Kresge Lot To Grow 120 Apartments

Kenneth Boroson ArchitectsBailey File PhotoA surface parking lot at the heart of downtown may soon boast a new six-story complex with 120 apartments — some as small as 400 square feet and renting for $1,250 a month.

Northside Development Company Founder and President Paul Denz gave that update on his plans to the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team (DWSCMT) on Tuesday night during its regular monthly meeting on the second floor of City Hall.

Denz, Northside Chief Operating Officer Christopher Vigilante, and local architect Kenneth Boroson pitched the 40 neighbors present on Northside’s new proposed development for 842-848 Chapel St. The half-acre parcel bounded by Chapel Street and Center Street between Orange Street and Church Street is currently a surface parking lot. It has been vacant ever since a fire ripped through the historic Kresge department store building soon after Denz bought the property in 2007.

Thomas Breen photos“We believe the project as planned is pretty transformative” in taking a currently empty parcel and converting it into a 120-unit apartment complex, Denz said.

“The units are a little small,” he admitted. “We are trying to keep this project affordable for renters who want to live downtown.”

Northside’s proposal is up for site plan review at Wednesday night’s City Plan Commission meeting on the second floor of City Hall. (Update: The commission approved the plan.)

Denz, Vigilante, and Boroson explained that the proposed complex will consist of ground-floor retail, five floors of apartments, and underground parking. The complex will contain 66 studios, 41 one-bedroom apartments, and 13 two-bedrooms. It will include 55 parking spaces for cars and 45 parking spaces for bicycles.

Vigilante said that the studios will likely range from 400 to 450 square feet, the one-bedrooms will range from 700 to 750 square feet, and the two-bedrooms will be around 1,300 square feet. He said the smallest studio apartments will likely rent at $1,200 to $1,250 per month, and the complex will charge separately for parking.

“It is new construction, so we can’t price it too low,” said Denz, who also owns the 18-story First Niagara office building at 195 Church St. Downtown. Vigilante said the proposed development will present more affordable “mid-step” market-rate rentals when compared to upscale apartments at the nearby Palladium Building and 360 State St. complexes.

He added that Northside also owns the adjacent property stretching to the corner of Orange Street and Chapel Street, including the building that currently houses Footlocker. He said the next phase of development for this site will likely bring 50 to 60 apartments to the corner of Orange and Chapel.

New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell asked if Northside could add some color or art or architectural ornament to the proposed building’s side facade facing Orange Street, so that passerby aren’t stuck with a big empty gray hovering over the block.

Vigilante said he is open to the suggestion. “We’re still working on it,” he said about the design of the side facade.

Kenneth Boroson ArchitectsCarmen Mendez, the Livable City Initiative (LCI) neighborhood specialist for Downtown and Wooster Square, asked Denz about his company’s relationship with the Dollar Tree located in the building at 852 Chapel St., right next door to Northside’s property.

“Dollar Tree is not a good operation,” Denz said. He said, from what he has heard, Dollar Tree has given its landlord notice that it will be closing its Chapel Street location sometime within the next 12 months.

He said that Dollar Tree currently pays very little to rent from the building’s owner and that whatever retail Denz is able to bring into the ground floor of 842-848 Chapel is bound to make 852 Chapel a more attractive retail location as well.

Thomas Breen photoDowntown resident Miriam Grossman asked Denz how his proposed development will affect the bus stop on Chapel Street between Orange and Church.

“I like my shopping at Dollar Tree,” she added.

Denz said he is aware of the citywide conversations about the potential relocation of bus stops and reconfiguration of the entire bus system away from the current hub-and-spoke model that currently prioritizes the Green. However, he said, he has no control over what the city and the state ultimately decide to do regarding that particular bus stop, or any other bus stops.

“The bus stop is not in my purview,” he said.

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posted by: 1644 on December 19, 2018  8:10am

1. It looks like he could go at least another story taller without being out of scale with the Dollar Tree building.
2. More apartments without parking means more customers for the buses, which should support service.
3. What’s the history on the little romanesque deli building on Center Street?  JH?

posted by: publikskooled on December 19, 2018  8:18am

i like this plan.  the city wantd dense housing, new housing and cheap housing.  this takes care of all three for the most part.  and this part of town needs new blood.
as far as the bus stop, the current urine soaked drug market presently there (along w the stop by center and church) should be incorporated into a new central transportation center, like union station or state st station.
its the best option the citys gonna see, its taxable and built w private funds.  dont let this one dissapear

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on December 19, 2018  9:32am

1644,
The Romanesque building, or Galaxy Arcade, was built in 1888 as the headquarters of the Security Insurance Company. In the mid-1920s the company built a new building on Whitney Avenue, which was later used by the School of Management and torn down for the construction of Norman Foster’s Evans Hall.

