Plan Envisions 5 Long Wharfs

Perkins EastmanThomas Breen photoNew Haven won’t have just one Long Wharf district if an ambitious new plan takes form. It will have five urban, walkable Long Wharfs connected by a ribbon-like park.

The new Long Wharfs would include a market district, an “innovation” district, a harbor district, a parkway district, and a “gateway” district.

Instead of being dominated by asphalt parking lots and inaccessible industrial space, the five interconnected districts will share a network of public parks. The districts will link to surrounding neighborhoods through bike lanes, bus routes and pedestrian-friendly streets.

And each district will be oriented around a public amenity, like a market hall, green space, or New Haven Harbor itself.

A group of urban planners and architects presented that mid-to-long term vision to 50 New Haveners on Tuesday night during the second public hearing in as many months about the future of the district. The meeting was held at the Besty Ross school parish hall on Kimberly Avenue.

The planners, Stan Eckstut and Eric Fang, work for the global architectural firm EE&K, a Perkins Eastman company that recently designed and planned a $2 billion transformation of a mile-and- a-half stretch of Washington D.C.’s southwest waterfront.

The city hired EE&K with half of a $950,000 state grant to come up with a strategic and economic plan for how best to transform the Long Wharf district into a vibrant, accessible and mixed-use area that takes better advantage of the city’s waterfront property.

Eckstut and Fang workshopped with over two dozens attendees at a January hearing on a few broad, general ideas about how best to bring the city up to the water’s edge. The planners returned on Tuesday night with a more detailed vision for what a new Long Wharf could look like.

Click here to view the slide deck for their complete presentation.

Along with representatives from the City Plan department and Economic Development Administration, they emphasized that this vision for Long Wharf is pragmatic rather than prescriptive. It is focused on transforming public space like parks, roads, bike lanes and piers with the hope of making the area more appealing to New Haven residents and out-of-town visitors.

The planners predicted that public space improvement, in partnership with current Long Wharf property owners, will attract big-dollar private real estate development without requiring the city or the state to spend money they don’t have.

Unlike during 1950s and 1960s urban renewal, city Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson said at the beginning of the hearing, “we don’t have the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars to put in here. In fact, we’ve got almost no money. What we want to do is stimulate the private owners, the people who own those surface parking lots, the people who own those old buildings, and think about what New Haven is going to be like over the next 60 years.”

SWOT

Before Eckstut and Fang shared their designs for a new Long Wharf, one of their colleagues, Patricia Adell, presented the economic and demographic research that her team had done on some of the key challenges and opportunities for developing the Long Wharf district.

Adell noted that private-sector employment in New Haven grew by 5,400 jobs, or 7.2 percent, from 2009 to 2016. If the city stays on or close to that trajectory of growth, she said, then Long Wharf will be well positioned to add hundreds if not thousands of new employees over the next two decades.

She said that the area currently has plenty of room for growth, with an estimated 130 acres of “underutilized” land (e.g. surface parking lots). She said that Long Wharf is already home to a mix of companies that work in the nationally burgeoning fields of health care, hotels and restaurants, and retail.

In a table outlining the district’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (aka a “SWOT” analysis), Adell pointed out that Long Wharf is accessible and visible from I-95, has waterfront access and is awash in “motivated sellers.” The last term refers to current private property owners who are interested in making underutilized space more economically dynamic.

She also said that Long Wharf currently has a particularly unattractive public environment and lacks a cohesive vision and zoning. And any prospective real estate development in Connecticut is going to be hurt by the lack of financial support from a state that is in permanent fiscal crisis, she noted.

All these factors, she said, both the good and the bad, make Long Wharf fertile ground for future economic development.

One Into Five

Fang told the group that he and Eckstut tried to come up with a design that took into account the results of Adell’s analysis, the feedback they received during the first public hearing, and takeaways from their own conversations with city staffers and current Long Wharf property owners about their hopes and concerns for the district.

They came up with five distinct districts connected by a ribbon-like park stretching from the north to the south that would serve as a public amenity for the entire district.

“The idea of this ribbon,” he said, “is that this takes care of circulation for cars, people and bikes, and also for drainage. It’s a total vision integrated into an attractive park that will also attract investment.”

