IKEA wins approval for building, roadway improvement plans



Students’ chances of buying Poang chairs, Storvik tables and other oddly-named furniture improved this week as the approval process for the IKEA building proposal neared completion.

On Tuesday, the Connecticut State Traffic Commission approved the company’s nearly $1.7 million roadway improvement plan. The New Haven City Plan Commission gave its support to IKEA’s final building plan on Wednesday.

The plan commission’s decision was the final obstacle the Swedish furniture chain faced in New Haven before building can proceed. The Board of Aldermen approved two amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances in November.

“At least locally, IKEA has received all the approval it needs to move forward,” said Jim Segaloff, IKEA’s local attorney.

The only obstacle remaining is the consent of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

The traffic commission is responsible for issuing certificates to certify that projects generating a lot of traffic will not jeopardize public safety. Joseph Santaniello, the commission’s executive director, said his group handles questions on five to 10 major traffic generators each meeting. The new IKEA parking lot is designed to have 1,245 parking spaces.

Santaniello said IKEA agreed to “widen and reconstruct” Sargent Drive, Brewery Street, Canal Dock Road and Long Wharf Drive. The company also has to install new traffic signals on the nearby Interstate 95 on-ramp and off-ramp and replace some of the signals on the other roads.

In order to pay for the work, IKEA will post a bond for $1,588,000 with the city of New Haven and a bond for $150,000 with the state.

On Wednesday, the plan commission dealt with what Segaloff described as the “the nitty-gritty, specific issues.” The plan commission examined the building plans and the site plan, including utilities, paving, signage, and landscaping, said commission member Joy Ford.

“We had to make sure the details were all correct,” Ford said.

As part of this process, IKEA agreed to scale down its plans for signage on the Armstrong-Pirelli Building, which had been a point of contention. In what Segaloff called a “significant accommodation,” the planned billboard with the words “IKEA” and “Exit 46″ against a blue background has been replaced by cutout illuminated yellow letters spelling out the company’s name. The lighting was also made more amenable.

IKEA also agreed to spend $15,000 to move trees which would have otherwise been cut down. Ford said some of the trees would be placed in nearby parks.

“We’ve worked very well with the IKEA people,” Ford said.

The engineering firm Dewberry-Goodkind Inc. is handling the DEP’s approval process for IKEA. Members of the firm were unavailable for comment yesterday. Segaloff said the department will respond within the next 20 days to IKEA’s proposal.

The new IKEA store should employ between 400 and 500 people, Segaloff said. The store is expected to open in 2004.

“We’ve been through a long, involved process,” Segaloff said. “And I think we’ve reach a point where everyone really benefits.”

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