood with it’s own distinctive 3-story character and call it density!’ ‘Oh, kewel! We’ll tack on some architectural tchachkes from genuine New Haven buildings to keep the natives happy!’
Density is one thing (which Wooster square already has, as TheMadcap pointed out). But it’s not just density that makes it urban. Variety makes it urban—human diversity. That’s what makes the Upper West Side appealing—people of all ages and family structures and a wide range of (middle) incomes. In New Haven we seem to have a lot of renters who can afford $2,000/month studios filling up the residential space downtown. Not exactly diversity.
And apparently (I’ve never seen any data supporting this) there are predicted to be hordes of people dying to live and work in downtown New Haven. What happens if they don’t flood in as planned? What happens if they play in NH while they’re young and single and move out to the suburbs (where the schools are better) the minute they hit their 30s? What happens if the start-up businesses get successful and move out to corporate campuses 20 miles away?
Doesn’t sound like an enticing plan to me. And besides, I LIKE the plumbing supply place. And I don’t have to drive out to East Oshkosh to get there.
There is no East Oshkosh. My in-laws lived there and there is a west Oshkosh, a south Oshkosh which is south of the river but East Oshkosh is actually the lake!!!
We complain about not enough affordable housing and then complain when we don’t fully approve of a solution because its too tall or too dense or not in exactly the right spot. The hair splitting is amazing. The quote referring to the Democratic party as united only when they are opposing the republican party is a perfect descrition of this one party city. We are fighting in our own sandbox but’s its all right because we are all liberals and we know best for everybody!!
I read all of your comments and I wonder why not one of you addressed the new problems these buildings will create on I-95, CT-34, State St., and other streets. It is very difficult at times, now, to leave I-95 and travel on 34. Do you plan to walk to the hospital?
Grid lock on all streets is on the way to NH.
Has any consideration been give to snow removal? People in these buildings will be blocked and unable to move many times in the winter. Just think about how we fared in this 2013-14 snow season.
Other considerations concern water, sewer and power capacities.
Already NH has problems with air quality. These projects will increase these problems considerably.
The new projects I read about, these two and the others, seem to ignore these consequences.
For example, 100 apartments do not equate to 100 people. There could be 200, 400 or more people housed in one such building. People require support in many areas and NH lacks such increased support capabilities.
To improve our lives, manage the City more economically and reduce all taxes in order to encourage new jobs and revenue.
Did you basically just say the solution is to stop new people from moving into NH because of nebulous problems and lower taxes to act as some kind of panacea for everything?
@Don, how do you expect to reduce taxes unless you add buildings like this to the grand list?
Also, this is somewhere that you could easily walk to downtown or the hospital. We can’t put our heads in the sand and worry about pollution if we’re not building vibrant walkable/bikeable areas. They won’t create themselves.
posted by: BillSaunders1 on June 18, 2014 12:16pm
We are not really talking about density here, we are talking about destiny!
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 18, 2014 12:26pm
In my opinion, urbanism is pedestrian-oriented development of any density. Suburbanism is transit- or auto-oriented expansive development of an urban area. Ex-urbanism is highway-oriented development typically existing beyond an urban area.
In my opinion, urbanism was at it’s height in the antebellum era (1850s) when Greater New Haven consisted of walkable towns and villages. Transit-oriented suburbanism peaked around 1900 with streetcar suburbs. Auto-oriented suburbanism peaked around 1945 with early automobile suburbs. Ex-urbanism peaked around 2008 with commercial and residential ex-urban development in decline.
Downtown New Haven is now predominantly a commuter destination for transit riders and highway users. Fortunately, it has gotten a decent amount of housing recently, with more on the way. Unlike Hartford, which is essentially a former downtown that mostly functions as an ex-urban edge city business park now, yet it has many skyscrapers.
Skyscrapers, especially when they are built in single use areas, are merely vertical cul de sacs.
The Coliseum Site is an exception where housing, retail, commercial and office space are being built in concert with one another. But places like Hartford suffer from vertical cul de sacs of single use office space to the detriment of its urbanism. The redevelopment of Route 34 is headed down that road, though the conversion of 205 Church Street, The Eli, and other residential conversion projects may offset that.
Manhattan isn’t a good example to use. It is the financial capital of the world - New Haven doesn’t even have the largest port in New England. New Haven’s urban fabric is 2.5-story detached buildings, Manhattan’s is large commercial block buildings. Besides that, I personally find much of midtown and downtown Manhattan to be oppressive.
