Station facelift on track

A project to expand New Haven’s Union Station is moving forward full steam ahead.

At a Connecticut Public Transportation Commission meeting Thursday, New Haven parking director Mike Piscitelli asked the commission to support a project that would expand mixed-used development at Union Station.

The three-phase, $140-million plan will create two garages, 110,000 square feet of retail and office space, and a 15-story residential tower near Union Station by 2017. The project is being completed by the private development firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which created a feasibility study on the Union Station project in 2008.

Connecticut Public Transportation Commission Chairman Tom Cheeseman said the group will endorse the development — even though city officials did not require the state commission’s support for the project to continue.

“If you want to do something, you can do it with or without my permission,” Cheeseman said. “I’m glad [Piscitelli] sought a recommendation from us because I believe it’s an excellent plan that they have.”

Two city officials said the expanded Union Station will create jobs and grow the city’s tax base. According to the feasibility study, the project will create 312 permanent jobs and more than 2,000 construction jobs.

But two city experts have mixed opinions about the Union Station development.

Yale architecture professor Alan Plattus told the News in January that the mixed-used development has potential for economic growth. But assistant professor Elihu Rubin said Monday that he is concerned the development may “dilute the success of downtown commerce.”

“The Union Station might compete with downtown New Haven in a potentially parasitic way,” Rubin said.

But two Union Station patrons and one Union Station business owner interviewed Monday said they were thrilled about the development because they think it would add more parking and retail to the area.

“If they build a parking garage, there will be more business,” said Ram Shrestha, the owner of Union Station’s Subway restaurant.

Although the planned development is private, it is a collaborative effort among the city’s Office of Economic Development, the New Haven Parking Authority and the state Department of Transportation, Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy said.

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