At a public hearing Thursday night, members of the Dixwell community expressed support for the transfer of development rights of three dead-end New Haven streets to Yale, which has proposed building new academic buildings or residential colleges.
In exchange for the right to take over and develop the three streets behind Grove Street Cemetery, Yale will contribute approximately $10 million towards improving roadway infrastructure in the adjacent area, completing another portion of the Farmington Canal greenway and expanding Scantlebury Park in the Dixwell neighborhood. Dixwell residents who spoke at Thursday’s hearing were enthusiastic about the park’s expansion, though some New Haven residents expressed concern that the city was abandoning the dead-end streets before Yale provided a final proposal for what it will build on the site.
The University has not yet formed the committee that will determine how the site will be used, Michael Morand, Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs, said. But University and city officials have said in interviews that the site would likely be used for new residential colleges or academic and research buildings, and the City Plan Commission wrote in its report recommending the development agreement that the University had identified the blocks near Sachem and Prospect streets for “academic/residential purposes, including new residential colleges.”
Karyn Gilvarg ARCH ’75, executive director of the City Plan Department, said she hopes the University will build new colleges on the site because they would bring more life to the area.
“I like the idea of more residences in the area, because academic buildings are not 24 hours,” she said.
Dixwell residents praised the development for reflecting the wishes of that neighborhood, particularly with regard to expanding Scantlebury Park. Speaking at Thursday’s hearing, held by the Board of Aldermen, Roxanne Condon, president of the community group Dixwell Management Team, said 861 neighborhood residents had signed a petition in favor of expanding the park, which she said serves both elderly residents of the Edith Johnson Towers and schoolchildren at the Wexler-Grant School.
“There was a real grassroots campaign in our neighborhood to expand the park by closing Canal Street,” Condon said.
The lack of controversy regarding this development agreement contrasts sharply with the fight last year over the construction of the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center. Community groups succeeded in delaying approval of that project until the hospital signed onto a community benefits agreement, which specified that it would hire neighborhood residents for jobs and would contribute money for housing and economic development in the Hill neighborhood where the center is now being built.
“In the Dixwell area, we see cooperation day to day, and what we propose continues that process of rationally planning with the city and with the neighborhood,” Morand said.
Mark Abraham ’04, who works at a local architectural firm, said increased density on the site — which is now mostly parking lots — would benefit the city by making the area more lively. He also praised Yale for securing development rights to the land before beginning to draft design plans, which he said would ensure that the final plans better reflect an appropriate use of the site.
But some local planners said the dead-end streets should not be abandoned until the University submits final plans and the city conducts a traffic flow study. Anstress Farwell GRD ’78, president of the New Haven Urban Design League, said the streets are a public asset and that the city should get an independent appraisal of the proposed development’s impact on traffic.
Morand said he expects the full Board of Aldermen to vote on the development agreement by October.