Aldermen raise SOM plan concerns

As the University awaits the Board of Aldermen’s decision for the new School of Management campus, some aldermen said they are concerned that the building is just too big.

Whether the Board of Aldermen accepts nine provisions for the SOM campus recommended by the City Plan Commission last month will not significantly affect the cost or timeline of the construction, which is due to be completed in 2013, Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 said Tuesday. Morand and other Yale representatives will meet with neighboring residents Jan. 21 to discuss the residents’ concerns, neighborhood leader Jane Jervis said Tuesday.

It remains unclear whether the aldermen will approve the design as is. They are expected to vote in February after a public hearing on Jan. 28. Of the 12 aldermen reached Tuesday evening, only two said they were familiar with the proposed plans, while 10 (including Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield) said they had not yet reviewed the application.

Meanwhile, eight of the 16 residents interviewed Monday who live within two blocks of the site said they were either unaware of the designs or had no strong feelings about the proposal. The remaining eight declined to comment, saying they did not wish to be involved in the controversies surrounding the campus. Eight residents interviewed Tuesday objected to the campus’s design, while two said they supported it.

Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11, who represents most Yale undergraduates, said that although he believes the campus is “valuable” to the University and downtown, he thinks the proposal is “a little out of scale than what’s currently on site.” If he could design the campus, he said, he would change the scale and reuse the buildings on site.

Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson agreed: “It’s almost like taking a spaceship and plopping it down in a desert.”

Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said she is disappointed with the loss of 175 Whitney Ave., a building that local preservationists consider historic and that is set for demolition to make way for the construction. Still, she added that she is “tremendously excited” about the prospect of having a modern building designed by Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62 in the neighborhood.

“I’m a fan of saving beautiful things, but sometimes things change, things move forward,” Clark said. “And we have to embrace the future, embrace new ideas and new vistas and new things.”

But not everyone in the community is as comfortable with the unique glass-and-steel structure.

In letters and e-mails, 16 local residents have submitted joint letters to the City Plan Commission raising concerns over the campus design. Residents have complained that the SOM campus will bring unwanted noise to the area and will permit intrusive views from the building into neighboring yards.

Many of the neighbors who have voiced concerns with the new campus’s design belong to the Lincoln-Bradley Association, a group of residents who live along Lincoln Street to the east of Whitney Avenue or Bradley Street to the south, but the association itself has taken no official position, said Jervis, the association’s president. Next week’s meeting with Yale will be the latest of many the association has sponsored over the last three years, she added.

“We’ve been in frequent conversation with Yale over the design as it’s been evolving, and they’ve made some changes,” Jervis said. “So there’s some possibility there may be further accommodations made for people who are most directly affected.”

The residents of Lincoln Street and Bradley Street are split between those who harbor strong objections to the design and those who welcome the change, depending mainly on where they live, Jervis added. Most of those who live on Bradley Street oppose the new campus because they will be much closer to the new SOM campus and suffer from excessive noise, she said.

“People have responses in part at least based on how it affects them,” she said. “And it doesn’t affect me very much. But that’s not to say I’m not sympathetic for the people it does affect.”

Jervis said she personally disliked parts of the design but looked forward to seeing the new campus. A large, noisy parking lot — something Jervis said she could do without — currently occupies much of the site.

SOM professor Douglas Rae, whose Lincoln Street home sits adjacent to the site of the proposed campus, said he wants the campus to be approved.

“I think it’s time to get this over with,” he said.

Esther Zuckerman contributing reporting.

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