Audubon Square OK’d; Look Out Brooklyn?

Beinfield Architecture PCChristopher Peak PhotoThe city gave the final needed approvals for a new mini-neighborhood to rise from a downtown parking lot, following a debate about how quickly New Haven can model itself on the car-free Brooklyn lifestyle.

The approvals came Wednesday during a City Hall meeting of the City Plan Commission.

South Norwalk-based Spinnaker Real Estate Partners cleared the final site-plan approval and permitting hurdles to begin building the first $75 million phase of a $160 million project on a “super block” bordered by State, Grove, Orange and Audubon streets.

(The city created buildable “superblocks” during the urban renewal era of the mid-20th century by eliminating small side streets.)

In its first phase, Audubon Square, as the development’s called, will feature 269 market-rate rental units, plus 3,900 square feet of retail, and a pool and rooftop terrace on 285,000 square feet 335-367 Orange St. on the northwest corner of the block. Construction, expected to last 18 months, could begin as early as this summer.

Click here to read Spinnaker’s site plan and special permit application.

The land, which formerly housed the New Haven Register until the mid-1980s, has served as a surface lot for nearby Frontier Communications. Spinnaker now has the OK to construct a seven-story apartment building there as well as a 716-car garage, for which the commission granted a special permit Wednesday night. Spinnaker agreed to build the garage when it purchased the land from Frontier as an accommodation for the 525 employees who currently park at the site.

Despite concerns that adding more cars will worsen congestion and disrupt bus riders and pedestrians in the area, commissioners unanimously approved the project after the city described planned traffic-mitigation strategies. Developers will now need to collect sign-offs from various city agencies proving they meet permit conditions.

“Can’t You Ever Favor Anything Good?”

After the commissioners voted Wednesday night, a heated debate outside the room in the City Hall atrium about the parking garage the broader transit and development challenges in an era when developers like Spinnaker are knocking down the city’s door looking to build market-rate apartments.

That debate took place between city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson and Anstress Farwell, head of the New Haven Urban Design League,

Downtown might need these parking spaces today, sure, Farwell argued, but is building another lot a prudent decision for the city’s future? If New Haven hopes to poach residents from Brooklyn and Boston — a strategy Nemerson has promoted —  should it devote all that prime space to accommodating automobiles rather than denser mixed-use development?

n written comments to commissioners, Farwell had criticized the “inappropriately located” and “poorly designed” parking structure. In its place, she argued Spinnaker should have instead submitted plans for a 12-story apartment tower on the corner of Orange and Grove — a denser streetscape the zoning technically allows.


Nemerson, who also favors dense development, told her New Haven isn’t ready for projects of that scale. “A lot of Anstress’s theories are absolutely correct for other cities and other times,” he said.

As much as “new urbanists” aspire to remake Elm City in the image of a metropolis like Vancouver or Portland, its economy doesn’t yet match it, he argued. New Haven still relies on commuters, Nemerson pointed out: both suburbanites working in the city and reverse commuters heading out. With a “lousy bus system” and “trains [that] don’t go that many places,” he added, retaining 525 parking spaces for Frontier isn’t that bad of a deal.

“Think about the infrastructure that goes into adding 1,000 people to Guilford. You need new roads, new sewer systems, new plumbing, new cul-de-sacs,” Nemerson said. By comparison, “this is an environmentally sound project. This is using space so accurately, so well, to have people going out in the daytime” — Audubon Square residents — “and nighttime” — Frontier employees heading home.

“This is going to generate bicycle trips and pedestrian trips. People will be shopping locally. Not driving in their car out to East Haven to go to Shop & Stop,” Nemerson said

Nemerson, wearing a tie depicting cartoon cars and buses, raised his voice, which echoed through the atrium: “My god, Anstress! To be against this is so wrong. Can’t you ever — can’t you ever — be in favor of anything that’s so good?”

If the problem is crummy public transit, Farwell rebutted, why not fix that?

“You build me a subway system; I’ll get rid of all the parking,” Nemerson replied.

“We just need good buses or streetcars,” Farwell retorted. Why hadn’t Mayor Toni Harp followed through on promise to create transportation improvement districts? she asked.

