For Sale: 8 Acres, River View

Allan Appel PhotoKnow any canoe and kayak makers, propeller repair shops, or bait-and-tackle stores looking to expand big time? If so, city economic development officer Helen Rosenberg wants their number.

Hers is 203-946-5889. She’s looking for someone to buy the spacious lot at the base of Blatchley Avenue where the Quinnipiac and Mill rivers meet creating a touch of marine majesty and running out to the harbor.

The city bought the site in Fair Haven’s Mill River district in December for $2.75 million from the Amerada Hess Corporation. The city stepped in to buy it after a deal it was brokering, for Colony Hardware to expand into the site, fell apart. Rosenberg has been spearheading an effort for years to breathe new life into abandoned factories along that stretch of town.

When Colony backed out of the deal, Hess agreed to cap the long-empty and long-polluted property. That job nears completion in the spring. Rosenberg said she will then pump up the volume to market the property to a job-creating and preferably maritime-focused business.

Rosenberg said city had been considering the purchase for 11 years, ever since the Board of Aldermen approved and set aside $10 million in 2001 for land acquisition as part of the $20 million River Street Municipal Development project.

“I wanted to close a lot sooner,” Rosenberg said.

The $2.75 million sales price was based on reconciling appraisals that both the city and Hess obtained. It reflects the tanks Hess placed on the property (and subsequently took down in 2006).

“We didn’t want them [the tanks] but they paid for them [along with other improvements]. We signed a sales agreement in December 2005, and the idea was they’d clean the soil, and then we’d close, and find someone to build,” she said.

The property, designated as 100 River St.,  had to receive amelioration for serious contamination. When Colony was brought into the picture, Hess organized the clean-up to suit Colony’s prospective buildings and other needs.

The negotiations with Colony and Hess went on for four years, Rosenberg recalled with a sign

“When they [Colony] took off, we went back to the drawing board with Hess to rework the clean up,” she said.

Without having to choreograph the clean-up around specific plans for a building and a parking lot, Hess is nearing finishing the clean-up with an overall capping with soil and grass seed, Rosenberg said in a telephone interview.

The clean-up, which also includes transporting the more seriously contaminated soil off the premises and regrading with new soil, will soon be finished, according to Rosenberg.

“We were going to sell it to Colony for $580,000. We’re not looking to make money in the sale. We’re looking for investment, for someone to [come in] and to create jobs; $580,000 was the appraised value of land to Colony.

“If someone makes a proposal, we’d appraise it again before we go to the Board of Aldermen, because the board is the [ultimate] decider on whether a price is acceptable.”

Rosenberg pursued the marine idea some years back: “We sent letters out to boat builders in New England, but we weren’t ready for them. We didn’t own the land [at that point] and it wasn’t cleaned up.

“Now we are.”

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posted by: cjzurcher on February 26, 2013  12:29pm

Do you mean, Do I want to buy a brownfield site?

posted by: SaveOurCity on February 26, 2013  2:27pm

before purchasing, check references.  Ask 360 State whether the city of New Haven can be trusted or whether they will hit you with a surprise 400% tax increase after you are in place;

posted by: Powers on February 26, 2013  3:38pm

This is a golden opportunity for the city to finally utilize a beautiful waterfront in a way that doesn’t allow some industrial company to monopolize and pollute it.  Restaurants and recreational businesses in other parts of the country would kill to occupy land at the confluence of two rivers before they meet the ocean.  Considering the fact that New Haven has been cut off from its waterfront for so long by the railroad and I-95, a project that focuses on common usage would allow the city one small reminder that it is still a shoreline town.

posted by: anonymous on February 26, 2013  4:28pm

I agree with Powers.  If you’ve spent time on or around this site, you can quickly see that it compares to other waterfront cities around the world in its beauty.

Therefore it is a travesty that the limit of the city’s imagination was a big box store (probably one with no windows, like every other big box construction in the city).

This failure of government was probably caused by the fact that none of our planners, developers, or elected officials live or spend time in the area that is impacted. 

Blame also rests on the state, for failing to make financially sustainable decisions (such as their failure to invest in neighborhoods like Fair Haven that already have good urban infrastructure, and instead spend our tax dollars to promote sprawl in areas like Foxwoods where everything has to be built from scratch).

Continuing these type of policies is very detrimental to the people who live in our city, and scars our neighborhoods beyond the point of repair. Once you put a big box with barbed wire and no windows in on your waterfront, you are left with it for generations.

After generations of the same old destructive policies, let’s hope that we can finally bring in some city leadership with a real vision.

posted by: Wildwest on February 26, 2013  7:16pm

Powers is correct. I couldnt believe when it was announced that a giant hardware store was going to buy it, it was almost sickening. Waterfront in any normal town is considered to be prime real estate these days(the last 30 years). Of course it is in a place where the NHPD lets ATVs and dirtbikes gather a block away at a city park on weekends for wheelie parties if that means a thing. Front St could be prime real estate as well if there was enough police presence which there is not.

Then there is the proposal to build low income housing there as well, similar to the other side of Fair Haven which has worked well enough but still does not take into account that waterfront living is usually desirable in towns that are halfway normal. Even Baltimore was able to drastically change their waterfront, enough so that they have a water taxi service.

posted by: chris on February 27, 2013  2:20pm

The City has designated the 20’ edge along the water for this whole River street project a Greenway.  This was to compensate for land taken in the East Shore Parkway in the creation of the Port Authority.
Will a water dependent use super-cede this arrangement?
Learn from Boston on how to develop waterfront brown-fields. Build the infrastructure and public amenities first and the property will be two or three times as valuable. Investment follows infrastructure. 
Bring Blatchley to the water, close one of the other side streets if need be.

posted by: anonymous on February 27, 2013  2:58pm


The greenway right of way definitely needs to be preserved, for all of the other reasons suggested above.

Even if a neighborhood-killing big box is placed here (like the city proposed), if the greenway exists, at least in 30 or 40 years a new generation can come along and correct our mistakes.