Neighbors Back Delaney’s Plan, Despite Design

Christopher Peak PhotoA developer planning to resurrect the popular Delaney’s Restaurant & Tap Room in Westville Village told neighbors Wednesday night that he has taken pains to preserve what made the spot beloved, down to the same number of tables, operating hours and staff.

But, much to neighbors’ disappointment, the century-old building’s look won’t be making a comeback.

That nostalgic sentiment was shared Wednesday night at a meeting hosted by Westville Village Renaissance Association (WVRA).

Neighbors gathered at Lyric Hall to hear about the design and offer feedback to architect Leon Mularski, Jr., and developer Lior Israel.

Fans of the old Delaney’s Restaurant & Tap Room, a 1900 building that burned down in a 2014 fire, said they want a building that looks from the outside closer to what they remember. Echoing these critical comments about the design made by readers in the Independent, they said they wish the new building going up at 882 Whalley Ave. just would have a bit more personality.

But they added they’re still likely to support the developer when he goes before the Board of Zoning Appeals next Tuesday to apply for special exceptions for side-yard requirements, limited parking and a liquor license in order to start rebuilding on what has been a vacant lot at Central Evenue and Whalley since the fire.

In total, the project is expected to cost $3.2 million, according to Lior. Spanning 23,500 square feet across three floors, it will feature a 180-seat restaurant on the corner and 22 apartments above, with a mix of seven one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units on each floor.

Mularski guessed that they team would start construction before summer and wrap up by the end of next winter.

TMG Architects, LLCIn the meantime, he said, he’s still improving his designs. He recently rounded off a sharp edge at the corner into a gradual curve, out of which canopies will extend above Delaney’s seats. He also tried to soften the gables.

And at the meeting, he tested out the way adding shutters around the windows would change the look.

Next at the top of his to-do-list, he’s trying to figure out what to do with the side facing Central Avenue. From a column, recessed balconies extend out parallel to the sidewalk, adding rhythm to the upper floors and making the building more approachable. “That’s why there are jut-outs, instead of monoliths,” he explained. But Mularski doesn’t like how blocky the middle portion still feels; he thinks there’s something missing.

“We’re trying very hard to scale down and keep a neighborhood feel,” he said. “It’s hard to take a modern design and make it look old.”

Tom Ciancia, a pianist, said he was pleased to have a developer in the area, but he wondered if the building felt right. “I’m not an architectural expert, but it seems a little modern, with a few throwbacks,” he said. “Is there any way to keep on the style of what it was?”

Jaime Kane, a teacher at the Westville Community Nursery School, agreed, saying the building design lacks the “historic charm” of its predecessor. “I recognize it’s new, and I feel grateful and fortunate that we’ll have vibrant housing and restaurants again on the main street of Westville, but I think there could be more with the facade,” Kaine said.

State Rep. Patricia Dillon said the neighborhood is depending on the architect to get the design right. For too long, she said, Westville’s been seen as a drive-through on the way to Bethany, but with Delaney’s as a centerpiece, the area has a chance to stop motorists.

“Is there something that grabs you?” Dillon asked. “Makes you go to the business across the street? Builds on what you’ve already done?”

Several constituents who contacted her said it didn’t; judging from the pictures alone, she hadn’t made up her mind.

Daniel Eugene, an artist, suggested adding a splash of color to the building with murals. “I wonder if that might be a solution to a boring or overly conventional street facade,” he said. Mularski said he’d been in talks with WVRA about displaying local artists’ work, but they hadn’t committed to anything yet.

The city is also looking into what it can do to activate the streetscape, said Michael Pinto, the deputy traffic and parking director who lives a few blocks down from Delaney’s. Along the short block where Central Avenue begins, between Fountain Street and Whalley Avenue, there’s talk of creating a pedestrian walkway and room for outdoor seating. The city doesn’t have permission to close down the street itself, because it’s currently on a state bus route, he added.

In addition to sending Mularski back to the drawing board, Israel said, he is doing what he can to preserve a historic feel, including with building materials.

