High-rise planned on College

New Haven residents seeking the high life may have a chance to purchase homes 275 feet off the ground, following a proposal from a Hartford-based developer to erect a residential and retail tower one block south of the New Haven Green.

The Board of Zoning Appeals will vote on the construction of the 19-story mixed use tower on the corner of College and George streets in the coming weeks, City Plan Department Executive Director Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75 said. At a proposed 275 feet, “College Square” would become the third tallest building in the city after Connecticut Financial Center and the Knights of Columbus Tower, combining 15 floors of condominiums with retail on the first and second floors, according to a report released by the City Plan Department. One level of underground parking as well as parking on the third and fourth floors of the tower are planned, the report said.

New Haven Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said the construction of College Square comes at a time of transition for development in the Elm City.

“It [represents] the next phase of downtown development that’s taking place,” Bialecki said. “Most of the older buildings that were vacant have already been all converted to residential or office or are in the process, and so this is really the next stage.”

Hartford-based developer Centerplan Development will develop the $140 million building, which will hold a combination of more than 250 mid-range and luxury condominiums on a one-acre site directly facing the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, which is currently in construction. Prices for one-bedroom condominiums will start at $450,000 and go up to $1,000,000 for larger units. The existing land hosts a two-story mixed-use building currently occupied by office and retail tenants, surface parking lots, and a bar and cafe.

Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell GRD ’78, who has been a staunch critic of the city’s $230 million project to revitalize New Haven’s urban core by moving Gateway Community College and other retail, residential and commercial units downtown, said College Square represents a step in the right direction for downtown development.

“We made lots of noise about mixed-use projects, and it’s beginning to come out in these things,” Farwell said. “It didn’t work in our arguments over Gateway, but with all the noise that we made the city is now considering and even supporting the kind of projects we originally wanted.”

The immediate area surrounding the site where the new tower will be built does not have any buildings of College Square’s proposed size — the Crown Street bar and restaurant district lies immediately to the north and Route 34 to the south — but Town Green Special Services District Executive Director Scott Healy ’97 said the height of the new building will not be an aberration in New Haven’s urban landscape.

“[Downtown] New Haven is an interesting place because from block to block you don’t have subtle transitions between building heights,” Healy said. “If it’s a building that’s designed well, it will work well in its context. Certainly if the developers can make the numbers work, power to them.”

Healy said that due to rising interest rates, market conditions are not as favorable for new construction as they were just months ago, but said the condominiums will provide badly-needed ownership opportunities for a market that does not have nearly enough residential units available for people who wish to buy rather than rent.

The City Plan Department approved the project last week on the condition that residential units be owner-occupied and referred the proposal to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which has until the end of October to vote on a set of zoning variances that will permit construction to go forward.

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