City warms to plans for Shartenberg tower

After a two-year redevelopment project set to begin next month, the $125-million apartment complex on Chapel and State streets may feature an unexpected surprise for its residents: wind turbines.

The once controversial Shartenberg Project — to be built on a 1.5 acre parking lot on the same block where a three-alarm fire caused $10 million in damages last December — will set a new standard for environmentally friendly and energy-efficient design, said architect Bruce Becker ARC ’85 SOM ’85. Becker’s firm Becker + Becker will break ground within 60 days and begin major construction in May on a project that has been heralded as the key to developing the area — and providing a significant source of income for the city — something that residents are now embracing for their communities.

Ward 7 alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark — the site sits on the border of wards 7 and 8 — said public sentiment has changed since last year, when residents raised concerns about the aesthetic and economic impact of the tower. “Everybody is thinking this is going to be great [and] make a lot of changes for that part of downtown,” Clark said. “It provides an opportunity to do a different kind of development there … The fact that there is this terrific development going on in the corner of Chapel and State, and just the block up is empty land [due to the fire] … That’s an interesting synergy there.”

Becker said he senses a “continuing optimism” about the project, especially since “360 State,” the project’s working name, will house the most taxpayers in New Haven. The building’s future residents will also represent several million dollars worth of purchasing power for the nearby businesses and restaurants, Becker said.

The tower will house 500 rental units, with floor plans ranging from studio to three-bedroom options. Last April, Becker told the News that the units would cost anywhere from $1,350 to $2,986 a month. Fifty of the units will be earmarked as affordable housing, priced $200 to $300 below the market’s monthly rate. Becker’s market research found that over 95 percent of comparable, high-end rental apartments are leased, indicating there is substantial demand backing his project.

But Alex Garvin, who teaches Yale College’s “Study of the City” course and is CEO of his own planning and consulting firm, warned against pegging the Shartenberg project as the “magic bullet” needed to rejuvenate the downtown area.

“If you fill in the empty holes at the moment on Church Street and build this apartment, then there will be a lot more people there, a lot more that you can do downtown,” Garvin said. “But that’s not going to be the case until the next four to five years, until all of this is built and occupied. It is definitely getting better, it’s been going on for a number of years, and this building is going to be a part of that, but nothing more.”

Becker predicts his apartment complex will appeal to diverse segments of the Yale community.

“It is very likely that we will have some graduate students, and perhaps faculty members and Yale staff,” Becker said. “We anticipate there also will be empty nesters: Yale alums who maybe lived out in Woodbridge … and want to move back into the city.”

Since his initial proposal to the city in February 2007, Becker has made several major changes, including reducing the tower’s height from the original 32 stories, and his team is now working on integrating sustainable, state-of-the-art features in the 500-unit building.

Atelier Ten, the project’s sustainable design consultant, has worked on several Yale projects as well, including the University’s new Sculpture Building. Larry Jones, an Atelier Ten associate working on the Shartenberg project, said the sustainable elements of Becker’s design range from local sourcing of materials to geothermal and fuel cell technologies.

The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies also uses a geothermal system, which requires a well 1,500 feet deep and takes advantage of the earth’s constant temperature relative to cool water, using it to chill the air throughout the building, Jones said. Fuel cells generate electricity from natural gas and recycle the waste heat produced to provide hot water, a technology in New Haven that, to Jones’ knowledge, only the Peabody Museum currently utilizes.

“Instead of having a boiler, like most buildings will have, it will provide hot water based on the way it works. You’re killing two birds with one stone,” Jones said. “The fuel cell was created in Connecticut, so it is a very local thing: United Technologies is one of the major manufacturers of them … They are the ones who make it for the space shuttles.”

At least 10 percent of all materials will originate from within a 500-mile radius of New Haven, and a storm-water collection system will be used for irrigation and flushing toilets, Jones said. A wind turbine and photovoltaics for electricity generation are also possibilities.

The site’s proximity to the New Haven-State Street Station is another element of sustainability: Residents can walk across the street and, in a matter of minutes, arrive at Union Station by train, eliminating the need to take a cab or drive to commute. But Garvin pointed out the infrequent train service available at the State Street Station as a major obstacle.

Regardless, Sharternberg tower has major potential to make a green impact on New Haven and set the bar higher for future building projects, Jones said.

“I don’t think a lot has been built in the past five to 10 years. Given that it is a new building, it’s kind of setting a new benchmark for others,” Jones said. “If it becomes very popular, and other owners of buildings see they want to live in a green space, it may set the way they [go] about doing construction.”

Becker said he is coming to speak about the project at the School of Management on April 22.

Comments

  • DesignNewHaven.com

    "Garvin pointed out the infrequent train service available at the State Street Station as a major obstacle."

    Service at the newer station can easily be expanded. The State of CT is spending billions of dollars ordering new rail cars and extending rail service to Springfield, MA, which will turn the new station into a major hub. More frequent Metro North service will also be extended there in the near future. Even without service, the main train station is still just a 5 minute walk away.

  • anon

    haha shart

  • Alum84

    Well we can be sure no city residents will be living there at those prices. Affordable housing? Hardly. And where will the cars of 500 apartment residents park, and how much pollution will they put out? You've just negated ant green advantage.

  • Anonymous

    how is the city "warm" to the building, if only one city official is quoted as saying positive things about it? no local residential sourcing? what kind of reporting is this?

  • John P

    It's great that they want to make the tower green. However, the criteria used for determining how well the scheme works environmentally should be totally different (obviously) than the criteria used to evaluate how the project works from the standpoint of architecture and urban planning.

    To #3: Better to have those cars in the city where they need to only drive short distances to get where they need to go (and residents can walk too!) as opposed to driving miles to go anywhere in the suburbs.