New store choices add little to downtown

University Properties announced on Tuesday that the long-empty York Street storefront that once was home to Krauszer’s convenience store will be filled by a specialty athletics store that, if it’s possible, seems likely to appeal to an even smaller number of students and New Haven residents than Alexia Crawford. Sound Runner, a store that sells running shoes, apparel and accessories is scheduled to open its doors officially this November. We just wonder how many people will be standing outside of them when they do.

The development of Broadway and the larger downtown New Haven area has in some ways been guided by admirable principles. Sound Runner — as well as the Sogno boutique University Properties announced will be opening in the Audubon neighborhood and plenty of other new retail recruits — is an independent, family-owned business. Its presence on Broadway will help steer the area away from being effectively an open-air mall, like Harvard Square has become. Sound Runner’s owners, a married couple, lead twice-weekly runs from their Branford store and plan to offer some from their new location at 264 York St. It is a nice idea, healthy and community-oriented. Many of us probably should be encouraged to run more.

But the protracted search for a Krauszer’s replacement and its ultimate conclusion make us wonder if University Properties officials are genuinely seeking out retailers that appeal to students and New Haven residents, or if they are thinking more about what will appeal to parents and visitors paging through the Yale viewbook. It would be difficult to argue Sound Runner fills a particular niche around campus — between Trailblazer, the Bookstore and the Foot Locker on lower Chapel Street, our athletic gear needs currently are well met. Likewise for Sogno, since there is no shortage of high-priced clothing in the immediate area. It is furthermore difficult to imagine that in two and a half years, University Properties considered no alternatives that would have made more practical, affordable, interesting and accessible additions to New Haven.

We fear, in particular, that Sound Runner’s inapplicability to much of the community, apart from the serious runners in need of serious running clothing among us, reflects University Properties’ questionable motives for its selection of what retailers and restaurants fit best in the area surrounding Yale. The coming of this retailer typifies a development scheme that seems aimed to serve a dual purpose in the city: gentrifying for the sake of an image and further narrowing the level of clientele who will be drawn to the area. Despite what the newly unveiled roster of stores may seem to indicate, Broadway and New Haven are not just commercial destinations for upper-middle-class Yalies, wealthy suburbanites and runners who demand a certain kind of windpants.

We hope when making future decisions about how to fill the empty storefronts around Yale, University Properties will take into consideration not just what will make this area look good in photographs, but what actually will make the city a pleasant and interesting place in which to study and live.

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