Winchester factory site to see residential, commercial spaces

The 7.31-acre site of the former Winchester Repeating Arms Co. factory will be redeveloped into a mix of residential and commercial buildings by real estate company Forest City Enterprises, pending negotiations with landowner Science Park Development Corp., the New Haven Independent reported Friday.

The alderwoman whose ward includes the property said she is open to the development but wants to learn more of the details before signing off on the proposal. The area surrounding the property is home to several major pharmaceutical companies in New Haven, including Genaissance Pharmaceuticals and CuraGen Corp.

In September, five months after the factory — home of the “gun that won the West” — had officially shut down, Science Park solicited applications from various developers. But by the Oct. 17 deadline, the company had received only three applications. With the help of New Haven consulting firm Capstan Group, LLC, Science Park chose Forest City, Science Park chairman David Silverstone told the New Haven Independent last week.

Officials at Forest City, Science Park and Capstan did not return requests for comment over the weekend.

Forest City will come to New Haven having gone through contentious development projects in at least one other city.

When Forest City announced its plans to redevelop 22-acre Atlantic Yards in New York City, a coalition of community groups, including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, criticized the company for unsatisfactorily explaining the environmental impact of the development on the community. As a result of the disagreement, the coalition filed four lawsuits against the company, which won approval for the plans in December 2006. But New York courts have since dismissed all four lawsuits.

Several of the complexes the company developed had won awards from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which rates buildings on their sustainability.

Science Park chairman David Silverstone told the Independent last week that he selected Forest City for its “experience, financial resources and sensitivity to New Haven and its citizens that we thought was important.”

At a September public forum in Newhallville, several local residents complained that Science Park did not contribute significantly to the revitalization of the surrounding community, but Silverstone said at the time that the Winchester redevelopment will have a more noticeable effect on the neighborhood.

Still, local officials interviewed said they are generally open to the idea of the development.

Ward 19 Alderwoman Alfreda Edwards, whose district includes the site of the factory, told the Independent last week that she is receptive to the Forest City’s ideas, as long as the company is transparent about its designs.

“It’s a lot of development they have planned in the area, and I think neighbors should know about it,” she told the Independent last week.

Edwards did not return requests for comment left on her answering machine Sunday.

Yale Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said in January 2006 that the city needs to look to industries other than gun manufacturing because it represented the city’s “past” and hopes that there would be more science development.

But in September, when Science Park announced its “Request for Qualifications” to development companies, the company abandoned its original plans — and Morand’s hopes — to add biotech and pharmaceutical company space into the lot, the BioRegion News reported in September.

Morand could not be reached for comment because he is currently on vacation, Reggie Solomon ’98, program director for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said Sunday night. Solomon declined to comment, saying he does not know enough about the issue.

Winchester factory, then owned by U.S. Repeating Arms Co., closed its doors March 28, 2006, after Belgian-owned parent company FN Herstal Corp. announced two months prior that the factory was suffering from declining profits and intense foreign competition. The factory closed two days ahead of schedule because workers did not have enough parts to manufacture guns. Its famed lever-gun design had been produced since 1873.

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