Hotel Duncan Renovation Sparks Vote For Hearing

Markeshia Ricks PhotosThe City Plan Commission voted to host a discussion on how to preserve and encourage the development of affordable housing — but only if the Hotel Duncan needs its site plans reviewed.

The redevelopment of the Hotel Duncan—formerly operated as a quasi-hotel and boarding house — into a “boutique” hotel has sparked a discussion of how to preserve affordable housing options like single-room occupancy establishments, or SROs, particularly downtown where expensive luxury housing has proliferated.

Commissioners voted 4 to 0, with one member abstaining, to pass a resolution Wednesday that instructs City Plan staff to schedule a public hearing should a site plan proposal for the Hotel Duncan renovation be submitted by the developers, a division of Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners called Graduate Hotels, that recently bought.

The commissioners acted at the request of Mayor Toni Harp.

On the heels of a public meeting at City Hall about the redevelopment of the Duncan and the need to address the diversity of housing types downtown and around the city, Harp wrote in an Oct. 17 letter to the commission that transforming the Duncan likely would require major renovations and eliminate the SRO component of the business.

“The City has received calls for a public hearing on the loss of the boarding house that currently constitutes approximately half of the property,” Harp wrote. “There is significant public interest in the development impact of replacing that housing, which supports many long-term residents who contribute to the strength and stability of Downtown New Haven and many who depend on the community and human resources that Downtown gives them access to.”

Though it doesn’t usually hold a public hearing for site plan reviews, the city’s zoning code gives the commission the option. Harp asked the commission to use that function to create a forum to discuss “the balance of housing and commercial uses downtown.”

“When public hearings bring the community together before major changes to the city, they add value to the City’s ongoing decision-making process,” Harp wrote. “The City Plan Commission is empowered to hold public hearings so that it can solicit public comment on the development impact of site proposals.”

One commissioner abstained from the vote: Republican Jonathan Wharton. He expressed concern that the city would be adding one more layer of bureaucracy for developers. He agreed that addressing the diversity of housing options downtown and throughout the city is important but questioned attaching that to one particular project.

Wharton, a Southern Connecticut State University professor who studies and teaches about gentrification, praised a suggestion proposed by City Plan staffer Ann Hartjen before the resolution was passed. Hartjen’s proposal would have allowed the commission to call a hearing or public workshop addressing affordable housing as a land use issue and the city’s Vision 2025 comprehensive plan, which takes “improving housing affordability” as one of its guiding principles.

“I’m not against community involvement,” he said. “I probably promote it too much. I just don’t have a full picture, and I think it’s kind of unusual to tag it onto this one project. What about future projects? I’d hate to see things stymied.”

Commission Chairman Ed Mattison said though the redevelopment of the Duncan is the impetus for the public hearing, its purpose isn’t to stymie new owners from their plans. Mattison, who also works for Continuum of Care, has been an advocate for the preservation and possible development of more SROs. Read about that here.

“The feeling is that this is an important issue that the city has to deal with,” Mattison said. “Somebody’s got to take the leadership role, and maybe it’s us.”

Tags: ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 19, 2017  8:55am

Well Well Well. In the words of Laurence Fishburne .There it is.

Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.I told All of you that when the mayor got elected that the Gentrification Vampires are coming. I told all of you that you would not be able to afford to live down town.I told you all that there will be displacement of the poor and working class people.But no people said to me.THREEFIFTHS cut it out with the Gentrification Vampires.These is no displacements THREEFIFTHS you are a trouble maker and all you do is write negative.Take from the New Haven Register.

Ed Mattison, chairman of the commission, said he feels there should be a discussion of how to increase the availability of low- and moderate-income housing downtown and throughout the city.“It is amazing to think, but it could happen that we could turn ourselves into San Francisco,” Mattison said, referring to the new upscale apartments being built downtown.Jonathan Wharton, another member and a political science teacher at Southern Connecticut State University, said “I think that is a stretch.”“With all due respect, I actually teach and study gentrification, so this is nothing new to me,” he said.Wharton referred to the growth of downtown Jersey City where development after development came in and changed that city.“That was gentrification,” he said. Mattison agreed, but said in New Haven “you want to be ahead of it.”

