Aldermen hold final public hearing about Pfizer facility



While many New Haven residents are excited that Pfizer is about to move into the Elm City, the drug giant famous for Viagra still has some aldermen hot and bothered.

The New Haven Board of Aldermen held a final public hearing Thursday on Pfizer’s planned development district application for the intended site of its clinical research unit, which will be located between Park and Howe streets. A final vote will be taken May 5, and some aldermen did not welcome the proposal with open arms.

Creating the special district is necessary, New Haven Economic Development administrator Henry Fernandez said, because the site is not currently zoned to allow for a facility so large and that deals specifically with pharmaceutical research. Pfizer general counsel William Longa said all the other customary zoning requirements are being fulfilled.

“Really it’s primarily the use,” Longa said.

Pfizer project engineer Nancy Win-Alderson said the new Pfizer building will be classified as a Phase One Clinical Research Unit. According to a Pfizer information packet, phase one trials, the first testing stage, involve giving a new medicine to a group of 20 to 80 healthy volunteers and observing how the medicine works in the body and if there are any unexpected side effects. There are currently only three other Pfizer Phase One units worldwide.

Craig Russell of the Economic Development office said the Pfizer name will “solidify our role as the biotech center for Connecticut.” In addition, the new facility will create 50 more jobs, offer internships to local students and give the city a significant increase in tax revenue. Longo said Pfizer usually outsources support services, such as food and maintenance, so even more jobs will be created.

Pfizer is offering two internships to both Gateway Community College and Hill Regional Career High School and will coordinate a job training program for health sciences with Gateway. Russell said the agreements for the program were signed right before the meeting.

“They’re still in the real planning stages of who’s going to run it, what’s going to happen there,” Russell said.

He told Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf I. Shah that more information would be forthcoming.

Before Pfizer purchased the lot, the site only generated $7,000 in annual tax revenue. Russell said the new facility should bring in $185,000 a year for the first five years and then $307,000 a year afterwards.

Ward 12 Alderwoman Shirley Ellis-West said she was concerned about how Pfizer planned to secure its facility, specifically the fencing. Steven Hess, Pfizer’s real estate advisor, said the facility, which has a brick facade, will not require as much fencing as originally planned. Hess said it should look like a college campus.

“It will be architecturally pleasing,” Hess said.

The hearing did not go entirely smoothly for Pfizer. When the company showed a video explaining the basic aspects of its business, Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold, chairing the meeting, ordered the video to be turned off when it became apparent that the video was not directly related to issues of the hearing.

Hess also addressed the issue of traffic. While the main entrance to the facility is on North Frontage Road, Hess said Pfizer is aware of the traffic problem and only a few vehicles will exit there.

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