Some fear Yale may demolish historic buildings

There may be so many termites in 70 Sachem St. that tearing the building down would make sense, but historic preservationists are trying to save the facility, which was abandoned this spring by the political science professors who had offices there.

The University said it has not decided what to do with the property, but New Haven Preservation Trust members said Yale has told them it plans to tear down the structure instead of renovating it. The trust is trying to stop the demolition of 70 Sachem St., as well as the demolition of the 88 Prospect St. building.

“If we had a plan where Yale was suggesting innovative and interesting uses for the properties, we wouldn’t have a problem with these demolitions,” said Ed Franquemont, president of the New Haven Preservation Trust. “But to lose historic buildings, for no other reason than Yale doesn’t want to do basic maintenance, we have a real problem with that.”

University Provost Alison Richard said Yale has no plans to demolish the other building Franquemont was concerned about, 88 Prospect St., which Yale bought three years ago but has never occupied. She said Yale still might renovate 70 Sachem St.

Franquemont said the University plans to demolish both buildings and has no immediate plans for either site. He was concerned the moves would unnecessarily demolish the city’s past.

When 70 Sachem St. is demolished or renovated, the professors with offices there will be housed in trailer offices, Richard said.

Phoebe Boyer, a retired lawyer and former president of the trust, said she was appalled at the proposed demolitions.

“I’m not a historian, but I’m interested in keeping New Haven’s future bright and making it unique from other cities, and these strike me as key buildings,” Boyer said.

Franquemont said he wants the University to stop “land-banking” — acquiring properties or destroying buildings without immediate plans for future use.

Boyer, who was a frequent visitor to 88 Prospect before Yale bought it, said preserving the building is necessary to keep intact the visible historical timeline in New Haven.

“It connects the old houses that were on on the Green with more recent houses built since the Industrial Revolution,” Boyer said. “If you come up from the Green and up Prospect, you can see the way New Haven developed.”

Both Franquemont and Boyer said they have had good experiences in the past with University officials, particularly during the restoration of the New Haven courthouse.

“We’re trying to be cooperative but on this one I’m not feeling a lot of cooperation,” Boyer said. “I hope it’s not going to get to people arguing in front of the bulldozers.”

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