First “Rt. 34 West” Project Wins Final Approval

Christopher Bockstael/ Svigals + Partners

After lying fallow for decades, a megablock razed in the name of urban renewal will rise again — despite the opposition of one lawmaker and the reservations of another.

The megablock is the area bound by MLK Boulevard and Legion Avenue to the north and south and Dwight and Orchard streets to the east and west. The 5.39 acres there, now a surface parking lot, is slated to become the home of a new $50 million office and retail complex, under a land disposition agreement approved Wednesday night by the Board of Alders.

The development is part of a larger plan to fill 16.2 acres between MLK and Legion, dubbed “Rt. 34 West.” Government bullodozers leveled all the buildings in the area a half-century ago to make way for a highway that was never built.

Centerplan, a Middletown developer, will buy the 5.39 acres from the city for $2.65 million. Centerplan has said it will spend $50 million to put up a new home for the Continuum of Care mental health agency, a pharmacy, a restaurant, a parking garage, and a medical building or hotel.

The plan has met with some controversy. Supporters say it’s a way to bring new life to a long vacant area, along with jobs and tax revenue. Detractors call it a car-centric suburban-style business park that won’t help the area’s pollution problems.

On Wednesday evening, Dwight Alder Frank Douglass (pictured), chair of the Community Development Committee, offered his colleagues a rundown of the project’s benefits.

It will allow Continuum of Care, which has been in New Haven for 50 years, to grow, adding 300 employees in three years, Douglass said. It will allow the city to collect “millions” in taxes in the coming years. A new Rite Aid pharmacy will be a source of jobs and a benefit to the neighborhood. And the city will get a payment of over $2.5 million for the land.

New Downtown/East Rock Alder Abigail Roth (pictured) rose to express “concern” about the project. Development at the site offers a “once in a lifetime chance” to remake the area, she said. She objected to the fact that Centerplan was offered the deal without a public bidding process. And she said the plan doesn’t have good infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians.

That said, it will create jobs and bring in taxes, and the neighborhood’s alders support it, Roth noted. She said she would vote for the plan, but encouraged the city to have open bidding processes in the future.

“I’m going to vote against this,” said Newhallville/Prospect Hill Alder Michael Stratton. “This was the heart of New Haven in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” he said. It’s still the heart, but it “looks like a moonscape now.” The city doesn’t need more non-profits like Continuum of Care, Stratton said. He said that area could support “high-end” housing.

Stratton’s was the only vote against the approval of the land disposition agreement.

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posted by: beaverhillsnewhaven on April 24, 2014  12:02pm

I thought Stratton supported this at first because of the text revenue. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. There was an extensive process about design guidelines for the more western part of the corridor brought up during the committee meeting. The redevelopment is a big deal and this is a decent first step.

posted by: Bill Saunders on April 24, 2014  1:17pm

The only thing I see that I like about this architectural ‘plan’  is the artistic rendering of my house in the top right corner.

posted by: Don in New Haven on April 24, 2014  2:22pm

Here come more buildings and cars. That is what I see coming to this beautiful open green space. Any development done on this land should be playgrounds for children.

Stratton is right to vote against this plan but for another wrong reason. High end apartments? Who wants to live in such a crowded community?

Do you seriously expect millions of dollars coming to NH from the Rite Aid pharmacy? Why expect tax from the non-profit Continuum Care?

Who will have the jobs? Do you seriously believe that NH residents will be hired in the new facilities?

If this construction becomes reality and it appears to be coming soon, Rte 34 will be almost impossible for the residents, SCSU and YNHH. 

The one thing I can absolutely guarantee NH will receive from this is more air pollution.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 24, 2014  2:40pm

Judas Goat politicians have sold the people out.

posted by: RhyminTyman on April 24, 2014  5:03pm

The parking is just so painful. This is a reasonable enough request until you factoring in the largely suburban feel of this project.

posted by: cttaxpayer on April 25, 2014  7:56am

I saw an office corridor like this in Charlette and a similar one in Kansas City and Toranto. They unite all the buildings with a skywalk so in any weather you can walk from one end to the other- it must have been a mile long. There are shops and coffee joints along the route.  This project on Rt 34 would be more interesting with a sky walk—where tenants could stroll from the Yale Hospital area across all the buildings.

posted by: canadachris on April 25, 2014  6:55pm

Alder Stratton is running the risk of becoming a buffoon. He is seemingly against everything. Probably the only way he can get his name in the paper. I suspect he envisions himself as the Ted Cruz of New Haven,

Great idea cttaxpayer.

posted by: mstratton on April 25, 2014  8:21pm

50 years we waited to see this area reincarnate into a thriving neighborhood environment. The vision:
Imagine the elimination of the two one way roads, a two way boulevard down the middle from Howe to Ella grasso. Then 100 small building lots,50 on each side. Individuals given the chance to build a home, a three family,a small business on any one of the lots. Diverse architecture, diverse socioeconomic population, the joining of hill to dwight and downtown, and an attractive streetscape not dominated by irritating parking garages and sickeningly tedious rite aides.

Instead we get Bridgeport déjà vu. Get off exit 27 in Bridgeport. That’s what we aspire to.

Now having created the extension of a Sinclair Lewis concrete jungle, we have to deal with it as best we can. Vision is gone, so now we must make the best of a bad deal. Attract for profit corporations to fill out the moonscape and drive up the grand list.

posted by: cttaxpayer on April 26, 2014  8:28am

I am empathetic with those who envision a neighborhood on the property, I really am—- but I also see the other side of this issue. The city needs money and it needs it yesterday.

1)The city’s “south end” is a harbor and therefore no expansion of commerce can go there.
2)Developers are not going to just invest where we want them- they want to play off off already successful areas, which the hospitals and research firms are. This new building will be full of medical offices.
3)The biggest non tax payers are educational facilities and they take up 50% of the downtown.
4)The biggest employers in New Haven are non for profits and most of their employees live in the suburbs thus paying property taxes outside New Haven.
5)The governor and former mayor have given so many tax incentives to billionaires that the pot is empty and Harford is broke.
6)Push has come to shove based on bad decisions of the past, now the city ‘leaders” have decided to bail out and cast their lot with these projects.

posted by: Don in New Haven on April 26, 2014  5:31pm

Alderman Stratton,

Thank you for your negative vote!

You are right. It is a jungle of poorly planned structures.

Let me give you a personal example of why it is difficult to attract small and medium size companies to NH.

If I could sell my house today for $350K, the buyer would pay that amount in 24.5 years in property taxes alone, assuming my taxes did not change from today. Can you imagine the look on the buyer’s face upon realizing the 30-year mortgage would cost less than the taxes?

So far, all that has been proposed to make NH more attractive to business has failed. The only successful attempts were bribes in the form of low tax and impossibly low prices for land.

Do you have any idea what the 95 off ramp traffic to Route 34 will look like when this proposed construction begins? Emergency vehicles will surely look for other ways to go to YNHH or other emergency places. Also consider the wasted gasoline that is dumping pollution into the air as cars sit idling morning and night.

Soon NH will be as smoggy as Beijing!