Alders Greenlight 87 Union

Petra Develpment LLCIn a unanimous roll call vote, Board of Alders granted zoning relief to Wooster Square’s latest proposal for new apartments at its regular meeting Thursday night.

87 Union developer Noel Petra asked the city for a zoning change from a warehouse-oriented district to a central business/residential, or BD-1, zone to allow for denser, mixed-use development.

This is the final approval Petra needed.

Paul Bass Photo“We would like to start building in late spring or early summer,” Petra (pictured) said Friday.

The final plan was modified after meetings with the community. Petra withdrew a request for a 3.5 floor to area ration, rather than the 3.0 he ended up with.

“We met with the community. They said, ‘We’d like it to be less dense’” and have more parking,” Petra said. “We modified our plans. We ended up with a slightly less-dense” project. 

The project will replace warehouses and a plumbing supply store with a mix of studios, apartments, townhouses, and retail. Petra said Friday he expects to include 285 to 300 apartments in the final development and have storefronts line the entire length of the Olive Street portion, as well as along Union Street. The original plan called for 325 apartments.

Petra’s planned community is the second to receive zoning relief this year on the same block of the western edge of Wooster Square, connecting the neighborhood to downtown with hundreds of new homes.

Spinnaker, the developer for the first project in that immediate area, at the old Comcast building at Chapel Street between Olive and Union, applied for a similar zone change from BA to BD-1 for their parcel. That request was recommended for approval by the City Plan Commission in May and ultimately approved by the Board of Aldermen at the beginning of August.

Board of Alders President Jorge Perez abstained from the vote Thursday night because his wife works for the law firm representing the 87 Union project.

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posted by: TheMadcap on November 7, 2014  9:14am

“We met with the community. They said, ‘We’d like it to be less dense’” and have more parking,”

White liberals: we want cities to be denser and have less parking to encourage less car centric city development….........just not in our neighborhood, where am I supposed to park my car?

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 7, 2014  9:30am

I just want to point out that despite the call for storefronts, storefronts, and more storefronts,—New Haven is already has quite a few, maybe more than we need.

What happened to the storefronts demanded as part of the Arts High School downtown? Empty! The storefronts in Yale’s Howe Street garage? Empty! Audubon Street as part of Audubon Square? Empty! The first floor office and retail at the Eli? The Temple Square commercial spaces which ultimately got converted to more movie theaters?

Personally, I don’t see any call for retail at this location, what with a sagging Wooster Street right there, and State Street a block or two away….

posted by: BenBerkowitz on November 7, 2014  9:34am


If I said “Black Liberals” and insert stereotypical statement would my comment pass go?

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2014  9:36am

Limiting the number of apartments and calling for more parking is the elite establishment’s strategy to make housing in New Haven even more expensive. If people want the city to be more affordable, they need to rewrite zoning and eliminate all parking requirements. Let the market provide parking. Each parking space required by law means there is one less apartment that can be built for a moderate income family or senior citizen.

posted by: Pedro Soto on November 7, 2014  11:12am

What frustrates me about this push for less density is that it then opens up space for….more parking! This is one of the reasons why I am 100% on board to build as dense as possible on the city grid, ESPECIALLY is areas that are current wastelands. What is better for Wooster square, 10 new residents and a sea of parking on Union street, or 1000 new residents and relatively limited parking?

Wooster Square becomes a far more vibrant place the more people live there, especially when those people will be occupying the former wasteland dividing Wooster and downtown.

posted by: Esbey on November 7, 2014  11:54am

I will repeat my proposal for solving the parking problem in Wooster Square, and elsewhere. 

Make on-street parking subject to a residential parking permit.  One time only, give a neighborhood street-parking permit to every residence in the neighborhood, one per house/apartment.  Make them re-sellable (with registration changed for a small fee at City Hall) so that you can sell yours to a neighbor or a newcomer.  For example, a small landlord could buy a permit and offer it as a perk to a renter, or not.  However, do not offer permits to the residents of new developments.  Do, however, set aside an appropriate number of metered spots for shoppers and visitors. 

Then, drop all parking requirements for new developments.  If the developer foresees that residents will want parking, then the developer will provide parking and otherwise will not (just like a developer provides in-apartment washer-dryers if desired, or does not.)

This absolutely protects existing residents from parking problems caused by new development, while letting the market (rather than nimby-driven zoning) determine the number of new parking spaces.  The undesired expensive parking spaces that zoning would have required can go instead to tax-generating apartments

posted by: Bradley on November 7, 2014  7:05pm

Sadly, I have to agree with Anderson Scooper. While having ground floor retail makes streets more lively, there simply is not much of a market for retail here. In addition to the vacancies he cites, the three newly renovated storefronts on Church St. across from Chapel Square have been vacant for months.

I also agree with Esbey’s comment, subject to the caveat that this approach won’t address the need for handicapped parking spaces generated by new developments.

posted by: Stephen Harris on November 7, 2014  7:25pm

This is great news. Don’t worry about the retail portion. Retail will find people once there’s a critical mass.

More people means more activity and money spent locally.

posted by: Bradley on November 9, 2014  7:54am


The objections of the folks in Wooster Square reflect what they perceive to be their self interest. Ditto the objections of the folks in Dwight regarding the Marriott hotel.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 10, 2014  9:58am

“What happened to the storefronts demanded as part of the Arts High School downtown?”

A highrise apartment building was proposed for the site across the street from the High School, but the market downturn in 2008 scrapped that plan. Now CenterPlan is building an apartment building, so we’ll see what effect that has on the Coop Storefronts.

“Audubon Street as part of Audubon Square?”

Think about what’s near Audubon - two enormous blocks that are population with one church and one office building (FBI). If those blocks could be developed with some housing, Audubon Court’s storefronts might activate.

The Ninth Square’s retail component was very slow to catch on for the first 20 years, now it is population with a variety of stores. Retail takes time to mature and its needs a mix of nearby residences, institutions and commercial uses.

posted by: Pedro Soto on November 10, 2014  4:28pm

The most important reason for putting in ground floor retail into as many projects as possible, is that it allows for future retail, but without it, you never will get retail.

Look at the building next to Box 63 and the retail in the Yale dorms on Elm and Broadway. Both were vacant for about 7 years, and now one has a coffee shop bistro, and the other has a Mario Batali restaurant.

Yes, it takes years to get these storefronts filled, you really only get one chance to put it in. Better to be empty and then filled in 5 years, than to preclude it entirely.

posted by: anonymous on November 10, 2014  5:15pm

As the suburbs collapse in on themselves over the next 10-20 years, this retail space will become immensely popular, as it was a century ago. 

The developers should be building more of it - instead of being required to devote precious urban space to car parking (luckily, parking garages sometimes can be retrofitted into apartment or retail space).

posted by: Bradley on November 11, 2014  7:42am

Pedro, I take your point with regard to your second comment, but it is an issue of scale.No one expects the retail component of mixed use buildings to be filled immediately. But in the case of the north side of Audubon Street, the bulk of the retail spaces have been vacant for most of the past 20 years. Part of this is due to Yale’s finicky leasing policies. But a larger problem is that e-commerce is obviating the demand for bricks and mortar retail space. Much as I would like to see additional bookstores downtown, I don’t see Amazon going away any time soon.