“We Still Pay A Cost”

The city looked into utilizing tax-incentive financing for this area, Nemerson said, particularly because the administration originally thought it would be on the hook for building a new parking garage. “I thought this developer (or whoever it was) would come to me and say, ‘I just bought this land. You, city, have a year to get these 400 friggin’ cars off there, because I’m going to start development.’ And Frontier’s going to move out of town if you don’t find them free parking. How lucky are we that we don’t have to put a penny into that?”

Farwell wasn’t buying it. “But we still pay a cost,” she pressed.

“What cost?” Nemerson asked, barely audible, in disbelief.

“The cost is the land that could be used for better, productive purposes. More housing with less parking,” Farwell answered. “All kinds of purposes that human beings are inside,” she said. Essentially, not cars.

Maybe the city isn’t doing enough to fix the regulatory structures impeding growth, Nemerson conceded. But projects like Audubon Square, at seven stories, are a good start.

“Anstress, it comes down to, we’re trying to make a great city a block at a time,” he said. “We are fighting a battle to get people to move here, to get taxes here. The federal government wants to kill cities, especially New England sanctuary cities.”

For now, it seemed, a gradualist approach would win out. For the time being, Brooklyn and Boston don’t have much to worry about.

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on February 16, 2017  10:34am

I do dream of a day when more and more people are using bikes and public transportation to get around, but today is not that day. I am glad that we have the Urban Design League pushing the Emerson to look towards the future, but I understand we need to be pragmatic and accept whatever tax-producing development we can get it. It’s not perfect; nothing is.

But I’m glad the city continues to grow and the truth is, many people live in the suburbs and need parking and aren’t ready to give up their car and live in the city, as much as we think that would be awesome. But they still need jobs and if they want to come here and work here and frequent our restaurants and bars and theaters, then great, I’m not gonna chase them away with a broom.

posted by: DRAD on February 16, 2017  10:44am

“Nemerson, wearing a tie depicting cartoon cars and buses, raised his voice, which echoed through the atrium: ‘My god, Anstress! To be against this is so wrong. Can’t you ever — can’t you ever — be in favor of anything that’s so good?”

So spot on.

I have always wondered, aside from Anstress who exactly is the New Haven Urban Design League?  A visit to their website offers nothing - it seems that is has not been updated since 2012;  I didn’t see a list of officers or mention of anyone other than Anstress (with the exception of a few reports delivered by others in regard to the Downtown Crossing project - but again, five years ago); there are no meetings listed (past or future); no minutes from previous meetings; there are no news updates that reflect multitude of city projects built, under construction or under consideration during the last half-decade. 

It really begs the question - aside from Anstress, is this a real organization?  It seems more like a vehicle through which a very, very select few are afforded the false legitimacy of association through a well named and neat sounding non-profit.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 16, 2017  11:58am

Brooklyn Alright.Look at what happen to the residents of Brooklyn at the Farragut Houses.Like I said New Haven is in the second stage of gentrification.

WATCH: Documentary Aims to Give a Voice to ‘Forgotten’ Farragut Houses

“The Forgotten Farragut” — which was released last month by social services group Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) — explores the effects of gentrification in DUMBO on the nearby Farragut Houses, where BCS operates a community resource center.

Like I said New Haven Is in the second stage of   gentrification.A lot of you will be gone soon.

posted by: HewNaven on February 16, 2017  12:17pm

Yes, let’s keep trying to be like Brooklyn. That’s a solid plan. Especially since you can walk between Brooklyn and Manhattan, or take a subway. Totally just like New Haven. Zakly

posted by: NYCcroc on February 16, 2017  12:48pm

I am all for development through this great historic city however, sadly I find it hard to believe that most not all developers can’t afford to hire architects that would design some amazing signature structures as opposed to these horribly boring faux brick boxes that are sprouting up in every area of New Haven. It makes me wonder if there is a massive sale on boring building kits. They tore down our magnificent city only to replace it with JV sheet rock hovels of the same design. THE SAME DESIGN! Time for the developers and City Hall pack a paper bag lunch and to all get on the Blue Bird bus for a field trip to the Highline in the Big city and learn about state of the art building materials and fabulous applications. I know you’ll all say but this isn’t New York however that doesn’t mean we should have similar feeble designed buildings that only benefit the wealth of the developers who cram the working public into the same dull boxes.  What a boring backdrop to lure future residents and businesses… Yawn… Wake up New Haven or Yale will be the only design you see.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  1:03pm


These people aren’t hiring real designers nor do they care about creating signature structures.  They are buying plans from the back of Popular Mechanics, with facades provided by Garden State Stuck Face and Bricco…

posted by: Esbey on February 16, 2017  1:03pm

I have written a complicated computer program that predicts with 100% accuracy which projects Anstress Farwell will opposed.  I feed in the detailed project plans, the computer whirls for a second and then the answer appears: “Anstress Farwell opposes this project.”