There was another bridge crossing over the railroad at Crown Street, but that was removed sometime in the ‘90s.
Don, you have it exactly backwards about the burden on the city’s resources.
The developer is responsible for the sewer and water connections. The apartments will pay full property taxes and their full sewer, water and electric bills. They pay for their own garbage removal. Because they are compact, they are much cheaper to serve than the average Connecticut (or even New Haven) dwelling and so they *subsidize* the region’s sewer, water, garbage and electric systems. They pay rates based on average costs, but they are much cheaper to serve that the average. It is actually totally unfair that apartment dwellers pay the same as rural folks per kilowatt hour of electrical distribution.
Similarly, there will be few to no school age children, and yet they pay the same tax rates that support our school system. They *subsidize* the school system, helping children and directly reducing your tax burden.
The residents will disproportionately walk and train to work (otherwise why are they living downtown?), so they will reduce traffic. On the other hand, if you work to decrease downtown housing, the jobs at the hospital, Yale, etc. are still here and so folks will drive, making traffic worse and pollution worse. Downtown sidewalks are cleared quite well (by property owners), even in bad storms and so walking remains quite viable in bad storms—a big plus for hospital workers who have to report regardless of weather.
There is nothing better for pollution reduction that dense downtown housing. The buildings are super-efficient energy users because of shared walls and relatively small square-footage. Walking, biking and transit are all increased by downtown living.
We get to save the planet and reduce traffic as we in turn collect excess property tax and utility payments!
Thank you for your comments in response to mine.
Why do you think there will be no school children in an apartment building that is within walking distance from two schools on Water Street?
Why do you think the building occupants will be single with no car?
If there are two people in the apartment, at least one will have a car and both may have their own cars. How do you convince people to walk to YNHH or any other medical facility during inclement weather? The bus transportation system in NH cannot handle so many more people.
When I came to NH in January 1958, we had trolley cars and tracks going everywhere. The biggest mistake ever made was to remove that system and replace it with buses. You don’t have a transportation system like ANY modern city, foreign or domestic.
No matter who pays the utility bills, there are limits on available capacity. One of the most serious is the sewer. Check and see how much more sewage the NH sewer plant can handle.
When we have heavy rains, we have street flooding and increasing the impervious surface will only make this condition worse.
Shovel snow from the walks? I was talking about snow removal from streets by the City. We had many days of problems with inability to conduct snow removal in January and February.
Increasing the Grand List is the worst concept for lowering taxes. You must improve the efficiency of the government, minimize cost, and eliminate waste. If you don’t lower taxes, residents and companies will continue to depart.
One of the biggest cost increases for the City will be the need for more police and firemen to protect the booming City population that you expect.
Why is population growth due to increased housing availability expected? I have yet to talk to one person who could afford an expensive apartment in NH actually desire to move there.
Don, What’s better for pollution and traffic: 10,000 people driving into New Haven every day, or 10,000 people living downtown and walking or biking to work?
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 18, 2014 3:50pm
Didn’t all trolley service stop in New Haven in September of 1947? Are you sure there were still trolleys around in 1958? I’m very confused.
Also, while its true that increased usage of transit initially leads to over-crowding, eventually that leads expanded service, which is good. Have you seen the long buses with 6 wheels?
New Haven’s population peaked at 160,000 in 1930, and keep in mind that Route 80, upper Westville, West Rock, West Hills, and parts of the annex hadn’t be developed yet. Today there’s about 130,000 people. The city could easily accommodate another 30,000.
Do you really expect the number of jobs in NH to increase by 10,000 just by having more rooms for rent?
What I foresee is all of those apartment dwellers driving to jobs outside of NH. They will only live in NH if the price and safety are right.
College kids with or without children may drive to Gateway, SCSU and UNH or other colleges/universities.
If you know how to increase the number of jobs in NH to such a high level, why don’t you let our Mayor know so she can begin to work on your ideas soon as possible?
The increase in pollution will come from more cars in NH; not from more skate boards, bikes or walking.
Don, yes, I would expect the number of jobs in New Haven to continue to grow because it has already been growing. It’s likely to grow even above the existing trend given that Yale will be bringing in 1,000+ additional students in the near future.
