With lofted ceilings and sweeping views, it is easy to imagine the Johnson Simons building project in downtown Manhattan or Boston, a fact that greatly pleases developers Andrea Pizziconi ’01 and John Wareck.
Located on the corner of Church and Center streets, the 130-year-old Johnson and Simons buildings, two adjoining properties, have been vacant for nearly 20 years. Although there was talk of developing the property into twenty-nine studio apartments, Pizziconi and Wareck had a different vision.
“Our number one priority is to maximize space,” Pizziconi said. “[John and I] both walked in and said, ‘Lofts. This is how it’s got to be.'”
Although renovations have yet to begin, Pizziconi and Wareck plan to convert the two adjoined buildings into 13 “Manhattan-style” lofts, ranging from 1,800 to 3,500 square feet.
“Some people thought we were crazy to build no walls,” Pizziconi said.
Yet she and Wareck agreed that in order to attract the young professionals and empty nesters they anticipated as buyers, they had to provide comfortable, upscale and above all spacious accommodations.
Their vision was realized yesterday, when they hosted an open house to show off their future plans for the building. Even though the event marked the first purchasing opportunity, four deposits have already been placed.
“We were shocked that our first deposit was from a New York City couple with a three-year-old son,” Wareck said.
Wareck noted that the spacious lofts will enable families, “hipsters” and even visiting professors to live in downtown New Haven instead of one of the neighboring suburbs.
Josh Erlanger, a 26-year-old Hamden native and one of the four future owners, is looking forward to living in New Haven.
“There is such an amazing energy in the entire city,” Erlanger said. “This is where I socialize, this is where I eat … and now I’ll live here too.
Although many buyers may be attracted to the Johnson Simon’s convenient location, proximity to public transportation and expansive accommodations, some have undoubtedly taken notice at the building’s environmentally friendly policies.
The Johnson Simons developing project is a “green project,” meaning Pizziconi and Wareck intend to comply with all 31 environmental standards outlined by the Leading Energy and Environmental Design program. Examples of compliance include maintaining at least 75 percent of the existing building structure and shell, preventing the development of indoor air quality problems, and situating the building near mass transit in order to reduce air pollution from vehicles.
Pizziconi said they decided to apply for “green certification” after realizing they were inadvertently complying with many of the standards. Additionally, “It’s just the right thing to do,” she said, as well as being “a good practice for developers, since these standards may very well be code in 15 years.”
Professor James Axley of the Yale School of Architecture said he agreed.
“The Johnson Simons building project represents a welcomed and growing recent trend toward sustainable renovation of existing buildings,” he wrote in an e-mail. “As building construction in the United States consumes on the order of 40 percent of all raw material resources, reusing existing buildings is, by itself, an important strategy to sustain limited material resources.”
Although the impact of the Johnson Simons building on downtown New Haven remains to be seen, the environmentally friendly policies coupled with the innovative loft design have generated considerable buzz.
“We are advocates for downtown New Haven,” said Pizziconi, a former analyst for University Properties. “This is about community development and we’re really excited.”