I was mad at her when she was insisting that every single project had to be shorter.  Everything was “shorter,” why can’t it be like Paris, 6-8 stories?  Now, local developers have found a sweet spot in construction costs (partly related to building codes) at around six or seven stories.  So of course Anstress cries out: “TALLER!”. 

And, does she honestly not know why New Haven city itself can’t fund a massive public transportation system.  Really?

posted by: Mimi123 on February 16, 2017  1:09pm

This is what starts the Us & Them. These type of hubs. Which hurt us all, having no interaction with our Neighboring Communities. 
( Community Separatism )
Turning Everthing White.

posted by: Renewhavener on February 16, 2017  2:02pm

It is a rare occasion that I will side with Nemerson, but this is one of them.  We need more projects of all sorts, so I too would like to see the scolding stop.

@DRAD.  Likewise spot on. 

NHDL is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit that operates as a self-appointed, self-styled Jacobian-Mumfordian NGO with a vague mandate to push sustainable, new urbanist ideas which they neither originated nor actually practice.  Pay it no mind… 

While NHI is infatuated with her because the contrarianism that shadows her into all these public forums and meetings creates the sort of natural conflict that makes for good “news”, the reality is Farwell has zero skin in the game and never does anything other than nit-pik the ideas of others and irk those striving for things that might otherwise be misconstrued as progress.

Would respect it as a platform (and her as a person) a whole lot more if the organization either put what it preaches into practice, or acted in more of a facilitation role gathering grants and financing to incentivize other project actors to do so.

@NHI.  There is only one reasonable selection available within your nakedly provocative poll… New Haven should strive only to be itself.  It is at once all and none of those other places.  More than and less than.  It may never reach its full potential, nor will it entirely fail.

If one cannot handle the complexities and contrasts then, by all means, move.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  2:04pm

Brooklyn was already a neighborhood to begin with…..

posted by: HewNaven on February 16, 2017  2:12pm


I’ve been saying this since the building boom began a few years ago:

Developers do not care about their long-term impact on this city, including the impact on human lives. They are high-stakes gamblers, looking to profit from a given location. If there’s money to be made, they build. That’s it. They don’t waste money on good materials or good design. I can’t wait to see these buildings after a few more decades of weathering and daily use.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 16, 2017  2:39pm

In the Site Plan and Special Permit Application, there is a discrepancy between the elevations on page 16 and the Audubon Street rendering on page 19. The window types and layout are completely different between the two. Rather than a willful attempt to deceive, I suspect this is merely the result of the renderings showing an earlier scheme and not being updated when the elevations changed, right?

I appreciate the brick and cast stone materials, and the ground level unit entries directly from the sidewalk along Audubon Street entries - hopefully those elements will not be value engineered out of the project prior to construction. I also like that views to the church will be preserved from Grove and Orange Streets above the low amenities pavilions - the church spire is an important landmark for this area.

I sympathize with the points Anstress makes about the significant space being devoted to parking infrastructure in a large structured garage, surface parking lots, and new interior roadway. I also worry about the future of these kinds of developments (5-6 story podium apartment blocks with lots of tiny units). How will these buildings be inhabited a generation from now? Will they be renovated? Can they be easily retrofitted for other uses?

My sense is that if people want to see a different scale and type of development that is more conducive for charging lower rents, accommodating larger households, fitting in with neighbors, adapting over time, etc., it will need to emerge locally. The daunting permitting, financing, and approval processes required for development certainly deter investors from being able to build anything that isn’t a house or a several-hundred-unit apartment block.