For instance, the exterior will be made with real bricks, he pointed out. “We could have made it cheaper with vinyl siding,” he noted, as neighbors booed and hissed. “I promise it’s not going to be vinyl. We’re willing to spend money on expensive bricks, so the look is antique.”

“Thank you!” someone yelled out.

One big outstanding question is whether Peter Gremse, the former manager, will return. Gresme made an appearance at the meeting Wednesday night; he stayed mum about whether he could commit to a return.

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posted by: dcoon on February 8, 2018  5:43pm

I don’t often comment here, but I got to say this building hits an all-time new low for architectural design in New Haven.  Developers of new apartment complexes are being allowed to mess this city up big time.

posted by: Lifer on February 8, 2018  6:33pm

It’s way too large-scale for that location IMO.  I miss the Cape Codder of my youth - over cooked vegetables and all.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 8, 2018  8:50pm

I don’t yearn for the old design - I yearn for good design. This one gets the gold star for the worst design of any building I’ve seen any time in the last 15 years. It doesn’t fit in the neighborhood; it is not aesthetically pleasing; it’s not interesting to look at - it’s just a giant hulking building, built for the cheapest amount of money and design was therefore sacrificed. Scratch the entire exterior design. Adding shutters and rounding a corner won’t fix this ugly monstrosity.

posted by: wendy1 on February 8, 2018  9:56pm

I agree with Kane….design is butt ugly…even a building made out of driftwood or designed by Kane’s kids would be an improvement.  The design resembles a combination prison barracks, elderly housing, and TGIF.  How about something smaller made out of reclaimed wood.  How about another architect or even an architecture student.  Think Maya Lin when she was affordable and an undergrad.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 9, 2018  4:21am

I will take a break from my posting ‘hiatus’ to say…

This is a really sad day for the future of New Haven….I always hold some hope.

Frankly, I am umbstruck that a neighborhood could let this happen, that no eal concessions came from the dialogs, even simple facade improvements…...It looks a an Old Age Home in Florida!

I guess the declining property values in Westville are finally taking a toll on the spirit.

It seems the ‘low common denominator’ development of the last ten years has only driven the standards down, not up.  Is everybody bored enough yet…., don’t worry… there will crappier developments to come….

It is happening everywhere in New Haven…
In five years we are not going to recognize the place….

The heart is being systematically removed…

posted by: Pat from Westville on February 9, 2018  10:00am

“the short block where Central Avenue begins, between Fountain Street and Whalley Avenue . . .The city doesn’t have permission to close down the street itself, because it’s currently on a state bus route, he added.”

And what bus route would that be?? The Rte. 243 (aka the “B”) runs down Whalley Avenue to the Green, the Rte. 246 (aka the “Q”) comes down Alden Ave from Edgewood to turn left on Fountain Street. Neither travels on Central Avenue.

[Chris: Pinto said the Q Bus stops there on Sundays.]

posted by: ADAK on February 9, 2018  10:13am

If I were the developer and owner I’d pay close attention to these comments… you’re building this place for the same people you hope to attract to it.

posted by: jsjs on February 9, 2018  1:22pm

It would be so nice if the design included a roof-top garden, perhaps a beer garden as an extension of Delany’s, so that visitors could soak in the view of West Rock!

posted by: robn on February 10, 2018  10:20am

Advice to Mr. Israel; hire Architect Karen Patriquin for a peer review of this proposal. She knows what she’s doing and knows how to manage the scale of street edge projects.

posted by: Stylo on February 10, 2018  2:02pm

There’s no fixing that level of ugly. Start over.

posted by: Elmer Shady on February 10, 2018  5:06pm

RIP ‘Historic Westville Village’.... you had a nice run…

posted by: 2cents on February 13, 2018  12:39pm

The design is totally wrong for Westville. The Delaney’s building stood the test of time and created community because of the multigenerational memories it cultivated. There can be beauty in simplicity of design - this proposed building is just not the look if we treasure the more historic qualities of Westville.