New Haven is one step closer to owning all of the property necessary to build the last leg of the Farmington Canal Trail in the city now that it has formally acquired over 1,000 square feet of trail land behind Audubon Street.
On July 27, Mayor Toni Harp and city lawyer John Ward signed an agreement for the formerly private land with Paul Bailey, the president of the McLagon Foundry Condominium Association, Inc.
That agreement, as well as a quitclaim deed that is also dated July 27, ceded 1,175 square feet of canal trail land behind Audubon Street and east of Whitney Avenue to the city in exchange for city-promised repairs to the Foundry’s 1870s-era brick building at 33 Whitney Ave.
Acting City Plan Director Mike Piscitelli said that the city now needs to secure only one last easement before it can begin construction on Phase IV of the Farmington Canal Trail, which would bring the public pedestrian-and-bicycle path from its current terminus at Temple Street another two miles south through Wooster Square to the Long Wharf pier.
He said the last required easement is for the land under the garage on Grove Street, which is owned by the Konover Commercial Corporation. Piscitelli said that the city-Konover agreement is in its final form, and that he expects it to be resolved later this month.
“The agreement with McLagon is an important milestone for the project as we need to complete acquisition of the right of way before we can finalize the contract drawings” for Phase IV, Piscitelli reported.
“As you know this has been a long process. The Foundry building was constructed in the 1870s and has a distinctive façade along the canal line. The acquisition of the 1,175 s.f. may not seem like a lot of land but it is integral for the greenway.”
In exchange for the land, the city has promised to execute a number of improvements to the Foundry’s building. Piscitelli said that repair work will become part of the scope of work for the contractor chosen to build out Phase IV of the canal trail.
The repair work promised by the city focuses on the buildling’s fire escape, façade, and roof drainage system, and includes re-plumbing the two southern existing roof leaders into two new area drains, waterproofing the existing south façade wall, and replacing the overflow outlet for the existing drywell system.
“Since there will be public access in this area,” Piscitelli wrote, “the requested improvements are both fair and in the City’s interest as it will bring the façade into a state of good repair and make it a little more presentable with the repointing work and the painting of the ductile iron pipe. McLagon has been doing extensive work on other parts of the building and we are very appreciative of their efforts to maintain a landmark structure.”
The final two easements represent the culmination of five years of negotiations for the public acquisition of the former rail line land around Temple Street.
Lisa Fernandez, the president of the Farmington Canal Rail to Trail Association, called the news of the latest acquisition an encouraging step forward in what has been a long pre-construction process for Phase IV.
“Kudos to the city and the owners of the Foundry building for protecting New Haven’s past, and ensuring its vibrant future,” she wrote in an email to the Independent. “Will this put pressure on Konover to agree to the last easement needed, so that the city can go out to bid for Phase IV in the next construction season? It has been a long 5 years since the project has been ready, and the funds have been obligated to it longer than that. It looks like we might be able [to] celebrate the completion of Phase IV before another year goes by. Let’s hope!”
Aaron Goode, the founder of the New Haven Friends of the Farmington Canal Greenway, also said he is eager to see Phase IV get underway.
“Not a week goes by without someone asking me about the status of this section of the greenway,” he stated, “because it is such a critical link not just in New Haven’s non-motorized transportation network, but also in the 84-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and in the 2000+ mile East Coast Greenway. Mike Piscitelli should be applauded for picking up where Karyn Gilvarg left off and we REALLY REALLY hope this long-overdue project can go out to bid as soon as possible.”