The design calls for more pedestrian-friendly streets and smaller blocks. The city would need to work with existing property owners and new developers to build small, walkable streets over what is currently private property to connect the district to the Hill, Wooster Square and Downtown.

Fang said the ribbon park would connect existing pedestrian and bike paths. Extending the pedestrian tunnel under the train platforms at Union Station would transform a currently isolated district into one that is just an easy ten-minute walk away from the busiest commuter rail line in the country, he predicted.

He and Eckstut are working with the City Plan Department to make sure that the final design incorporates the coastal resiliency recommendations from the city’s Long Wharf Flood Protection Plan.

 

“We’re trying to change what’s a suburban, auto-oriented part of the city into a place that is much more urban, much more walkable, mixed use, denser, a place where people would spend much more time,” Eckstut said.

“It’s all market driven,” he continued. “There’s no plan to force anything [i.e. any specific private development] to happen.”

Eckstut said that each district follows a model of urban planning exemplified by the New Haven Green and its surrounding downtown: First lay out a public space, then allow streets and offices and commercial and residential development to blossom around it.

“The history, the popularity, everything you are,” he said about New Haven, “grew around public realm.”

He said that he and Fang envision the five districts similarly anchored by public spaces — maybe not by a town green, but instead by wharves, smaller parks, market halls and main streets.

The Harbor District will find its centerpiece in Long Wharf’s port, which Eckstut described as providing access to “one of the most amazing bodies of water anywhere in the world.”

The plan calls for the area around the new boathouse to be a “rowing pond” for personal boat use; a new transit pier open to water taxies, tour boats and charter boats; a day pier for shorter visits and an inlet for larger ships; and a harbor park and a harbor garden to provide pedestrian-friendly greenspace for picnics and walking.

“This is what cities that have great waterfronts do,” he said. “They plan the water even before they plan the land.” He said that, once residents, visitors and current property owners realize the full economic and recreational potential of the water itself, then private developers will jump at the opportunity to build restaurants, apartments, and other shops and stores along or near the water.

Eckstut said that the Parkway District was inspired by Frederick Law Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace of parks in Boston. He said that the plan proposes converting the current post office property into a public park, and working with Ikea to build a parking garage at the far end of its surface parking lot.

For the Market District, the plan proposes a new main street through the parking lot outside of Long Wharf Theater. The street would culminate in a market square anchored by a central market hall, and the whole area would be connected to the other districts by the green loop of the ribbon park.

He said that Seattle’s Pike Place Market represents a prime example of an urban, walkable market district that attracts young people who are interested in a waterfront commercial area that is less tony or pristine than a downtown shopping corridor.

He said that the ASSA / Innovation District and the Gateway District, with their focuses on housing new tech businesses, medical facilities, recreational destinations and residential development,  would similarly be connected to the other areas of Long Wharf by the ribbon park.

“When they founded the City of New Haven,” Eckstut said, “they had a city plan. One drawing. Essentially streets and blocks around a Town Green. In fact, you can say we’re doing very much the same.”

Gentrification Debated

After the presentation, the 50 attendees peppered Eckstut and Nemerson with questions about the viability of the plan and the potential impact on neighborhoods.

One attendee asked if the city staff and planners would be open to manufacturing as well as commercial and residential development in the new Long Wharf.

“Think of this more like a Jackson Pollock,” Nemerson said. “We’re just throwing paint on the wall. It could be anything.”

He said that the city is open to talking with all different kinds of businesses about relocating to or building facilities in in these five new districts. He cited ASSA ABLOY (the successor to the Sargent hardware factory), which employs both security programmers and door knob manufacturers, as a good example of a company currently based out of Long Wharf that works in both high tech and manufacturing.

Amber Suess, a Hill resident and Ward 5 Democratic Town Committee (DTC) member, asked Nemerson if this plan would transform the Hill into an East Coast San Francisco, where “black and brown people are pushed out of their own neighborhoods by tech bros.”

Nemerson said that there are several “super cities” in the country, like San Francisco and New York, where a shortage of land and an inability to build houses have resulted in consistently increasing rents.

In New Haven, he said, that has not been the case. What he has found instead is that rents in New Haven have actually gone down over the past three years.

“We don’t seem to be in a marketplace where there’s a shortage of housing or where we’re constraining the building of housing,” he said.

