A representative from the company developing the site of the former Shartenberg department store sought to allay city residents’ concerns about financing, construction noise and traffic flow at a downtown community meeting organized by the city Tuesday night.
During a presentation and question-and-answer session, Sara Bronin, legal and developmental consultant on the project for Becker + Becker Associates, repeatedly stressed that the development — on which construction is set to begin Monday — is being executed in what she called a community-oriented way. The project at 360 State Street, being executed by Suffolk Construction, will feature luxury housing, a natural-foods grocery store, 500 parking spaces, a day-care center, retail space for businesses and 50 “affordable” housing units.
“This project has to be neighborhood-friendly,” Bronin said, before adding that the project’s plans meet gold-level standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a subset of the U.S. Green Building Council that assesses the environmental impact of buildings.
Not only will the building have an estimated total occupancy of over 1,000 residents, she said, but it will also benefit the neighborhood by providing housing near the State Street Train Station.
But despite what Bronin touted as the environmental and economic benefits of the project, some residents at last night’s meeting were skeptical of the development.
Given the length and breadth of construction — as many as 250 workers will be on site for 25 months — many locals voiced concern about noise.
In response, Tim White, the vice president of Suffolk Construction in charge of the project, conceded that the project will be noisy.
“What we do is noisy, and it’s dirty, and as soon as we all understand that, the better off we all are,” he said.
Although some noise is unavoidable, White said, Suffolk “will do everything possible to keep it appropriate for an urban environment,” including working during the day and minimizing trash around the work site.
Given the recent turmoil in the stock market, some attendees also questioned whether the project’s capital was secure.
“I hope this project is green in terms of money as well,” one man joked.
Anthony Bialecki, a deputy director of New Haven’s Office of Economic Development, explained that recent economic problems will not affect the project’s financing since MEPT, Multi-Employer Property Trust, is funding the project, and it does not depend on loans and is not looking for a high rate of return.
Because State Street is unusually wide and is close to the train station, one attendee worried that the additional traffic and pedestrian flow from the project would create “a massive jaywalking problem.”
But most residents interviewed afterwards said they left the meeting feeling reassured and are eager to see the project move forward.
“I was really impressed by their answers,” said Charlotte Murphy, a neighborhood resident.