9th Square Rescue Mission Triumphs

Allan Appel PhotoThe nearly 100 year-old S.Z. Field building—which once shook with vibrations of printing presses, then was left for dead—reopened for business as part of a complex with 65 new apartments, many with original wood floors, brick, and beams.

New Haven’s preservationists made sure the historic buildings’ death sentence was commuted. In the process, a downtown block already thriving with nightlife (cafe 9, Skappo) and preserved gems like the Firehouse 12 jazz club/studio and the Organschi architects’ lair, has a new sturdy anchor and testament to living history.

The preservationists were on hand Wednesday afternoon at 38-44 Crown St. to celebrate the buildings’ rescue with Doug Hitchner, project manager for the developer, Philadelphia based PMC Property Group.

David Nyberg, who was in business with PMC, obtained one of the buildings for $500,000 from the city with the promise to restore it. He got the other two from private parties. Then the historic buildings fell apart through haphazard gutting and neglect. Under public pressure, PMC took over the project from Nyberg and started the rescue work at a high pitch this January.

Click here and here for previous stories detailing how preservation groups kept after the building’s owners to address the terminal dereliction.

PMC transformed facades to reflect the way the buildings looked a century ago. The period-appropriate designs include having 16 panes above another 16 in the windows with real, not glued on, mullions, the pieces of wood surrounding the glass. That allows for true divided light and a rich play of light and shadow.

Many of the apartment interiors make use of the original wood floors, original beams, brickwork, and different levels for a non-cookie cutter feeling.

Anstress Farwell, whose New Haven Urban Design League teamed up with the New Haven Preservation Trust for the preservation effort, called the restoration nothing short of “an extraordinary feat,” especially in a down economy.

In the three inter-linked buildings, the 65 apartments feature 12 two-bedrooms, and the balance one-bedroom, with a single commercial space on the street front of the Field Building.  The monthly rents range from $1,150 to $1,575, according to property manager Lynda Cox, and after a month of showing, four have been rented.

“This shows historic preservation is economic development,” said New Haven Preservation Trust president Pedro Soto.

“You’re bringing back the history of the city, but [also] bringing them back to the grand list.”

A crowd of 30 people toured the model apartments. “Had these been done poorly, there’d be less interest,” Soto said.

NHPT Vice-President Bob Grzywacz said he was particularly moved by the “embodied energy” of the building. He said that consisted of the flow of energy from the past, from those who once made bricks and cut beams and did the designs that is still palpable in the building’s aura.

The complex’s neighbor across the street, Rob Greenberg of nearly 100-year-old ACME Furniture, said he had but one quibble: “I applaud this, I think it’s awesome. My main concern is they should put retail all across the street level,” that is, not only in the Field Building but in the two storefronts of the adjacent building.

“This was the most vibrant commercial neighborhood in the city,” Greenberg said. Having more retail space forces the developer to be more involved in the area and to encourage business, he said.

Gryzwacz said he did not want to criticize the developer, Farwell commented that in the best of all possible world she agreed. However, in the current economy, with a lot of vacant storefronts, she understood the choice. “We don’t have a market supporting” storefront retail at the moment, she said.

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posted by: robn on July 14, 2011  7:52am

This is a nice example of daylight factory facades. Really nice job with the true divided lights. I do find it odd that commercial space has been left in the base of the building but the storefront hasn’t been glazed…at this point it seems like an incremental cost to take it to the finish line.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 14, 2011  8:41am

How about some murals on those blank storefronts?  This is a city full of artists.

posted by: BetsyAnn on July 14, 2011  9:13am

Maybe if they hook up with Project Storefronts, they WILL have retail attractiveness!!!

posted by: anon on July 14, 2011  12:33pm

“David Nyberg, who was in business with PMC, obtained the buildings in a fire sale from the city with the promise to restore them”

How do you figure this was a fire sale?  How many of the buildings did PMC purchase from the city, what were the city’s concessions? Did they subsidize this reno?

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 14, 2011  1:48pm


My sentiments exactly. Not enough historically sympathetic rehabs around these days. But I am sure those windows are going to be a pain to clean.

posted by: robn on July 14, 2011  5:04pm


40 Crown (the building on the right of the alley) was sold for $0.5M or $27/sf (n/i below grade).

26-30 Crown (the two buildings on the left of the alley) were sold for 1.45M or $35/sf (n/i below grade).

posted by: Anon on July 14, 2011  5:24pm

Thanks for the info Robn. I am glad the writer corrected that sentence in the article. Such liberty with the facts from reporters these days!

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 15, 2011  5:58am

It’s a good thing the developer rescued these buildings from Nyberg. If not they would have been demolished by now we’d have another surface parking lot.

The rehab looks fantastic. As to the quibble by Mr. Greenberg about ground floor retail/commercial; City Plan advised the BZA that the entire street front at ground floor level be commercial/retail but they didn’t take that advice. Perhaps at some point in the future the owners will realize that it’s a bad idea to have dwellings on the ground floor downtown.

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 15, 2011  6:04am

One more thing. A quibble really.

To the NHI; You guys have fallen in love with tilted photographs. They really don’t work all that well.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on July 16, 2011  3:03pm

Finally!  the headline should read.  Those buildings have been in limbo since before 2001, when I worked for the company that was developing them.  Let’s get it together, and see how much we can do, and faster.

posted by: Nashstreeter on July 17, 2011  8:31pm

Stephen Harris you are so right! It’s like they’ve all got one short leg over there at the NHI. It’s not a photograph really; it’s Here’s ME Taking a PICTURE!

posted by: anon on August 5, 2011  2:31pm

This was all done with private funds—-PMC does not subsidize any deals that it does….take some time and do some research on the company