A haven for cats and the humans who enjoy them will be the first test of Westville Village’s new zoning rules.
Last month, the Board of Alders approved the creation of a new zone for Westville’s commercial district that allows more density and a greater mix of uses. Westville Village center was formerly zoned a General Business, or BA; it now is zoned BA-2, which is specific to the village.
The Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled on July 24 to hold a public hearing that will involve the new rules.
The owners of Mew Haven Cat Cafe at 904 Whalley Ave. will be before the BZA asking for a special exception to allow them to operate their hybrid coffee shop/cat shelter. When the new ordinance was drafted the special exception option was created with Mew Haven in mind.
Angela Pullo and her husband Michael have been laying the foundation for opening what will be a first of its kind venture for New Haven and the state of Connecticut for about the same amount of time that the ordinance was being shopped in the neighborhood by the Westville Villiage Reinassance Alliance (WVRA) and students in the Yale Law School Community and Economic Development Clinic.
Last November, the couple launched a well-received pop-up with the help of a few felines from The Animal Haven in North Haven — a partnership that will continue when the shop is fully operational. (Read about that pop-up in this story from the New Haven Register’ Esteban Hernandez.)
The shop is currently selling coffee. But when it opens fully, Pullo said, hopefully by the end of July, the plan is to bring the cats back. To do that, the couple will expand the cat side of the storefront that was for many years an optician’s office and formerly a campaign headquarters for Mayor Toni Harp, knocking out a wall and adding a bathroom. They’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to support that effort.
But before all that can happen, she needs the blessing of the BZA.
The Pullos lived in New York when they got the idea to open a cat cafe, a popular concept in places like Thailand and Japan that is now making its ways to major U.S. cities. The couple chose New Haven in particular because Michael grew up in Trumbull and had lots of friends from the city. When they found the long-vacant storefront in Westville Village center with the big windows, they thought it might be the right place.
Pullo said WVRA embraced the concept as one that fit into its vision for the commercial district of the neighborhood. The timing of the zone change, which allows for more density and possibly customer traffic. sealed the deal.
“I like its vision,” Pullo said of the neighborhood. “And I think we fit in with it. We’re different and think people will want to stop and check things out.”