Science Park renovation set for 2010

After almost a year of delays, a $150 million renovation of a 600,000 square-foot complex at Science Park is expected to begin in spring 2010, said David Silverstone, president of the Science Park Development Corporation, a non-profit of which Yale University is a board member.

Since fall 2008, the corporation has had trouble financing the restoration of the buildings, which used to be the Winchester gun factory, on the 7.35-acre lot known as Tract A. Silverstone said the renovations were supposed to start no later than February 2009. The first phase of the project, renovating the 150,000 square-foot complex at 275 Winchester Ave., will total $40 million. The entire project is expected to cost $150 million, he said.

The neglected building that used to be the Winchester gun factory is set to become the main complex of the new Science Park after an extensive renovation.
The neglected building that used to be the Winchester gun factory is set to become the main complex of the new Science Park after an extensive renovation.

In addition to creating hundreds of construction jobs, the renovated complex will have commercial space and residential housing, bringing life and activity to a part of New Haven that has not had it before, Silverstone said.

The dilapidated factory buildings that comprise the site are located along Winchester Avenue and Munson Street, and the development corporation has plans to turn them into commercial space, Silverstone said.

The development corporation has not yet finalized the details of how the project will be financed, but Silverstone said the corporation is exploring ways to obtain funding from both private and publicsources.

Earlier in the year, Silverstone said, financing “evaporated” because of the economic turmoil, and it became difficult to secure credit for large projects. He said he has to keep the project’s financing details confidential because they have not been finalized.

He explained that the project may receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The development corporation is also seeking a federal historical tax credit to help with the structures’ rehabilitation, said Sheila Anastas, the Science Park Development Corporation executive director.

One reason the renovations are likely to be expensive is because the buildings were built during an era when lead paint and asbestos were used, he said. Also, chemicals and construction debris that were buried on the site need to be removed before it is habitable. Anastas said the group is also seeking federal funds to offset the cost of bringing the buildings up to current environmental standards.

Tract A is part of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, according to the New Haven Preservation Trust Web site. The district used to be home to Winchester, one of the nation’s leading firearms manufacturers, established in New Haven in the late 19th century and purchased in 1931 by Olin, a chemicals and manufacturing company.

Olin then sold the complex in 1980 to the U.S. Repeating Arms Company after deciding it was too expensive to manufacture firearms in New Haven. When U.S. Repeating Arms went bankrupt in 1989, the Belgian Herstal Group acquired the factory and closed it 2006.

As of Oct. 1, the development corporation had renovated three large abandoned buildings, demolished two other buildings and erected a parking garage, all in Science Park, Silverstone said.

Carter Winstanley of Winstanley Enterprises, a Massachussets real estate developer involved in rehabilitating Science Park, said that last year renovations began on 334 Winchester St., a single-story building located across the street from Tract A. The project is expected to be completed by January. Currently, Winstanley Enterprises is recruiting new tenants to the space, Winstanely said. Yale is the main tenant of 344 Winchester St.

Yale has not been confirmed as a future tenant of Tract A, Anastas said.

The Science Park Development Corporation is also in the midst of getting approval and financing for a daycare center to be built on the vacant lot on Munson and Ashmun streets.

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