New Haven’s revitalized, retail-rich Broadway shopping district may eventually get a distinct Mexican flavor, as two-dollar tacos could soon augment student and resident dining options.
An inexpensive Mexican restaurant heads a list of possibilities for the empty Broadway storefronts, now the focus of Yale University Properties following J. Crew’s opening on Jan. 24. But the University has yet to commit to a specific plan.
“We have several irons in the fire, but nothing firm yet,” said Bruce Alexander, the director of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs.
Three vacant storefronts owned by University Properties remain on Broadway: the former Krauszer’s site, a property adjacent to Ivy Noodle, and the space between J. Crew and Alexia Crawford.
Yale officials said the firms that eventually occupy those parcels will be a mix of food and retail options.
“There are some food uses, there are some clothing uses, and there are some other types of uses that could work well,” said Hugh Eastwood of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs.
But another national retailer on Broadway is unlikely, with J. Crew and Urban Outfitters already anchoring the block.
“We are only identifying local concepts,” said Andrea Pizziconi, a financial analyst for University Properties. “We feel we have enough chains on Broadway already.”
Just five of the 66 retailers leasing University Properties space are national retailers, and Yale intends to maintain that proportion as leasing progresses, Pizziconi said.
John Maturo, the former director of University Properties, has said Mexican food is something Broadway could use.
“One thing we’re looking at is a low-cost burrito, or a two-dollar taco,” he said.
A retail development expert, Maturo was promoted Monday to Yale’s facilities department after helping to reinvigorate the Broadway district.
University Properties officials said the stores remain vacant not because of limited interest, but rather because of Yale’s high standards.
“If we want to, we could lease them tomorrow,” Eastwood said.
Alexander said his office listens to the recommendations from student focus groups administered by University Properties approximately once a semester. In a focus group, approximately a dozen students offer suggestions about local retail.
“Judging from sales and some of the comments we get, we’ve been doing pretty well,” Eastwood said.
Yale students have expressed some ideas for new Broadway additions.
“There is a plethora of performing art, film, and exercise spaces on campus,” Davi Bernstein ’03 said. “But what about bowling?”
Late night accessibility is another student concern.
“There’s nothing better than grabbing a 3 a.m. snack, and Broadway allows me to do that,” Daniel Klingenstein ’04 said. “But having more of a selection would be nice. Mexican would be great.”
But Pizziconi said the merchants University Properties selects must also appeal to local shoppers, who make up an increasingly larger percentage of Broadway’s customers.
“We’re looking for concepts that are receptive to the needs of Yale students, as well as residents of the Greater New Haven area,” she said.
And to some residents, work remains beyond filling the vacancies.
“What they need down there is a bulldozer,” said David Stevens, a New Haven-area resident who patronizes York Square Cinemas. “They finally upgraded Cutler’s, and it’s time they did something about York Cinemas.”