The Harp administration will give a developer extra time to prove it has a hotel operator in place and to redesign its plans to build a new urbanist mini-city on the grave of the old New Haven Coliseum.
Mayor Toni Harp made that announcement on her latest appearance on WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday.”
The city had given the developer, Montreal-based LiveWorkLearnPlay (LWLP), until June 30 to redraw its plans for the project to avoid spending $15 million to move underground gas and electrical lines (and fighting in court with United Illuminating over who would pay the bill), and to prove it has a hotel committed to operating a luxury establishment on the site.
That deadline came and went. Mayor Harp said on Monday’s show that the city is extending the deadline because the developer is making progress. She also said a meeting has been scheduled with the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which needs to have its own concerns met before releasing a promised $21 million for needed road work.
The previous DeStefano administration chose LWLP to build a new urbanist mini-city atop the old New Haven Coliseum site with 1,000 mixed-income apartments, 30-40 new businesses, a four-and-a-half-star hotel with 160-190 rooms, 30,000 square feet of stores, and a public square on the grave of the old New Haven Coliseum at Orange, George, and State Streets and MLK Boulevard. While the harp administration has succeeded in jump-starting building projects elsewhere in town, the Coliseum site plan has stalled. Years after the developer promised to put shovels in the ground, it hasn’t even produced a final drawing or announced the selection of a hotel operator necessary to free up $21 million in state money for preliminary road work. Despite a posting on the developer’s website that continues to announce a “Spring 2015” “construction start.” (Click here and here for previous stories detailing some of the stated reasons for the delay.) Some observers have grown skeptical about whether the project will ever happen.
The DeStefano administration gave LWLP 14 years to get moving on the project. A Harp administration has suggested that the city may have wiggle room to get out of that commitment, and get something else built on the land, if LWLP fails to show any progress. (Read about that here.)
Budget Woes, Civilian Review
Also on Monday’s program, Mayor Harp noted that $72.4 million in state aid to the city is in peril thanks to the failure of the state legislature to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. She said the city still has a couple of months before much of that money—which includes $30 million in education aid—would be arriving, so she remains hopeful that a deal will materialize at the state Capitol. She said the city decided to go ahead and spend a planned $450,000 it had expected to receive for summer jobs for teens,rhoping to recoup the money once a budget deal is struck; she said the city couldn’t afford to leave the 400-600 teens affected without productive work this summer.
Harp fielded a caller’s question about why, four years after a charter referendum required the creation of a new Civilian Review Board, one still hasn’t materialized.
Harp noted that the Board of Alders is responsible for creating the new board, and she can’t make the alders do it.
The caller, attorney Patricia Kane, asked Harp why she said she supports a proposed version of a civilian review board, currently before the alders, that lacks subpoena power. Harp said she personally supports including subpoena power, but can’t make the alders include it. (Read more about that debate here and here.)
Kane argued that Harp, as mayor, can set the tone and make it happen. “It looks like a shell game,” she said.
“The Board of Alders are all from the mayor’s party,” so they wouldn’t get renominated if they defied her wishes on the review board, Kane argued.
Harp responded that the adlers act independently of her — noting that they voted 25-0 last week to overturn her vetoes of 10 provisions in the new city budget.
Another listener, Aaron Goode, asked via Facebook live: “Does the mayor support the Board of Alders’ revised zoning proposal that would require special permits for all ‘university uses’ in the city?”
“On the face of it, it seems reasonable,” she said of the proposal, which passed the board’s Legislation Committee and now goes before the full board for a final vote. But she said she hasn’t yet made a final decision on her stance, pending review by her corporation counsel about the wording and legality of the measure. Click here to read more about the issue.
Click on or download the above audio file to listen to the full episode of “Dateline New Haven,” which also touched on Saturday’s violence at a white nationalist event on the Green and on campaign debates.
The episode of was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.