5 Years Later, Wooster Sq. Ground Broken

Thomas Breen photoNiles Bolton AssociatesIt took five years and two different developers to get from the first community meeting to the groundbreaking.

Now work is beginning on a 299-unit, market-rate apartment complex on the border of Wooster Square and Downtown, and builders predict it will take far less than another five years to finish the job and fill the block with new tenants.

On a sun-dappled Thursday afternoon, two dozen city officials and local economic development boosters joined New York-based developers Darren Seid and Peter Antoniou to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the project, at 87 Union St. just past the railroad tracks separating Wooster Square from Downtown.

The new 299-unit market-rate apartment complex is planned for a 50,000-square foot asphalt lot that formerly housed the Torrco plumbing supply company.

Seid, the president of Epimoni, and Antoniou, a project manager for Adam America, said the planned development will be six stories tall; will contain a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments to rent at rates similar to other local luxury apartment complexes like Corsair and 360 State; and will have roughly 6,100 square-feet of commercial retail space facing Olive Street.

Antoniou said the developers plan to begin demolition of the old Torrco building next week, and hope to have the vacant building down by May.

While declining to commit to any definite timeline for construction, Antoniou said he and Seid hope to have the building up and open by 2021. Per the City Plan Commission’s ruling last July, they technically have until 2025 to finish the project.

“Its a city that has incredible fundamentals and a growth trajectory you can really believe in,” Seid said about building in New Haven. “This is a very investable city.”

The Long Road To Thursday

The two developers, under the holding company 44 Olive Limited Partnership, purchased the site for $10 million in July 2018.

That purchase came three years after the City Plan Commission first approved the exact same 299-unit, mixed-use project for the site as pitched by local builder Noel Petra and Westport Developer David Adam Realty. Wooster Square Alder Aaron Greenberg recalled on Thursday that the very first community meeting he attended on the proposed 87 Union St. development happened in June 2014.

Petra’s project, along with an adjacent Spinnaker-led development at the old Comcast site at the corner of Chapel Street and Olive Street, was delayed for years by legal disputes with PMC Property Group, the Philadelphia-based owners of the Smoothing building apartment complex.

While the 87 Union St. site has been free from any open legal issues since 2018, the city and PMC reached an agreement at the end of 2018 that will allow Spinnaker to proceed with its proposed 200-unit apartment development at the old Comcast site.

History Repeats

That tangled history of legal disputes and delays was just that, history, on Thursday as city officials and developers alike lifted shovels and smiled at the prospect of a massive new residential-commercial complex that will help link the Downtown and Wooster Square neighborhoods.

“This project has had a long and winding road,” Acting City Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said. “But good things come to those who wait.”

He identified this project as the first of many planned residential developments for the area that should bring over 2,500 apartments within walking distance of the city’s two train stations in the near future, and that will help realize the transit-oriented-development vision of the 2016 Wooster Square Planning Study.

“Think about where you are,” he said, “residential and mixed use at the early stages of our history as a city, then commercial as part of the Urban Renewal period, and then coming back again as residential. It really speaks to this drive for a live, work, play environment that relate very specifically to an innovation-based economy.”

“This improved site will serve as a revitalized connection between Downtown New Haven and its historic Wooster Square neighborhood,” Mayor Toni Harp said. She said the project’s proximity to the Downtown business district, Wooster Square and its farmers market, Yale University, the hospital complex, the train stations, and many more biotech jobs help is the embodiment of New Haven’s status as a “self-contained urban oasis.”

Alder Greenberg also praised the project for “restitching” Downtown and Wooster Square.

“That’s a divide that has existed since the redevelopment of the city,” he said, “and it’s one that so many projects all around the city are trying to undo and recreate the relationships socially and geographically between places that have been divided over time.”

Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch the press conference for the groundbreaking.

 

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posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 14, 2019  3:52pm

I’ll never understand why builder constructing living facilities in cold weather states, like CT in the Northeast or Detroit in the Midwest, build outdoor swimming pools.

I saw a house online the other day that was selling for over 10m in Detroit with an outdoor swimming pool.

If I want to swim, at my residence, I want to do so year round, not just when the weather is “nice.”  If you’re not building the pool inside in a state like this, why bother?

posted by: robn on March 14, 2019  4:21pm

STRL,

My understanding of these kinds of projects is that their inhabitants all want to perceive access to the amenities, but only a few actually take advantage of them. So the idea of a pool is more important than the pool itself.

posted by: Politics 101 on March 14, 2019  4:50pm

The pool thing has always struck me as a little odd, too. But, as a townie with kids, it has occurred to me that my cheapest route to a pool might be summer subletting an apartment at 360 State Street from a student. Maybe this summer . . . .  :)

posted by: CityYankee on March 14, 2019  5:28pm

With the glut of apartments downtown;  I am wondering when the apartment rents may start to come down to earth from the stratosphere? I thought market forces drove rents but I don’t see it happening here in NH. Why?

