Dixwell Goes “Off-Broadway”

Paul Bass PhotoThe cops are coming to Lake Place and Dixwell Avenue—and setting up shop.

The Yale cops, to be specific.

The university’s police department plans to establish a community outpost on the first floor of a now-empty three-story brick building that anchors the northwestern corner of Lake and Dixwell.

Yale University Properties is renovating the entire building with plans for “academic, residential commercial [uses] or some combination of the three” for the rest of the space, according to Director Abigail Rider.

The first floor will get a new glass front so people can see cops there and feel welcome inside, according to Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins.

The spot won’t exactly be a “substation.” More like a “community outreach” center. Cops will write reports there, confer with supervisors, hold meetings with the community. A front room might serve as a stop for people waiting for the Yale Shuttle, with a board showing expected times of arrival. The department used to have similar outposts on Park Street and on Congress Avenue.

The building’s renovation is part of a larger effort by Yale to improve the beginning stretch of Dixwell. Last year it purchased 9-11 Dixwell for $1.9 million. The 13,304-square-foot. four-story apartment building with first-floor retail, constructed in 1900, was the last piece of real estate the university didn’t already own on the block between Tower Parkway and Lake Place, which is dominated by Payne-Whitney Gymnasium.

The two first-floor storefronts are currently empty. A liquor store operated out of one of them since 1973. Back in the day it housed the Soundtrack nightclub.

Allan Appel File PhotoClick here to read a story about Broadway Liquors’ unsuccessful 2008 quest for city permission to expand from one storefront to two.

Yale University Properties is currently renovating those storefronts. It hopes to start leasing them in August, either as one 3,000 square-foot space or two separate ones, according to Rider.

“We intend to fill the space with retail uses that will activate that stretch of the street and make it pedestrian-friendly,” Rider stated. “We are aiming for uses that complement, but are not the same as, the Broadway offerings—sort of ‘off-Broadway’ space.

“We think that this end of Dixwell already is a more pleasant place to be, and will be even more so in the near future.”

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posted by: streever on July 5, 2012  9:07am

This is a positive development—retail & street-oriented development. I wish the City of New Haven could focus on these types of growth, instead of chasing elusive big box solutions.

Small business and mixed use is what really will anchor this city and provide our future, not luring large companies with 50 million dollars in tax money.

posted by: anonymous on July 5, 2012  9:16am

We really need better city policy to reduce the number of abandoned, foreclosed, slumlord, and run down buildings in the city, particularly in neighborhoods where children live. They are a direct cause of crime, disorder, depression, stress, hopelessness, job loss, sense of fear, and low school achievement. 

Yale does a good job restoring abandoned properties, but its treatment of Dixwell and Newhallville is not up to par with how it treats East Rock and Downtown.

When will Yale (or its proxy organization, Winstanley) develop the triangle where the UPS Store, and trash strewn and abandoned-looking parcels behind it, currently sit?  There are also abandoned looking Yale owned properties in Newhallville.

The least that Yale (or Winstanley or other “shadow” Yale proxy organization that owns the land) could do is help clean the sidewalks more often, which are strewn with glass and make it extremely unpleasant for people who have to walk through the neighborhood every day.

posted by: PH on July 5, 2012  10:01am

I’m fine with Yale expanding (or, I should say, I must acknowledge that they could buy every single building in the city tomorrow) but I hate how they are so opposed to allowing small, local, independent businesses to thrive on their real estate. The Yale Co-op, Broadway Pizza, Broadway Liquors, the Yankee Doodle, Roomba, York Square Cinema, Cutler’s, the list goes on and on.  In their place? Chains and boring storefronts that continue to build a retail wall between the university and much of the town: Barnes & Noble, Au Bon Pain, Origins, Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, J Crew. 

No doubt some of those old businesses were destined to go out of business, but Yale’s real estate policies or outright eveictions were the basis of many of the changes.  Yale might look prettier, but it is a sterile, less integrated downtown as a result.  Not an improvement.

posted by: Pedro Soto on July 5, 2012  10:53am

JH- just a small point of clarification-
Cutlers, York Square and the Doodle (how i miss the Doodle!) all resided in non Yale-owned buildings with non Yale landlords.
And in fact those three- The Doodle couldn’t survive the death of it’s founder, York Square picked a silly battle with suburban movie chains and lots, and Cutlers decided to retire while the going was good. Yes, it’s sad to see these icons go, but it says more about their individual owners than their environment.

Now Roomba, however…

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 5, 2012  5:59pm

What will this “community outpost” accomplish that the Rose Center, which contains both the Yale Police Headquarters and the Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center, doesn’t aready do a block away on Ashmun Street? It’s great that the renovation of the building at the corner of Lake Place will restore the glass storefront that was originally on the building, but it seems like if Yale really wanted it to be useful for both the Yale and Dixwell communities, they’d search for a retail tenant that serves both. Maybe a police (non)-substation makes sense if a retail tenant can’t be found, but it really just looks like another Yale territorial marker as it continues to move further into Dixwell, which is something that I’ve been on the record and concerned about for a while.

“Yale’s expansions in to the Hill and Dixwell aren’t good.” - Me, October 23, 2010

Perhaps this use will turn out to be a benefit for both communities by serving a function that the Rose Center doesn’t, we’ll have to wait and see I guess. Beautiful buildings by the way, although it’s unfortunate that several gaps in the building fabric make this block of Dixwell looks like it got punched in the mouth.
View of Dixwell Avenue between Tower Parkway and Lake Place from 1948 before several buildings were demolished for surface parking:

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on July 6, 2012  1:05pm

Maybe Yale will put a GANT store in Dixwell.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 6, 2012  1:31pm

Hate on Yale all you want, and they deserve a good portion of it, but at least they’re actually doing something, I mean heck, the city most of the time can’t even be bothered to send police up Dixwell past the library, let alone refurbish buildings. If they are truly trying to unravel the disasters of urban renewal from the 50’s and make the area pedestrian friendly, maybe some private or city investment will follow the increased foot traffic in the triangle between Whalley and Dixwell. As some saind below, let’s start with the giant open trash filled patch behind the UPS store.

posted by: Mister Jones on July 6, 2012  1:52pm

Cutler’s was located in a Yale property, both before and after their move.  Yale knocked down their old building when they built all those new Broadway storefronts.