I’d like to see a massive expansion in the number of rental units available on owner-occupied properties outside of Downtown in the form of basement, attic, and garage apartments. I’d also like to see 3-story single-stair mixed-use buildings on vacant lots along main streets.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on February 16, 2017  2:42pm

Going to Esbey’s point, it would be great if New Haven had a public transportation system comparable to that of mid-sized cities elsewhere in the world. (It would also be great if peace came to the Middle East.) Paying for such a system would require raising the gas tax by $1/gallon or some comparable measure. Now that I’m retired, I don’t have a problem with this; I suspect that most people who work for a living might have an issue.

posted by: jim1 on February 16, 2017  3:15pm

Lets see by my count there are 4 or 5 apts. projects in the work.  When will they all start?  And then wait 1 1/12 years before you can move in. Will Section 8 be allowed in? I like market rate, $2500.00 for a one bed room, $5000.00 for 2 bed rooms and who knows what a 3 bed bed room will go for.  Looks like they don’t want homeless to rent!!

posted by: wendy1 on February 16, 2017  4:39pm

I support Anstress—-pools yes, parking lots/garages NO.  And Saunders is right—why the crappy hohum architecture?  I like the Bozzutto buildings and their percs including pools, local art, libraries, etc.  And a variety of incomes and livelihoods should inhabit these “projects”.

Why do we stick to big box boring design as seen on every ugly strip mall?  And the awful fake flourishes glued onto these structures to add cheapo style like sprinkles on a cupcake…come on.  These new boxes up and down Chapel St. are cringeworthy At least we’ve got the train station and the library and wacky looking cityhall along with other classy old buildings to give us some hope.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on February 16, 2017  6:32pm

@DRAD. Stop being a bully by attacking Anstress and the UDL. Both have a long and well regarded history of thoughtful advocacy for preserving the best of New Haven while simultaneously pressing for the best overall development.
NH has a history of expensive, failed developments pushed by politicians: the Coliseum, Route 34, Whalley Avenue, etc.
Being a knowledgeable advocate for a quality urban experience is many times a thankless job, but it is one done in the public interest and not for private gain - which is ultimately what ALL developers are about.
So save your vitriol for the Yale Corp. which hoards its $26 billion, owns property held in shell corporations and pays a pittance in taxes. If the Yale Corp and the Yale NH Hospital were taxed, the City wouldn’t be willing to sell its soul by giving tax breaks to developers. This goes on in all cities starved for revenue.
I’m glad NH has an UDL and an Anstress Farwell to represent me in pushing the City and developers to give us their best.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  7:32pm


You know the answer.  Return on Investment coupled with a promise of cheaper housing for overburdened New Yorkers.  Let’s run the Smoothie Train Station up there as well, it would be inappropriate to ask people to walk. 

New Haven really needs to stand up to the rug that is being pulled out beneath them.

These bureaucrats are not your friend, nor do they have any commitment to the community.
They are just interested in cozying up to a ‘new class’ at everybody else’s expense.

There should be riots, but the National Focus is wrong.
What we are doing right here in New Haven, to ourselves deserves the real fight…..

If speculation wasn’t on the back of developing the community we might be half way there.

Live. Work. Play. Pile on the Bullsh*t.

That is what it is, and everybody knows it…..

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  7:42pm

In the end game, all of the historic resources are going to be devalued because of their age….

New is the New New!!!!!

posted by: GroveStreet on February 16, 2017  8:52pm

Some people who comment here make no sense whatsoever, yet seem to believe they are packed with wisdom. Kinda amusing.

They don’t like paying taxes, but they don’t like attracting new taxpayers. Yet, of course, they want free housing for the homeless. Makes sense. You aren’t deplorables, you are laughables.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 16, 2017  10:22pm

Grove Street, you obviously aren’t from around here, nor have a real concern…..

This is manufactured speculative growth on the back of long time taxpayers.  I am happy to pay a fair property tax, but this isn’t a real real estate market.  This is driven by the same greed that burst every other bubble behind it.  It’s about a good deal for investors.  It ignores community needs.  There needs to be a balance.

Why should long term residents, who have chosen to invest in New Haven as a HOME be happy about the writing on the wall?  It is not good.

posted by: Cove'd on February 16, 2017  11:06pm

Truth be told, Anstress plays in important role in the process.  But, perhaps the UDL could provide more guidance and specific picture of their vision. 

With regard to the parking, it sounds like she should be advocating for parking maximums to be incorporated in the zoning ordinance if the concern is new developments creating too much parking. 

In the big picture, however, there should be more coordination between the city, surrounding towns, and larger region/state/CTDOT/CT-Transit/etc in dealing with the future of transportation, transit, and city/regional planning in south-central CT.  For instance, if there was a coordinated effort to decrease amounts of parking in the center of NHV through new TOD development/redevelopment/infill development while at the same time increasing quality transit for people to get in/out/around the area, then maybe we’d be on our way towards even coming close to competing with cities the likes of Boston that will continue to thrive in the coming decades.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 17, 2017  12:01am

The people of Newark know the real deal when they hear the term Brooklyn.