He said that rents seem to go down as more housing is built in New Haven. He said he is most concerned about the decay and neglect of New Haven’s current crop of affordable housing, like at 66 Norton St.

But, he said, if Suess notices that her or her neighbors’ rents are increasing as the Long Wharf plan proceeds, then she should reach out to him directly and his department will investigate how best to mitigate the side effects of the development.

Jeff Wolcheski, one of the handful of Local 326 carpenters union members at the meeting, said that he was encouraged by the prospect of more construction projects in town. He asked how committed Nemerson and his department currently are to courting high-spending developers from cities like Boston and Jersey City.

“We meet with new developers a couple times a week,” Nemerson said, “and we’ve got 30 or 40 projects going up right now.”

He said that the current land owners would get 10 or 12 percent of whatever development deal they worked out on their existing, underutilized property. “For them,” he said, “bigger is better.”

The next public hearing on the Long Wharf development plan is scheduled later this spring back at Betsy Ross school.

Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch a recording of last night’s presentation by Eckstut and Fang.

 

Tags: ,

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry

Comments

posted by: robn on March 7, 2018  9:00am

Did Stan Ekstut just dynamite the Marcel Breuer Armstrong/Pirelli Building?

posted by: HewNaven on March 7, 2018  9:09am

Enhancing this part of New Haven is long overdue.
One of the few missed opportunities from Rotival’s 1942 plan was creating a giant park on the harbor’s west shore (i.e. Long Wharf area).
And, for the record, Jackson Pollock dripped. He didn’t “throw paint at the wall”. The metaphor is strange any way.
Finally, who told Nemerson rents have gone down in recent years? What does that mean? I’ve yet to meet anyone who has had their rent LOWERED due to market forces or any other reason. Rent goes up every year just like everything else (except wages).

posted by: Teachergal on March 7, 2018  9:36am

This could be so great for NH. How about a bridge connecting both sides. People could really enjoy their town in a whole new way. Love New Haven but it needs something like this. Just got back from Nashville which had tons of construction happening. 100 people a day moving into Nashville. I know we’re no Nashville but we are the gateway into New England. Let’s do something special with this area.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 7, 2018  10:30am

These new-fangled “renderings” of architectural designs, that feign photography and paste in stock photographs of happy people doing their thing, are so visually disturbing when (as with this one) the stock figures are not properly adjusted for perspective or appropriately spaced in the landscape. 

The guy in the green sweatshirt playing frisbee is about twice the size he should be based on the figures in the foreground.  The adorable couple at the lower right?  Honey, we shrank each other.  And so on: each stock photo is in its own world of size and angle.  The result is not a realization at all, just a random collage.  It becomes a real impediment to visualizing how the space would actually look and how people would actually interact with it. 

Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon but I’d much prefer to go back to the old style of drafted renderings with humans sketched in with actual attention to the laws of perspective.

posted by: RobotShlomo on March 7, 2018  10:31am

You know the old saying; talk is cheap.


Sound like the “Vision Project” all over again. We’ve heard this same song and dance about Long Wharf how many times before? What makes me think it’s going to be any different this time? It took twenty five years to build that boat house (which I still can’t seem to get a straight answer as to what it’s going to do), so how long will this take before we see any movement? Fifty years? Sixty? A hundred? Glaciers move faster.

posted by: Noteworthy on March 7, 2018  10:33am

How does this plan which resembles a Chagall print minus the flying pigs and angels - mesh with the food truck/trash/congested traffic blight that was engineered by the city and now is front and center in Long Wharf? Is Nemerson going to propose a lot of city spending to build the parks - and/or is he going to propose we just freeze the tax rates at $29/month per unit like he’s proposing for the Clock property?

posted by: dmcleggon on March 7, 2018  10:36am

@robn

I had the same thought.  However, if you look at the pdf slide deck (slide 36) linked in the article, it shows the Pirelli building being turned into a hotel.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on March 7, 2018  10:41am

I notice that one of the recommendations for the “Harbor District” is “reorient district around the water.”  I hope it’s not necessary to ask whether these plans contain any allowances for the expected rise in sea level over the coming years, and the likelihood of storm surges, more frequent floods, and other effects of climate change.

posted by: Tessa Marquis on March 7, 2018  10:42am

All for developing this area, with the usual hard line: Preserve and Enhance!
1. It is vitally important that “the trucks” be supported as economic gateways to brick and motor restaurants and catering businesses.
2. It will be a total failure for the citizens of the area if housing is removed. Before you develop for aesthetics you need to make nearby housing more viable - better spaces, resources, and assurances for existing tenants. The area around Union Station and the Police is a dirty mess. Make the housing nicer - at no cost to the residents - and all else will be viable.
3. Never heard of housing costs going down, except when the “Great Recession” (a Depression for most of us) hit Vegas and Storms hit Florida trailer parks.