By the way just because we add jobs in New Haven does not mean that New Haven residents will have jobs. Right now, suburban residents hold about 80% of the jobs in New Haven. In fact we may see the opposite - more jobs in New Haven may mean fewer jobs for city residents, given that our current approach is to continue to build more walls of parking garages and parking lots that separate downtown from neighborhoods, as Nemerson/Harp are doing on Route 34, or if our city’s strategy is limited to a “New Haven Works” program that connects residents to jobs but then does almost nothing to keep them from moving out to the suburbs.
But either way, if we keep adding jobs here, but we don’t add hundreds of new housing units per year to keep up with depreciation of the existing stock as well as the fact that more and more existing units will be occupied by age-in-place retirees and students, then traffic and pollution will get substantially worse.
It’s good that so much development is coming to New Haven. It points to a brighter future.
I agree with Anstress that this development is a bit to much for this area. Wooster Square isn’t downtown and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Downtown is on the other side of the railroad tracks. This neighborhood is a T-4, having a mix of uses in smallish buildings. Limiting the height to 2-4 stories is more appropriate to the existing context in my opinion.
It seems we change the zoning map and/or text for every development that comes along. The City needs to get a handle on all of this so now is the time to spend a little money to re-write the zoning ordinance so we can better direct development instead of reacting in an ad hoc fashion.
Stephen, I’d like to see the downtown-type zoning extended to the entire area within 1.5 to 2 miles of the train station. There’s not enough room in our tiny postage stamp area currently considered “downtown” to accommodate all of the new development that will be needed here. Besides, many neighborhoods including Wooster Square have buildings that are more than 4 stories tall. 6-7 stories is probably a more realistic height limit in the neighborhoods within walking distance of our city center, though I think there should be allowances for 10-30 stories along certain major transit-oriented/retail corridors such as Whalley, State/Union, MLK/Legion, and Dixwell, of course assuming that the additional density is well designed with setbacks and such. I’d rather have 30 stories of development on State Street than have the additional car traffic from 30 stories worth of suburban homes coming into New Haven every day.
Keep the dog park. Get rid of the parking lot, and please change the ugly design. These kids are hooked on rectangles like their i-phones. Go to Europe where clever and imaginative apt. buildings thrive (avoid the architecture of former Russia).
To all nay-sayers about low budget housing or homeless housing; try sleeping outside. What country do you live in? There are way more poor and low budget citizens here than middle class boomers or high-techies with cash to burn. All the young I know in NH are hurting for rent and food after college. Read the New York Times and find reality——we still have guns and rock n roll but not much else.
I can relate from personal experience of living in Europe that a four to five story limit is sufficient to provide the critical density necessary to support mass transit, retail and to create vibrant urbanism - Amsterdam, Lyon, and Munich are all good examples.
Large towers are both alienating and unsustainable especially in the energy constrained future we face. J. Hopkins is right to call them vertical cup-de-sacs.
But don’t take my word for it, go to http://carfree.com and spend some time reading this site. It’s an eye-opening argument of what’s possible, if we only learn from the past.
Stephen, I agree in principle but I think our downtown and areas around it should allow 6-8 stories, like what is most common in Paris. Capping the height at 4 stories is an unnecessarily limitation on housing stock, provided that we can encourage developers to add density wisely.
Towers should be limited to certain areas. You’re right to suggest that developers can generally make the same profit on (and fit the same number of families into) 6-8 story buildings as they can on 10-20 story buildings, provided that zoning allows for buildings to be close together and not include parking. One of the potential benefits of allowing a few towers in the areas that can accommodate them right now is that we don’t have to wait for large parcels to be assembled - “spot towers” could help bring in a critical mass of residents more quickly that could catalyze additional development, affordable housing, and land use reform. But they have to be very well designed, so they don’t drag down the area around them.
This would be a truly amazing development, especially in conjunction with Comcast, to expand the wonderul Wooster Sq neighborhood, fill in the dead zone and connect it with downtown. Overall I think the design looks fantastic. I like the front stoops, the balconies, and all the variations both horizontally and vertically. If I could really split hairs I agree 4-5 stories might be perfect, but if that’s not possible I would gladly accept 6.
In my unprofessional opinion, 4-6 stories make for wonderful urban neighborhoods. I agree with JH, midtown and downtown Manhattan are oppressive while the village, soho, UWS, and lots of European cities that are renowned as beautiful seem to have an abundance of 4-6 story buildings. Nothing wrong with an occasional tower like 360 State but better for that to be the exception than the norm.
If I had a suggestion for the developer (or any developer) it would be to include some buildings/units for individual resale so that New Haven could have more homeowners, to allow people to really put down roots in New Haven, rather than strictly all rentals.