If Newark Becomes Next Brooklyn, What Will Happen to Renters?

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 17, 2017  4:23am

If Newark is becoming the ‘next Brooklyn’ as well, well, that kind of sez it all…..

posted by: wiseman12797 on February 17, 2017  5:45am

More housing units and less parking is definitely what this project should be. The public transportation system should be a lot better and more convenient. (Especially for people who commutes around town on a day-to-day basis) The Elm City is a bit too small for a subway system, unfortunately. The city should really think about hiring better engineers or architects who have a feel of knowing how the town should be shaped with how the structures are built. Instead of making this building 6 or 7 stories, it really should be around 10, 12, or even 15 stories because the height of a structure attracts potential home buyers who wants to live Downtown. It’s boring when you realize a lot of the buildings are the same height or built the same way. There has to be a variety. That’s what atttacts people. There has to nice stores, shops, museums, art galleries, great restaurants, a fair or decent amount of options for transportation, etc. All the little things are usually the most important when you’re looking down the line on a long term scale. Building more places for more job opportunities is the idea. Downtown should be a neighborhood where everyone is happy because of what it offers. New Haven is slowly but surely improving on that, it seems.

posted by: wendy1 on February 17, 2017  9:51am

There are section 8’ers in Bozzuto.  I wish we had more.  They are friendlier. 
The Smoothie train station is NOT connected to their property and they have to walk around the block like the rest of us.
We need bikes and better mass transit.  We need affordable rents and recently there was an article in the TIMES about pricing homes the same way we price 2nd hand cars and appliances.  Mortgages are a bank scam…there has to be a better way.
Yes the UDL exists and has a board of bigshots who let AF do all the talking.
I personally prefer our antique buildings and parks not skyscrapers or any cold off-putting boxes.  I support building rehab (except for Bigelow Boiler, River St.)

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on February 17, 2017  10:01am

Developers come here to make a profit. It’s not an altruistic business. It never was. These people expect to turn a profit. Nobody is coming here to build a $100 million beautiful apartment building for mixed income and lower income people out of the kindness of their heart. That’s a great way to lose your fortune.

Ever heard the phrase, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth?” That’s what the NHI is sometimes. One big, long look at the gift horse, complaining endlessly about the tooth structure, the receding gums, etc.

You’ve created a false choice between some beautiful, affordable housing project and this project. That’s not the choice. It’s been this development and a parking lot. If you love the parking lot that much, just say it. At least it won’t gentrify the neighborhood or accidentally contribute to the Grand List.

posted by: Renewhavener on February 17, 2017  10:07am

@Wendy1, “I support Anstress…” shocking*.

BTW, stop referring to 360 State and Corsair as “Bozzutto buildings”.  They are merely the property manager and did nothing to realize the buildings in the first place… It’s like celebrating the garnish on your restaurant dinner.

360 was developed and designed by Becker and Becker

Corsair was developed by Post Road Residential, and designed by Bruce Benifield

This is the same Bruce Benifield who is designing the project above that you and others now bemoan.

@Dwightstreeter, “Stop being a bully by attacking Anstress and the UDL. Both have a long and well regarded history of thoughtful advocacy for preserving the best of New Haven while simultaneously pressing for the best overall development.”

On the contrary.  As much as that is the role she has cast for herself, that is not the reputation at all in the practitioners community.  Lawyers, Architects, Engineers and everyone else who supports the built environment locally are MUCH more concerned with overall Zoning reform to support more projects “by right”.  From an entitlement perspective they are even more concerned with timing risk and jurisdictional overreach at each step along the CMT-ZBA-CPC-BOA continuum of approval.  Antress is not even in the discussion.

@Cove’d, “...UDL could provide more guidance and specific picture of their vision.” 