Be Realistic - Demand the Impossible!

posted by: LookOut on March 7, 2018  10:53am

I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of (finally) realizing that we are a waterfront city and embracing it.  Most of the ideas sound great.  Just one more small question….who’s going to pay for it?  The state is broke and running a deficit.  The city is broke and running a deficit.  Businesses are being chased away by leftist policies.  Homeowners are going to feel poorer due to the inability to write off huge state and local tax bills.  Where else should we look?

posted by: HewNaven on March 7, 2018  10:53am

The top picture is really dark. It almost has a Gregory Crewdson style.

posted by: tmctague on March 7, 2018  11:14am

I live in Wooster Square, and Long Wharf has become an awesome alternative to restaurants and takeout downtown, which can be expensive or inconvenient for parking reasons.  When it gets nice out I’ll definitely be walking or riding over.  It’s not as messy as some commenters have mentioned from my experiences, in fact, I am more often surprised at how pretty parts of Long Wharf can be.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 7, 2018  11:19am

Gretchen, sea level rise was discussed at the first workshop and is part of the rationale for the Parkway component of the plan. I wasn’t able to attend the second workshop. But I know that staff at City Plan and Economic Development are very aware of climate change.

RobotShlomo, this site should answer at least some of your questions about the boathouse http://www.canaldock.org/about/.

posted by: Pat from Westville on March 7, 2018  11:27am

Thank you, Gretchen, for bringing up sea rise and other effects of climate change. To me that is a very real, very dark reality that looms over any expansion of waterfront utilization. Perhaps an update to the article could elicit comment from planners, developers, etc.

posted by: RobotShlomo on March 7, 2018  11:52am

@Kevin McCarthy


A lot of that tells me what the city always says when it comes to these projects; it’s what they HOPE it will do. And they always seem to come up short.

posted by: Elmer Shady on March 7, 2018  1:20pm

Live, Work, Swim?

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on March 7, 2018  1:31pm

I like the new plans for Long Wharf in the future. I think that it was the right move to make the area into kinda it’s own little town within New Haven. It will definitely be something that bring more people into the city. I think that new businesses and more activities would bring new life. The new proposed parks in all five districts should be beautiful to see. Personally, I think that the idea of having a new streetcar system would work well into the future plans for Long Wharf. A streetcar would be perfect to connect people to surrounding neighborhoods such as Downtown, Wooster Square, The Hill, The Medical District and maybe even some parts of Fair Haven… and also Upper State Street for that matter.

posted by: Amber on March 7, 2018  1:53pm

I think it’s worth noting that Nemerson called me a “bright young lady” and suggested that I read “some article” about gentrification, and was generally condescending and didn’t answer my question thoughtfully at all.
Whose rents are going down?? Not mine!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2018  4:06pm

I stand by what I said in December.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 6, 2017 11:33am

Take Bets.The Gentrification Vampires will try to do this on Long Wharf District..

Chelsea Piers

https://www.chelseapiers.com/

Keep your bags pack. A lot of you will be priced out.

In fact there is a small one in Stamford, CT

https://www.chelseapiersct.com/

posted by: Tessa Marquis on March 7, 2018  4:47pm

Gotcha ThreeFifths. You are not the only one worried about Gentrification. That was my point for sure. I am also worried about Hamptonization in Shoreline towns. I am from San Francisco and Manhattan - I get more street diversity in New Haven any day of the week.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2018  5:13pm

Amber Suess, a Hill resident and Ward 5 Democratic Town Committee (DTC) member, asked Nemerson if this plan would transform the Hill into an East Coast San Francisco, where “black and brown people are pushed out of their own neighborhoods by tech bros.”

