In a development which may alter the plan to redevelop downtown New Haven, the Knights of Columbus are currently formulating plans with New Haven city officials to expand their headquarters in the area located near the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
New Haven Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez said the proposed location of the new building, near George and Church streets, was originally intended for the relocation of the Long Wharf Theatre. Instead, the theater will be placed where the Coliseum is currently located.
Fernandez said the city would be willing to alter their current plan to help the Knights expand.
“I feel good about the conversations with the Knights of Columbus,” Fernandez said. “They’re a tremendous partner and we would love for them to expand. But it would be too soon to set any definite date.”
The development plan is currently awaiting approval of the Board of Alderman.
The Knights of Columbus headquarters and museum are currently located on both sides of the Coliseum along North Frontage Road. Dick Walsh, secretary of the Coalition to Save Our Coliseum, a community organization said he was concerned about the Knights of Columbus’ expansion dominating the downtown area.
“We don’t really know how to take it, whether the Knights of Columbus and the city have some sort of deal,” Walsh said.
Fernandez said that the current plan still calls for the removal of the Coliseum. In its place, the Long Wharf Theatre will be constructed, with the rest of the space reserved for offices.
The state has agreed to give the theater $30 million for the move to the new location. The relocation will require an additional $15 million to $30 million that the theater will be responsible for raising on its own.
“We doubt, even if they wanted to, [that] the Long Wharf could be able to raise the money to move over there,” Walsh said.
The $6 million required to remove the Coliseum has not yet been approved by the Board of Aldermen. Walsh said that instead of demolishing the Coliseum, the city should consider allowing the Long Wharf Theatre and the Coliseum to coexist.
“Our plan is to redo the Coliseum,” Walsh said. “What we’re hoping for is to put a Coliseum alongside the Long Wharf Theatre.”
Kevin Tennyson, a member of the coalition, said he would rather see the money spent on a civic center, which will reach a broader audience.
“A civic arena will be more beneficial to the general population,” Tennyson said. “It’ll be better for more people than the more narrow audience of the theater.”
Long Wharf Theatre spokesperson Rob Finn said there is no definitive plan yet.
Fernandez said plans for the $180 million project to move Gateway Community College to North Frontage Road across from the old Macy’s will remain unchanged.
Spokesmen for the Knights of Columbus were not available for comment.