Or they can keep to the old adage of “Lead, Follow or the Get Out of the Way.”

posted by: Elm City Resident on February 17, 2017  12:51pm

Block-by-block building doesn’t take into account the totality of the City’s agenda.  If one part of City Hall is pushing to be more green and another is pushing for walkablity and another is pushing for health, this economic development agenda doesn’t seem to match with any of those efforts. Just saying.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 17, 2017  2:10pm


Between mortgage interest and property taxes, housing has become a BAD INVESTMENT for the normal human.
The markets are being driven by investors not people.

posted by: wendy1 on February 17, 2017  4:04pm

Bill S.  I agree…and I was a renter until 2000 when I was gentrified out of my loft on Orange St…although I did get first refusal.  The whole house buying scam ripped me off royally like most people and I found out that home-owning is a money pit as well.  Things are worse now for buyers and I feel lucky to have my little leaking cave as opposed to a park bench.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 17, 2017  5:41pm


Real Estate used to be the most solid long term investment a working class bloke could make.
But that was before moneyed interests started playing short term games with long term futures.

The initial conditions and assumptions about real estate as an ‘investment’ have dramatically changed, but the systems that bleed money off of these assets haven’t.

posted by: Nhv.Org on February 17, 2017  6:37pm

I’m with Bill. New is the New New.

We need transit solutions if we anticipate increased “attendance”

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 17, 2017  8:31pm

“Lawyers, Architects, Engineers and everyone else who supports the built environment locally are MUCH more concerned with overall Zoning reform to support more projects ‘by right’.”

The idea that more development by right under zoning will necessarily support the built environment is deeply flawed. Are more historic houses demolished and replaced with parking good for the built environment because it provides contractors, designers, and engineers with work? I suspect we agree that zoning reform is needed to remove certain impediments and encourage new development, but the key consideration is WHAT KINDS of projects should be allowed “by right”.

Opening the floodgates by indiscriminately removing zoning requirements sounds like a recipe for disaster. If that point seems obvious and it should go unstated that of course zoning reform requires a scalpel and not a broad brush, then I am confused by the animus towards Anstress Farwell, because she is precisely the person advocating for the kinds of zoning reforms, transportation investments, and preservation initiatives that support new development projects and construction work. Either people do not read the reports and statements that the Urban Design League makes in support of development, or you simply dislike the kinds of development the League supports.

A major problem is that conventional financing instruments, zoning ordinances, and development teams are ill-equipped to administer the kinds of small-and-mid-size projects that someone like Anstress might admire from an urban design prospective. If you are accustomed to building massive parking structures and big boxes then the sorts of investments and reforms for which the League advocates probably don’t excite you all that much, but that doesn’t mean you are in support of the built environment and Anstress is not (quite the contrary, in fact).

I cringe thinking about the potential loss to New Haven’s built environment should a voice like Anstress’s not exist.

posted by: Ryn111 on February 18, 2017  7:10pm

3/5ths, can you or someone someone who opposes this development provide me a project specific,objective reason why developing a parking lot into a mixed use development is negative? Bonus points if you can present an economically feasible alternative.

posted by: jim1 on February 18, 2017  7:40pm

I like these comments. A like all this room for comments.
1.    Loss of parking spots.
        {charge $35.00 per day}

2.    Put it in Madison!!

Next comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 18, 2017  8:26pm

posted by: JRM on February 18, 2017 6:10pm

3/5ths, can you or someone someone who opposes this development provide me a project specific,objective reason why developing a parking lot into a mixed use development is negative? Bonus points if you can present an economically feasible alternative.

When you say mixed use development. Mixed use how. Also I do not oppose development.What I oppose is when development start pushing out long term residents. How about developments that people can afford to live in. Check this out.

posted by: Ryn111 on February 18, 2017  10:12pm

Jim - they are actually adding to the parking count on the site and why Madison ? New haven is 50x the size of Madison and has no employment.

3/5 -umm “mixed use” - a mix of uses - parking , retail and housing - three uses on the site. (Yes it is not mixed income) this development displaces no one and yes there are people that can afford to live at at developments like this (or at least the developer assumes so) just like some people drive a BMW

Since neither gave an alternative - I assume it is a parking lot or this development .....?!