Like I said New Haven is in the second stage of Gentrification.A lot of you better keep your Bags pack.You will not be around.Again if you want to see were New Haven is going. Read this book.

City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017  9:23am

Just in time for Halloween—-a bunch of ghouls stirring the pot.

posted by: 1644 on October 19, 2017  10:19am

I first noticed the Duncan in the late 1970’s when I read it was patronized by famous actors.  From that point o reading a Trip Advisor review about five years ago, I had assumed, based on the patrons and the fancy exterior and lobby, that it was a pricy boutique hotel.  It wasn’t until these NHI articles that I knew it had long-term residents.  It’s use as a boutique hotel seems natural.  As for housing those like its former residents,  New Haven would do well to loosen regulations on boarding houses (unrelated persons living together) and the apartment size.  It seems there is a demand for dorm pseudo dormotority style, semi-communal living as that which Yale is building for graduate students on Broadway, and which Ucoon and Southern have built for their students.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on October 19, 2017  11:24am

What I don’t understand is why everyone is mad at the person who bought the property for wanting to do what they want with it. But nobody seems mad at the person (people?) who sold the property in the first place. They were the ones who provided SRO’s for people and then sold the property knowing full well a new owner would be unlikely to maintain the same exact business model.

Nobody would ever buy anything if they were stuck with the old owner’s setup/business model/etc

posted by: jim1 on October 19, 2017  11:33am

Public meeting!!!!  What for, to make people feel good, as if a public meeting will change anything.  Most of the times these public meetings are a wast of time.  If i’t does not need a city plan review, don’t wast your time..

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017  12:21pm

Attention: Robn and other tight a****, Ucoon is a typo.  While PB and his minions feel free to edit full paragraphs, he does not edit grammar or spelling, etc.

Dear 3/5’s—-Even I am sick of the same old song about gentrification….and I was actually gentrified out of a lovely $625/month loft on Orange St.  I ended up buying a place with no help from my evil employer, Yale.  Please come up with a NEW theme.  I’ll be happy to help.

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017  2:21pm

3/5’s—-How about Black Lives Dont Matter Enough—-even in a city of color with black politicians in cityhall.  How about Profiling Can Be Dangerous To Your Health or Which Is Worse, Driving or Walking While Black.  Not to mention Learn Black American History or Remain Ignorant.  I am just full of ideas and book titles that will shock even you.  I miss the Panthers.

And I am sick of the cretins of all colors who do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in cityhall except for Sally B.  They are not listening to you or me or Anstress or Bill or the “others” who are fed up with the lies and greed.  But then again 2 well-armed countries run by lunatics with bad hair may end all our problems by ending us.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 19, 2017  2:23pm

There is a need to develop the 21st version of SROs and, as 1644 points out, boarding houses. But site review is a very poor mechanism for doing this. By its nature, site reviews deal with a single property rather than what types of uses are allowed and where they are allowed.  They typically deal with issues such as landscaping, erosion control, and where the dumpsters will be located. The proposal by Ann Hartjen (full disclosure, an acquaintance) makes much more sense.

posted by: robn on October 19, 2017  2:48pm


What article are you commenting on?!?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 19, 2017  3:28pm

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017 12:21pm

Dear 3/5’s—-Even I am sick of the same old song about gentrification….and I was actually gentrified out of a lovely $625/month loft on Orange St.  I ended up buying a place with no help from my evil employer, Yale. Please come up with a NEW theme.  I’ll be happy to help.

You may be sick of the same old song about gentrification.But my people are is my job to educate my people.It is your job to educate yours.You want to help then educate the white community.Educate those slick white liberals who MALCOLM X said are hypocritical more than the conservative.So do not tell me how to get the message out to my people.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 19, 2017  4:08pm

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017 2:21pm

3/5’s—-How about Black Lives Dont Matter Enough—-even in a city of color with black politicians in cityhall.  How about Profiling Can Be Dangerous To Your Health or Which Is Worse, Driving or Walking While Black.  Not to mention Learn Black American History or Remain Ignorant.  I am just full of ideas and book titles that will shock even you.  I miss the Panthers.

