ARC dean to design complex

With Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern on board as its newly-hired designer, the College Square development is one step closer to living up to its name.

Centerplan Development selected Stern last week to design its 19-story mixed-use complex, which will now feature hotel and conference rooms — in addition to its previously planned for-sale condominiums — above two floors of retail. Although Stern has assembled a team of architects and engineers, they have yet to finalize a design for the project.

Architecture Dean Robert Stern will design College Square, a local hotel and conference building.
Courtesy YaleUniversityOfficeofPublicAffairs
Architecture Dean Robert Stern will design College Square, a local hotel and conference building.

Even as residents near the site on Crown and George streets said they look forward to the increased foot traffic, some have expressed concerns that the building will not include affordable housing for low-income residents.

Centerplan President Robert Landino said he selected Stern because the architecture dean is a link between the Yale and New Haven communities and because of Stern’s experience with mixed-use buildings. Centerplan decided to add the hotel accommodations only last week to meet a large demand for hotel space, he said.

Stern said the building — in conjunction with Yale’s numerous educational and artistic resources — will help draw residents to downtown and increase options for visitors.

“Yale’s very conscious of providing a variety of housing options, from junior faculty to tenured professors,” he said. “Yale has many visitors — leaders of other countries and intellectuals, who need to be housed and entertained properly. You also want a nice space for parents to visit.”

Centerplan is now focused on courting four- and five-star hotel companies to develop the building, Landino said.

Stern, who graduated from the Architecture School in 1965 and has lived in New Haven for several years, said College Square represents a significant increase in luxury opportunities for the city.

“New Haven has been growing steadily in the Ninth Square where people will live, and there are quite a few old buildings and warehouses that have been converted to residences,” he said. “But there hasn’t been much development in the high end … We’re all optimistic that the high-end luxury accommodations can find a market in New Haven.”

A number of city buildings have been designed by Yale faculty, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. said in a press release. Most recently, the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, which is under construction across the street from College Square, was designed by Yale architecture professor Cesar Pelli.

Landino said he and Stern plan to work closely with the neighboring development and with Pelli in order to familiarize themselves with the particulars of constructing a building in New Haven.

“We have met previously with Cesar Pelli and the city on their plans, and actually we are in the process of retaining the same construction management team, so we are going to work with Mr. Pelli,” Landino said. “We obviously have the same benefit of having the same construction management team, which will help us understand the land and help us moving forward.”

New developments in New Haven — such as College Square, the Gateway Community College Project and the Yale University Art Gallery’s expansion — in addition to Yale’s resources will serve to draw residents downtown, Stern said.

Ward 9 Alderwoman Bitsy Clark said most residents in the ward are excited about the prospect of the increased foot traffic that College Square will bring, since businesses will be more inclined to set up shop for the increased population. A grocery store that planted its roots in the area — which does not currently have one — would be helpful for residents who would prefer to walk to a market, she said.

“The more people you get downtown, the more opportunities you have to have amenities for them,” she said. “I think there are people who own the stores that are upset, and those stores are going to go, but if you wanted to get my sort of take on how … people feel about the development, they’re generally kind of excited.”

But residents have also expressed concerns that College Square will fail to provide affordable housing, Clark said. Developers of other up-and-coming construction projects in New Haven, such as the Shartenberg site — a luxury apartment complex being built on Chapel and State streets — plan to dedicate a portion of their apartments to affordable housing recipients, she said.

Because College Square is not being built on government property, its developers are not obligated to provide such housing, Clark said. There will be 250 hotel rooms and 124 residence units priced between $400,000 and $1 million, Centerplan Development spokeswoman Kerry Wood said.

“We don’t want downtown to be a place where rich people live,” Clark said. “We want to be able to have policemen and firemen to be able to live downtown — not just super rich people. And we want graduate students to live downtown.”

Landino did not dispute the upper-scale pricing of College Square’s condominiums and hotel rooms, but he said that in contrast to other types of housing already available in the city, College Square fulfills a need in the market.

“This is certainly a market that is not going to be in the affordable category — it’s more of a luxury market,” he said. “I think it serves a very significant need in the city, and I believe there are many other housing options that are planned and certainly exist that give categories of buyers the opportunity to live. We think it’s a market niche that is in demand.”

College Square, originally approved by the City Plan Commission in 2006 and slated to finish construction in 2010, is now scheduled to break ground in late 2008 and be completed in 2011 because of the additional plans.

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