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 14, 2019  6:19pm

AMDC, part of the answer to your question is the dynamics in the larger housing market. Twenty-something renters with decent paying jobs have been slow to buy homes, in part because many of them have student loans the size of small mortgages. And some empty-nesters have chosen to sell their homes and rent.

We’re likely to see the impact of new developments on rents in better-off rather than poorer neighborhoods. I’ve lived in East Rock for 30 years. Historically, you did not see “for rent” signs here after Labor Day. Now you see these signs year-round. This puts downward pressure on rents.

This project will not harm low-income renters - it is located in a non-residential area and there are few low-income renters in the immediate vicinity. But projects such as this will do little to help address the affordability problem.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 14, 2019  6:34pm

robn,

I guess you’re right, but WOW!

posted by: westville man on March 14, 2019  7:32pm

Reverend Ross-Lee- years ago when we lived in suburbia we used our built in pool 5 months a year. A little propane heat and solar blanket gets you May into October.  It was worth it!

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 14, 2019  8:41pm

@STRL

By your line of reasoning, there’s little point in providing a back yard for houses in cold climates, either, since it can’t be used for much of the year.

Not everybody imagines “athletic workout” when they think of a swimming pool.  Some of us think of a pool as an intrinsically seasonal, outdoor feature, similar to a nice lawn or a patio—giving the opportunity to cool off and lounge.  An indoor pool is a whole different thing.

Your idea may well be more widespread among the potential tenants of this development, however.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 14, 2019  10:18pm

@Gretchen Pritchard,

“Your idea may well be more widespread among the potential tenants of this development, however.”

My idea considers potential tenants of this development, or any other apartment complex.  It has nothing to do with one family living in a house with a backyard, which, by the way, can be used during the winter months, as well. An outdoor (empty?) pool is merely a showpiece during the winter months, but one, I’m almost certain, tenants will be paying for all year.

posted by: Elmmy on March 15, 2019  12:11am

It would be more impressive to me to read an interview of only the people who have endured the political minutia to arrive at a place where they’re holding a symbolic shovel on the ground of the place of development. Instead of also including the politicians that put them through the minutia itself. That waters down whatever is in print at that point, in my opinion. Nevertheless, this seems like good news.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 15, 2019  7:01am

Elmmy, as the article states, it was legal rather than political issues that held up this project. As earlier NHI stories describe, the initial developer obtained the zoning approvals needed for the project without problems. It was PMC, a competing developer, that embroiled the project in court cases that went on for years and led to the sale of the property to the second developers.

posted by: Mr. Momiro on March 15, 2019  11:42am

Happy to hear progress is being made on this and (maybe?) the Comcast site as well, because with an influx of residents, maybe (just maybe?) it’s time for a *real* grocery store for the area? Elm City Market is fun if you have trouble imagining what rich Manhattanites shopping at their local market feel like (and by that I mean that the prices are beyond outrageous, even on the most basic staple items). Ferraro’s is nice and all, but it doesn’t quite make the grade for many.

Surely residents of Wooster Square and its environs would love to see a real grocery store make its way into the vicinity. Please make it so, Mr. Piscitelli and Mr. Greenberg!

posted by: wendy1 on March 15, 2019  3:15pm

Sam Ross, the 360 pool opens in May and I invite you to join me.  I will provide towels, etc.  I like outdoor pools and this one is slightly heated.  As far as this project, I’ll believe it when I see it and if I was mayor, it would be all or mostly affordable/ Section 8 housing.  Any new developers must provide affordable rents and section 8 housing. 

Kevin M.  Many of your neighbors are in financial trouble; you just dont know about it.  I helped some of my neighbors who are clinging to rents and mortgages and wish I could still do so.  WSP is a mix of income levels.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 15, 2019  3:21pm

Wooster Square(AKA) Greenwich Village9AKA) New Haven.Enjoy now.But as soon as the landlord Jacks the Rent Up.A lot of you that rent will be pushed out.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 15, 2019  3:41pm

Wendy1,

I see that many people here play fast and loose with their names. I do not.  My name is neither Sam nor Ross, and I have given you permission to call me neither. 

I believe it is most disrepectful to fail to call someone what they call themselves. I follow that rule for others.  I hope, if you plan to be Mayor, that you will follow it as well, .