Home run.But the Plan is to put theTech Bros in the area of science park.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2018  6:14pm

posted by: Tessa Marquis on March 7, 2018 4:47pm

Gotcha ThreeFifths. You are not the only one worried about Gentrification. That was my point for sure. I am also worried about Hamptonization in Shoreline towns. I am from San Francisco and Manhattan - I get more street diversity in New Haven any day of the week.

I agree.In fact these same urban planners and architects I am told are pushing into West Haven.I am from Harlem and Brooklyn so I to know what Gentrification looks like.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 7, 2018  6:19pm

posted by: RobotShlomo on March 7, 2018 10:31am

You know the old saying; talk is cheap.


Sound like the “Vision Project” all over again. We’ve heard this same song and dance about Long Wharf how many times before? What makes me think it’s going to be any different this time? It took twenty five years to build that boat house (which I still can’t seem to get a straight answer as to what it’s going to do), so how long will this take before we see any movement? Fifty years? Sixty? A hundred? Glaciers move faster.

Always On Point.In fact look at how in West Haven they took those peoples Homes to bill a HI Tech Mall and now look at what happen.

‘Stalled’ Haven gets attention from Rossi team

It’s been four years since “The Haven” up-scale outlet mall was announced for the Water Street area, and five years since talks with a New York-based developer began. Despite assurances prior to November’s election the project was a “go,” little has happened on the 24-acre site since some buildings were torn down as a show of progress.

http://westhavenvoice.com/stalled-haven-gets-attention-from-rossi-team/

posted by: Esbey on March 7, 2018  6:51pm

Many commenters here, including some who say they are landlords, say (complain) that new housing downtown pushes rents in East Rock down.

Housing supply is decreasing rents in Portland, see

http://cityobservatory.org/more-evidence-of-rent-declines-in-portland/

It has also happened in DC, in Chicago, and in Austin:

https://danielkayhertz.com/2015/02/20/when-has-housing-supply-ever-kept-rents-down/

Now, in New Haven, the new downtown apartments probably don’t compete with lower rent units, so we would expect to see little effect on those rents, either way.

posted by: @ctrealtordcarr on March 7, 2018  8:44pm

It makes sense to maximize the space if development includes isolating the highway noise. Do people really want to walk along the harbor 50 feet from stinky, noisy I-95 crawling along? I can see improving use of the space with shopping / arts / manufacturing / services district, but there are so many better places to hang out and walk, play and ride your bike than next to the highway. Yet the vision is accurate regardless, as density will continue to increase, and people will go to what’s available.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on March 8, 2018  9:38am

I love that this plan is both aspirational and realistic. It considers all the stakeholders, all the advantages, and disadvantages, and possible concerns we have. It isn’t perfect, and there are any number of hold-ups that would have to be dealt with, like the holding tanks in the Harbor area.

But I do think it’s important to have big dreams, and to take advantage of the waterfront. Having a ped tunnel from Union Station to the water would be HUGE. Not sure how we’d get bikes in there, though.

Still, waiting on my Edgewood bike lane… this plan obviously feels a little pie in the sky. But you gotta aim high.

posted by: Andrew Giering on March 8, 2018  10:39am

What can we do to make these Long Wharf planning meetings more diverse, inclusive, and representative of the City?  I recognize several of my City Point neighbors in the photograph above, but am concerned that other communities adjoining Long Wharf were not well-represented.  And were any of the Long Wharf food truck vendors present; will they be included in this new vision of Long Wharf?

posted by: RHeerema on March 8, 2018  1:51pm

I really love the idea of a Public Market—I’m thinking of Chelsea Market and those little pop-up stores, which are incubators for new businesses. 

But no, “call my office if your rents go up” is not an effective housing-for-all strategy!!!

posted by: new havener on March 8, 2018  10:27pm

It’s all fun and games ‘til someone asks “how and who’s going to pay for this?”

In my best Kramer imitation, “Goooooooooooood luuuck!”

posted by: Cove'd on March 9, 2018  2:50pm

Here are my 2-cents: The “Harbor District” will likely be the most attractive part of this plan to developers and prospective tenants, visitors, etc since its on the waterfront.  That area should be the focus of this planning effort and should even include strategic landfiling around the new boathouse along Long Wharf Drive.  Perhaps some sort of expanded park green space area with sea-wall.  To best succeed, the Harbor District will also need be walkably connected to Wooster Square, City Point, and the Hill.