posted by: Cove'd on February 19, 2017  12:07am

In response to Nemerson saying that New Haven needs a subway - clearly a subway system will never be built in New Haven, at least not in our lifetime.  But, New Haven is served by commuter rail from both directions along I-95, and in about a year is to be served by commuter rail along I-91.  That’s more than many cities have and is something that should be capitalized on.  City hall should be doing everything they can to see to it that out-of-towners and more people in general take the train into New Haven or at least see it as a competitive option to driving.  If you live in say Wallingford and work in downtown New Haven, conditions should be such that you’d save with taking the train and/or that it’d be more convenient than battling traffic and paying for a monthly parking permit.  However, people wont take the train in if there is plenty of parking waiting for them, and that’s the key.  Just remember that each deck of garage parking takes the place of what could otherwise be a floor of apartments, stores, offices, etc and decreases the very city density that is needed to best support transit and that is needed to increase foot traffic which is critical for all downtowns to thrive.  The most successful city centers, small to large, are the ones that value use of land for buildings more than for parking.  That’s not to say that all parking could be removed, but the proportion of it within the downtown should decrease if we want people and businesses to see New Haven as the place to be.

posted by: Steve Harris on February 21, 2017  7:28am

“Can’t you favor anything good?”

The criticism leveled at Anstress is baffling to me. She has been a tireless promoter of good urban form for as long as I’ve known her. What she advocates is common sense urban development; the kind you see in any old world country if you’ve lived or traveled there.

The problem is that America became fixated on suburban-type development to the detriment of all else. This country needs to simultaneously develop a dense, walkable urban environment while developing a truly functional mass transit system. And until that happens we will be stuck.

Given the reality we live in this proposal is good and should be welcomed, but with the knowledge we could and should do much better.

So please lay off Anstress. She says what most people instinctively know is true.

posted by: Renewhavener on February 21, 2017  10:15am

@JH, Have considered very carefully how to respond given I largely disagree.

“The idea that more development by right under zoning will necessarily support the built environment is deeply flawed.”

I reject this on fundamental economic grounds.  Removing barriers will natural lead to more development that would have otherwise been blocked, all other things being equal.

“I suspect we agree that zoning reform is needed ... but the key consideration is WHAT KINDS of projects should be allowed “by right”.

Yes.  What kinds of projects are needed are those demanded by a fluid market.  Zoning unnaturally constrains this and makes it less possible to anticipate and meet that demand. Therefore clients, capital, projects and teams flow elsewhere, out of state in some cases.  All projects must not be expected to execute variances, it is analog to swimming with an anchor around your neck.

“Opening the floodgates by indiscriminately removing zoning requirements sounds like a recipe for disaster.”

Have to say this is an uncharacteristic use hyperbole and frankly a waste of your rhetorical effort as “indiscriminate removal of requirements” is not even remotely close to what I am suggesting. 

What is in the ask is that zones be consolidated, there are too many.  Some should be removed from the code entirely, whilst metrics within zones need to be changed, set-backs, parking ratios and FAR are all too limiting.  Would like to see set-backs and parking minimally halved and FAR in some cases doubled or tripled.  This will reduce need for ZBA interventions.  As far as our process, demagoguery is not democracy, CPC should defer less if at all to CMT’s, and CPC not BOA should punctuate approvals.

Hardly a recipe for spatial anarchy.

“I cringe thinking about the potential loss to New Haven’s built environment should a voice like Anstress’s not exist.”

I cringe thinking about the real loss to New Haven’s built environment do to our placing more value on words than actions.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 21, 2017  3:32pm

I wonder if I didn’t articulate my points properly, because you seem to have misunderstood several of my comments.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but your definition of “built environment” seems to be synonymous with “construction, development, and building”, in which case pretty much any project that is economically feasible is good for your definition of the “built environment”. For me, “built environment” also concerns the aesthetics, contribution to the surrounding context’s character, and long term environmental and economic impacts of a development project. For instance, I would argue that while the latter part of the condominium construction boom of the late-1980s may have been economically feasible when construction began on several projects and it provided work for designers, contractors, developers, etc., the partially-completed and abandoned condominiums in places like Fair Haven Heights and Quinnipiac Meadows were not “good” for that “built environment”.

While this larger discussion did emerge from issues brought up in the article, I don’t mean to imply anything specifically about this Audubon Square proposal - I admire several aspects of the proposed design.

“uncharacteristic use hyperbole”
That was intentional. Look at the sentence after the one you reference, because I think you may have missed my point, which was: if you believe that overhauling the zoning ordinance is necessary to encourage development, then you have allies in people like Robert Orr and Anstress Farwell. Therefore, where I suspect the actual disagreement lies is with the kinds of development you would like to see allowed “by right” as compared to the kinds of projects that people like Anstress and Robert would like “fast-tracked”. To state that someone who does not support the same kinds of development as you therefore does not support the built environment is, in my opinion, incorrect.

posted by: RobotShlomo on February 22, 2017  10:52am

@Steve Harris, you and I both know in the current political climate building a better mass transit system ain’t happening. Not unless gas goes to $6 a gallon or higher, and even then Americans will just complain, and then buy it anyway.