Samuel Ross-Lee

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 15, 2019  9:47pm

Wendy, about 20% of East Rock households have incomes below the federal poverty level. I said the new developments are putting downward pressure on rents here, not that rents are affordable for lower income households, in East Rock or elsewhere.

posted by: wendy1 on March 16, 2019  10:49am

Sam T. Ross—-I rescind my invite to the pool.  By the way, were you the guy wearing the Nixon mask on Wed.???????

posted by: ItsGettingBetter on March 16, 2019  1:44pm

@Kevin,
For rent signs after Labor Day could be interpreted in other ways as well:
- Landlords have deeper cash reserves and are unwilling to drop price to get a tenant
- East Rock tenants have become less tied to the academic calendar

I know that historically signs up after LD in East Rock likely indicated a slower rental market. I’d be curious to see if that’s the sole reason today.

As you point out the market is shifting.  With that comes different buying behavior. Rent is not going to get cheaper in any part of New Haven save the occasional seasonal market correction when a new property comes on-line.  Money attracts money, investment attracts investment, the wealthy attract the wealthy. Local growth has been a slow-rolling snowball that will start to roll much more quickly when CT’s economy starts scaling alongside New Haven’s.

@Young folks in New Haven,
If you’re renting in New Haven and have $10,000 in savings, it’s time to learn more about CHFA and 3% down payment loans.  Look at new neighborhoods around the city and invest. An inflection in home prices is coming very soon and the time is now to get out from expensive rents.

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 16, 2019  4:11pm

Wendy1,

That was ‘Average Taxpayer’.

posted by: Ryn111 on March 17, 2019  9:08am

Wendy what level of housing affordability are you striving for? What do you believe to be sustainable? Requiring “Mostly/all” housing to be section 8 would bring any private development to a standstill. That is a financial reality. NHI recently reported that +35% of New Havens housing stock is “affordable”. What is the target and why?

Itsgettingbetter - on zillow there are 54 - condos, 40 multi family and 33 single family homes available in New Haven under 350k at the moment. That is less than half the number of units that will be provided by this new development.

The larger trend is that most young professionals do not wish to own. They may work or live in new haven for a few years and then move again. The majority rent and more are renting by choice.

posted by: robn on March 17, 2019  10:34am

RYN111,

I don’t think you’re reading Zillow correctly. The map view filters it down to be readable so it displays x number out of a total.
This is how I read it this morning for NHV properties under $350K…
Houses = 222
Condos = 114
Townhomes = 11
So that’s 347 properties and we really haven’t even hit spring yet when most sales are listed.
Check EHV and WHV (both a 5 min drive) and the numbers will increase dramatically.

posted by: Ryn111 on March 17, 2019  7:05pm

ROBN that was a really unimportant point lol yet thanks

There may have been another filter engaged but regardless these are insignificant numbers vs the units available in apartment rentals - breakdown those houses into desirable areas ( Wooster square) and the numbers will be half. Same for east and west haven , fine towns but not new haven and not where most young renters would want to live.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 18, 2019  8:20am

ItsGettingBetter, thanks. I think your second point is right. As rents in East Rock have risen, students have chosen to live in other neighborhoods, leading to them being a smaller share of neighborhood residents and less of a land rush in the late summer. I don’t know about your first point. I’ve lived here for 30 years, i.e., through several business cycles. There were very few For Rent signs after September 1 in previous good times.

posted by: mspepper on March 18, 2019  8:33am

Sam Ross: you do realize that an object or objects can be slid over the pool, covering it, thereby allowing for other stuff to go where the pool is during the winter months—yes?

posted by: Urn Pendragon on March 18, 2019  11:11am

I am going to try not to spear-fish this project, nor the people in the news article and the fine people at Economic Development, BUT, where are the affordable housing units?  This is a topic that I, many advocates, activists and city officials have been beating to death.  Funding is not a mysterious, aloof issue, rather it’s a change in mindset and methodology.  The cost savings come from the developer spreading out the cost of the affordable units among the remaining market-rate units.  It’s a misunderstood myth that affordable housing will not bring in taxes and it will cost the city money; that’s a fallacy.

The developer will make just as much, if not more money, per unit.  If rent is controlled, then the cost savings are shared at the project level AND subsidy moneys are saved as well.  Smaller units for affordable housing means, that the developer or the property owner will actually make more money overall.

A 20% to 22% reservation for affordable, inclusive housing is a very reasonable and DOABLE.

I will continue to advocate for inclusive zoning and enjoy interacting with the fine people at city hall.

Urn Pendragon, mayoral candidate

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on March 18, 2019  12:44pm

Mr. MsPepper,

If they are selling a pool, then it should be usable, AS A POOL, for the duration of the time that the tenets are paying for the pool.

P. S. My name is not “Sam Ross.”

posted by: CityYankee on March 20, 2019  5:27am

Can anyone provide the occupancy/vacancy/turnover/  of all these units being built?  Where is the data to back these projects? We never see it reported/