Luxury housing proliferates

Yalies who regard New Haven as a city of panhandlers and abandoned warehouses may want to reconsider their perspective, as a new era of cherry wood flooring, marble lobbies and optional stainless steel dawns upon the Elm City.

In the past decade, New Haven has seen an upsurge in warehouse-converted apartment complexes intended for “luxury living.” The new apartments are causing an influx of downtown dwellers and are garnering mixed reviews from city residents. In the past year alone, the average price per square foot of condominiums in New Haven County rose by 3 percent, from $64.48 in 2004 to $66.46 in 2005, causing a 24 percent increase in the city’s median condo price. Many local luxury apartment developers around the city have benefited from the increases.

Scott D. Ferguson, property manager of the Taft Apartments on College Street, said that originally, the supply of apartments in the city outweighed the demand.

“But the demand is changing,” Ferguson said. “And we’re very happy about that.”

Some apartment complexes, like the Cambridge-Oxford on High Street, offer amenities and historic preservation, just down the street from the boutiques and upscale eateries of Chapel Street. Others, like the CenterPointe on the corner of Chapel and College Streets, offer terrace views and hand-picked granite countertops. The lure of walk-in closets, high-end security systems and around-the-clock concierges has attracted a crowd of all ages and professions, Lori Kitchen, property manager for the Cambridge-Oxford apartments, said.

For single young professionals working in nearby Connecticut towns, downtown living offers significantly more entertainment and nightlife options than the surrounding suburbs, local real estate developer and 2001 mayoral candidate Joel Schiavone ’58 said. For older and more established city employees, like those working in local hospitals, living downtown allows them to avoid traffic delays, he said, while many senior citizens are seeking the arts, culture and shopping of city life.

“People have really come to appreciate what this city in particular has to offer,” Yale University Properties Director David Newton said.

The influx of luxury apartment dwellers has been largely attributed to the city’s economic revitalization efforts, Ferguson said. Initiatives like the New Comprehensive Plan of Development and the Small Business Initiative have attracted a variety of businesses, from Bottega Giuliana to Diner 21. Other city projects, like the Livable City Initiative, focus on renovating and revitalizing downtown structures, making the city more conducive to both residential and commercial investment.

“Ten or 15 years ago, people weren’t moving here,” Kitchen said.

But Schiavone said that despite the positive economic effects of the recent development, some city officials object to luxury apartment construction. He said the city is focusing on the development and restoration of affordable housing, and that increasing real estate prices could hinder lower- and middle-income housing construction. Rising real estate prices would also make it more difficult for Yale students to live off-campus, thus increasing the amount of student housing required and maximizing costs for the University, Schiavone said.

Still, Schiavone said that as an increasing number of higher-income residents gravitate toward the downtown area, the market for local businesses will expand and the construction of luxury complexes will improve the aesthetic qualities of the city itself.

Schiavone said he plans to open 22 new luxury condominiums in the city by May 2007.

The Cambridge Apartments, above, are among the relatively high-end residential developments that have recently become more common in the Elm City.
Christopher Young
The Cambridge Apartments, above, are among the relatively high-end residential developments that have recently become more common in the Elm City.

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