My big thing is this proposal is yet another in tbe long line of others that attempt to sanitize urban living, turning the city into the suburbs, in order to lure people in from the suburbs, and get them to pay New York rents without the one thing to justify them; and that’s New York. At some point many will realize for all the “convenience” of walking somewhere, they can get a condo in Hamden or Branford for half of what they’re paying in rent, and they won’t have to step over the homeless to get to their door. The irony here is that the banks who foreclosed on people’s homes back in 2008 and caused the housing crisis which made rents skyrocket, are more than happy to lend money to these developers so they can build Cold War Soviet style Kruschkyovkas, and charge exorbitant rents, until the market crashes again, and the tax payers inevitably bail them out being “too big to fail”.

posted by: Renewhavener on February 22, 2017  11:02am


Perhaps there is a misunderstanding, as there often is here.  I too will try to clarify, and think I know where you are coming from.

My sympathies will tend to align with those endeavoring as archetypal merchants.  Those arrayed in support of realizing projects, as opposed to those whose sensibilities might be bruised by them.  They would include all those who invest time, energy and effort along the entire continuum of idea to reality.  Post realization, I can understand why you have those concerns and agree they are relevant. 

So please do not mistake my sympathies for absolutism. 

Projects are better when planned well and contextually beneficial.  Have argued against projects that fail that test here:

Projects should be aesthetically pleasing also, and believe we might all be lucky to live in a world in which all buildings manifested themselves spatially and as meaningfully as say Freelon Adjaye Bond/Smithgroup’s NMAAHC building, and have merited such work here:

The problem I feel is this: Just as writing does not imply literature, building does not imply architecture.

The vast majority of projects do not ascend to this level.  Sometimes a building is just a building.  Perhaps the city-block scale of this project makes it seem relevant of focus?  To me it is just housing.  The site is a parking lot now.  Housing is better.  Go.

It is discouraging when a routine matter like getting buildings built gets bogged down in sometimes subjective discussions that pivot obtusely on who has a stake in the project and how the project ought to cure their ills.  Depending on how you frame the question, everyone on earth has an incremental stake.  Where does this end? 

While a project should strive for certain worthy aims, it cannot be expected to carry the world on its shoulders.

posted by: Renewhavener on February 22, 2017  11:16am

@JH, without diluting the discussion, would like to take issue separately with the notion proposed about which projects Orr or Farwell might desire to be “fast tracked”.  It is difficult to view “fast tracking” as anything other than a form of naked corruption. 

That some projects are “fast tracked” underlines the point that our approval process is heavy, inefficient and broken. When projects commence more quickly when part of the approval apparatus chooses NOT to act, that is a problem.  We saw this on the District at 470 James.

All projects should be “same tracked” and be subject to a lessened burden than they currently are IMO.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 22, 2017  11:41am

I hope you’re not correct about that, but I also worry that you might be.

Thanks for the discussion and sharing your perspective. I don’t think I have much more to add other than to clarify that by “fast tracking” projects I meant removing, relaxing, and reworking certain zoning provisions in order to allow more projects (of a certain character) to proceed more quickly through approval processes. Perhaps “fast tracking” was the wrong phrase because I did not mean to imply that the current processes and regulations should remain in place in their current form and then some other process or committee should be created that could arbitrarily select certain projects and move them through the existing approvals more quickly.

posted by: HughBridgers on February 22, 2017  10:40pm

“If New Haven hopes to poach residents from Brooklyn and Boston — a strategy Nemerson has promoted —  should it devote all that prime space to accommodating automobiles rather than denser mixed-use development?”

If New Haven wants to poach residents from Brooklyn & Boston they should either 1) have an express train to either, expand Tweed’s flight offerings, offer ridiculous artist grants and/or start-up grants, plus WISH UPON A STAR. Or 2) Create some sort of special economic zone with ridiculously low capital gains tax.

Otherwise, get real.

This is not Field Of Dreams…“if you build it…Yale will somehow subsidize SOM students & Med Residents to live there.”

On the flip side…if “they” want to come….“they” will build it…ie. a better city.