If you are fully of Ideas.They you should educate more whites to become , freedom fighter revolutionary to come on our sides. You and other whites should then march on every damn police station in this country and shutting it down, filling up the jails, stopping the flow of traffic and disrupting commerce. It’s not like we won’t be out there, we always are, but can you all really step up in ways you have never imagined and take arrests, hits and blows, we need a rest.I came out of a Pan-African and Black Nationalist Home.My grandmother was a secretary for the following people.Marcus Garvey Herbert Harrison Adam Clayton Powell. I also went to UCLA (University Corner of Lexington Avenue) My master teachers were DR.Leonard Jeffries DR John Henrik Clarke DR. Ben Jochannan. Gil Noble who was the producer and host of like it is.So I was born into combat.So nothing can shock me.



University Corner Of Lenox Ave

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 19, 2017  4:13pm

Wendy, you’re right - 3/5ths is a Johnny one note. But in this one case, he is right to label what is happening as gentrification. Low and moderate income people are going to be forced from their homes as a result of this development and better-off people will take their place. I think the developer is acting responsibly, but there is a need for non-conventual housing, as you have argued.

posted by: robn on October 19, 2017  4:23pm


How about if we leave the private market alone and let it build what people are willing to pay for?

New Haven property owners/taxpayers already subsidize public housing in several different ways. One way is that 3,000 units owned by HAHN are property tax free, and since HAHN has shown a sweet tooth over the past several years, building units for $500K apiece, that means that l the rest of us to pick up that $50M of property taxes. Another is the actual construction cost of the units themselves which is paid for by local, state and federal tax dollar flowing back tom HAHN for construction.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 19, 2017  10:26pm

Robn, by non-conventional I mean housing types not currently in the local market, not necessarily subsidized housing. The current zoning ordinance largely precludes new SROs, rooming houses, boarding houses,  accessory units such as in-law apartments, and apartment buildings with small units. The latter two could be built without subsidies, perhaps the others could as well.

The HANH projects are indeed costing substantially more than other new developments. But your argument that the projects are costing residents property tax revenues assumes the market would have built a comparable number of taxable units. In practice, private developers can’t or won’t build units that are affordable to low/moderate income households.

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017  11:59pm

Threefifths, Sorry I offended you.  I admire your stamina.  And you are correct, I have never put myself in the firing line.  I regret that I dont have the courage to.  I once did tell Ralph Nader that crusading in this country was safer (because you got killed or tortured and then killed in most other countries for dissension) and thus easier.  I have never been in combat or had to live black in this country but from my reading I learned what I was missing.  I have also been able to avoid arrest at many points in my life cause I used to be fast on my feet and quick with the gab.  You should know which side I defend but from here on out I will not comment anymore on anything except in person.

posted by: robn on October 20, 2017  5:27am


I’m not assuming that developers would build affordable housing because it’s not their responsibility. You’re making an assumption that if land were avaialable to build 3000 market rate units, developers wouldn’t. The past decade refutes that claim.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 20, 2017  8:19am

posted by: wendy1 on October 19, 2017 11:59pm

Threefifths, Sorry I offended you.

You did not offended.Like I said my job is first to educate my people.If whites want to listen good.

posted by: Katydids on October 20, 2017  12:14pm

It’s a responsible first baby step to have a public hearing to talk about the impact of replacing the Duncan—which is really quite a large project, enough that as a layperson it’s sort of shocking to imagine that it could happen without a public process. I hope the hearing happens. We don’t have much hope of figuring out how to proactively strengthen the affordable housing in the city if we’re cavalier about letting existing affordable/alternative/supportive housing options fade away, and cede the city center to transient Yale affiliates and the wealthy. Of course everyone likes seeing development happen—but we have to be strategic about it, and we can’t do that if we miss opportunities like this to spur a public conversation about how the city’s development strategies need to keep shifting as the city transforms. It matters who lives in downtown!

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on October 20, 2017  10:06pm

Robn. I’m fine with the market rate housing that has been developed recently. But these developments will do little to address the shortage of housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income people. Developers are not required to build such housing.  But the zoning ordinance makes it difficult for developers who would like to.