River Street revitalization plans to proceed

Plans for the redevelopment of the southern half of Fair Haven should continue after a short delay.

City officials said they expect the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee to untable and approve a $10 million bond package for redeveloping the 42-acre River Street parcel along the Quinnipiac River at the committee’s next meeting on Nov. 14.

“My expectation is that it will be untabled, and I have the utmost confidence that it will pass,” said Alderman Philip Voigt, the committee’s chairman.

The redevelopment of the River Street property will transform the blighted region into a blend of light industrial, commercial and residential complexes separated from the Quinnipiac River by a strip of open-space. A Hess oil terminal and a junkyard belonging to Lloyd Terminals Inc. currently occupy large sections of the River Street tract.

“The plan will replace vacant buildings and petroleum tanks with mixed-use facilities,” said Henry Fernandez, New Haven economic development administrator. “It’s a badly needed change.”

Committee member and Fair Haven Alderman Raul Avila successfully motioned to table the bond package at the committee’s Oct. 24 meeting because of inadequate dialogue between city officials and Fair Haven residents.

Avila did not return telephone calls yesterday.

Additional communication between Fair Haven residents and the city’s economic development office over the next few weeks should help the project pass.

“[Avila] has some concerns that I think will have been addressed by our next meeting,” Voigt said.

Estimates for the project’s total cost exceed $10 million, but city officials hope private developers will cover the additional expense.

“It’s a worthwhile project and a good investment of funds,” Voigt said.

The Board of Aldermen will consider the bonding if it gains approval from the Finance Committee. At its Nov. 8 meeting, the Board of Aldermen also will review a proposal to apply to the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management for including the River Street parcel as part of a municipal development plan. The designation would allow state aid for the project and for the city to acquire vacant properties in the zone via eminent domain.

The delay by the Finance Committee should not slow the overall project significantly. Final details of the redevelopment may not be available until August.

“Any change to that area will be positive,” said Alderman Carl Goldfield, a member of the Finance Committee. “But because of the scope of this project, taking a little extra time to review it makes sense. We want to get this right.”

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