Gateway causes local concern

Construction for the new Gateway Community College campus downtown, which begins this coming Monday, may bring new jobs to the city — but it may also cause traffic problems.

At a downtown neighborhood meeting Wednesday in the Omni Hotel, project managers from the Providence, R.I.–based Dimeo Construction Company addressed residents’ concerns about potential street obstructions on Church Street caused by the Gateway construction. The project managers said they will try to minimize obstructions on the streets nearby the site and will work with local residents to address further concerns involving construction.

Doug Peckham, whose firm is designing Gateway Community College’s new campus, speaks at the Omni Wednesday.
Sanjeev Tewani
Doug Peckham, whose firm is designing Gateway Community College’s new campus, speaks at the Omni Wednesday.

“We’d love to hear your concerns,” Dimeo Project Executive Douglas Peckham said. “When we understand neighborhood concerns, we can try to get things under control.”

Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said that although construction managers answered many of the concerns expressed by the 50 residents who attended, downtown residents may still be concerned about next year’s George Street closings, which will occur on the weekends.

The construction project will consolidate the Long Wharf and North Haven Gateway sites to one campus at Church and Temple streets, on the former site of the department stores Macy’s and Malley’s. The new four-story, 360,000 square-foot campus will include a library, culinary arts center, day care and community center. Peckham said workers will finish construction in May 2012.

Raymond Smith, economic development officer for New Haven, said the new campus will be energy efficient, aiming for a gold LEED rating.

“Creating green jobs and green buildings is on the forefront of the Obama agenda,” Smith said. “It’s a big deal.”

But at the meeting, about a half-dozen residents voiced concerns over the construction. Some of them said they did not want the construction to start at 7 a.m., but Clark said after the meeting that construction must start at that time due to city building code.

Other residents said they were concerned that pedestrian walkways would be eliminated on George Street when, in 2010, construction workers close it on the weekends. Peckham responded that workers will leave sidewalks in place, though the walkways will be narrowed.

Clark said after the meeting that drivers heading into New Haven may still be annoyed with the George Street closure.

Dimeo project superintendent Blair Oliver said after the meeting that residents also may believe the construction will cause problems for some local businesses. He added that Dimeo construction workers will block off a section of a tunnel underneath Church and Temple streets through which trucks provide deliveries to local businesses.

Oliver said workers will create a new, smaller entryway to the tunnel, although goods from larger trucks coming into New Haven must be moved into smaller ones before entering the area.

At the end of the meeting, Peckham emphasized that he wanted to keep residents informed during the construction process. After construction begins, he said, there will be quarterly meeting presentations at the Omni Hotel, as well as periodic e-mail updates from Dimeo officials to neighborhood business owners.

Governor M. Jodi Rell announced Tuesday that the state Bond Commission is expected Oct. 30 to approve over $182 million for the construction.

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