I suspect the building height is mostly being driven by an optimization of the chosen construction system, rather than the height of surrounding buildings.

posted by: robn on December 19, 2018  9:40am

It sounds sensible and the modest scale of the apartments is the key to affordability. I’d love to see unit plans.

posted by: anonymous on December 19, 2018  9:43am

This type of development is fantastic and should be fast-tracked.  Given the rising demand for housing units (as the population ages and there are more singles, a typical household no longer can afford to or wants to live in a big suburban house with high maintenance costs and no transit options, which is most of CT unfortunately), New Haven’s downtown as well as bus corridors should be packed cheek to cheek with 6-8 story buildings like these.  Besides downtown, Westville Center, where 3 routes converge, or Dixwell Avenue, which has a very highly-used line, should have much taller buildings.

6-8 stories is a good example of “Goldilocks density” : https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/16/cities-need-goldilocks-housing-density-not-too-high-low-just-right

I don’t think these types of houses need to have any ornamentation (we can leave that for the courthouses, churches, schools, etc.), but it is in the property owner’s interest to invest in a good architect.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on December 19, 2018  11:18am

I get the desire for the project, but I’m not certain that when people complain about quality affordable housing they are referencing $1,250 studio apartments.  This does not truly get at the need for quality family housing in New Haven.  With that said, that is not the developers problem to solve.  Project seems good.  Just wish there were more three and four bedroom options available.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on December 19, 2018  11:26am

I think that the new development that will be soon coming to the corner of Chapel and Orange should be a taller building than the proposed development that sits between FootLocker’ and Dollar Tree.

— An idea that I personally had in mind was about eliminating the parking on that one block on Chapel and then converting it into a lane only for buses, (between Temple and Orange), That should make traffic flow better between buses and other vehicles in the area.

posted by: LookOut on December 19, 2018  11:48am

Sounds great.  This part of downtown is begging for some increased density and higher end clientele (I’m trying to avoid the g word since that seems to cause irrational response) .  It is a very poor place for a large bus stop…..speaking of which, why couldn’t we design a bus depot into the former Coliseum site?  Seems like we the only city over 100K population in the nation without a central bus station

posted by: robn on December 19, 2018  12:28pm

LOOKOUT,

People also complain about wages and that’s a big part of the construction costs that drive the rents for these projects.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on December 19, 2018  12:52pm

As an alternative to Anstress’ proposal (which is fine by me), Denz could acquire the air rights for the space adjacent to the proposed building and put in some windows on that wall.

Jonathan, thanks for the history. But you forgot to add “glaringly non-contextual” before “Evans Hall.” There is some very good contemporary architecture on Yale’s campus,  Evans Hall is not an example of this.

While I carry no brief for Dollar Tree, there clearly is a market for low-cost retail downtown.

posted by: Bill Saunders on December 19, 2018  3:16pm

This block is an absolute ghost-town at night.

The old ‘art space’ ‘lot’ at the bus-stop could use a building too!!!

posted by: Esbey on December 19, 2018  4:18pm

This is such a good thread. Lots of support for a good project and sensible suggestions.

The Dollar Tree is probably important to a lot of people. It’s one of the few places that attract both genuinely poor customers and Yale students. I hope it relocates downtown, maybe to a less prominent block, if it leaves this block.

posted by: mcg2000 on December 23, 2018  4:17pm

The NY Post ran an article today about how dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar General have more and more middle class customers partly due to the brands that they carry. So a store that appeals to people across the income sprectum should be celebrated more than reviled.

posted by: 1644 on December 27, 2018  10:25am

Jonathan Hopkins: Thanks. I am in awe of your ability to cite whose wigwam was where in 1400.  :)

posted by: 1644 on December 28, 2018  12:27am

Anon: Your link does not support your proposition that 6-8 stories is the “Goldilocks” density.  In fact, the author cites single family Harlem townhouses as an ideal urban density.  Moreover, he is not talking about small cities like New Haven, but major cities like New York,  London and Toronto.  One of the great things about New Haven is the variety of housing options available.  One can live in a tower like the Taft or the Union overlooking the Green, in a mid-density condo on Livingston St, or many other neighborhoods, in a small single family home in the East Shore, Fair Haven, Dixwell, or a larger single family home in Prospect Hill/Whitney, or Westville. You are correct that many folks with choice no longer want the big house, whether it be on Edgehill or in Guilford.  There’s a strong market for wealderly housing like The Whitney Center, Evergreen Woods in North Branford, or The Gables (since renamed) in Guilford.  The Union would have made a great wealderly housing complex: perhaps the New Haven Savings Bank building will become one.  Unlike the suburban centers, it would allow old folks easy access to all of Yale and New Haven’s cultural offerings, as well as the many downtown churches.