360 State closes in on grocer

The 360 State Street development, currently under construction, looks to include a large-scale supermarket.
The 360 State Street development, currently under construction, looks to include a large-scale supermarket. Photo by Becker +Becker.

The likely closure of the Shaw’s supermarket on Whalley Avenue will be a blow to the surrounding community — but for the developers of 360 State Street, it may be a blessing in disguise.

New Haven developer Becker + Becker Associates has been negotiating with supermarkets interested in moving into 360 State, the largest private construction project in the history of New Haven, since mid-September, and the closing of Shaw’s may jump-start the opening of that downtown grocery store, the company’s president, Bruce Becker ARC ’85 SOM ’85, said. But Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark, in whose ward 360 State is located, said she does not think the closing of Shaw’s will affect the negotiations between Becker + Becker and supermarket chains.

While Becker declined to release the names of the supermarket chains with which his company is negotiating because he said it might compromise their discussions, he said now “the ball is in our court” to select among the interested chains. He said he is 90 percent sure a large-scale supermarket will open there by the end of the year, and he will announce the store within 60 days.

“Ideally we would like to see Shaw’s remain open for the Whalley Avenue neighborhood,” Becker said. “[But] the closing of Shaw’s will create more demand at [360 State].”

Still, any supermarket that moves into 360 State will be about half the size of the Whalley Avenue Shaw’s. Becker + Becker has allocated between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet of space to the prospective supermarket, making the largest possible supermarket 27,000 square feet smaller than the Shaw’s.

At the same time, community leaders said the opening of a new grocery store downtown will not affect the potential for a new one to open in the Shaw’s lot.

“I think ultimately they would take a look at nearby demographics and the facilities and space provided to them, rather than nearby competition,” Clark said.

Sheila Masterson, executive director of the Whalley Avenue Special Services District, a private urban planning and consulting company that is currently helping to find a replacement for Shaw’s, said that, if anything, she welcomes the competition. She added that in 1998, the year before Shaw’s opened, her association had a survey conducted by an outside consulting firm that assessed the feasibility of opening a major supermarket in New Haven. The consultants found that the population density of New Haven was high enough to support three Super Stop & Shops, she said.

Masterson said the tenants of the 500 apartments at 360 State will “considerably increase the population density” and the need for another large supermarket in New Haven.

Clark, a frequent shopper at Shaw’s, said the delay in finalizing an agreement between a grocer and Becker + Becker is the result of the requirements of the grocers under consideration.

If Becker + Becker does not secure a supermarket for the ground floor of 360 State, the city will fine the firm $250,000 since, in September 2007, the city granted Becker + Becker the right to develop the site provided the building include a supermarket.

To reduce the traffic the supermarket will cause — a possible deterrent for large supermarket chains considering the property, Becker said — the firm connected 360 State to Pitkin Tunnel, an underground public roadway that will allow supply trucks to unload without clogging downtown streets.

But the closing of Shaw’s does not only make 360 State more appealing to supermarket chains, Becker said — it is also forcing him to reevaluate the needs of the community that the new grocer should meet.

“Although the factors leading to our decision as to what supermarket to select relies to a certain extent on which one will be most successful and will be able to pay a certain amount of rent,” he said. “We are more interested in one that will meet the broadest spectrum of needs for local residents and Yale.”

Kelly Murphy, the city’s economic development administrator, said in September that the original contract for 360 State stipulated that the developer must recruit a grocer “of comparable quality and service to that of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.” But Clark said at the time that the chains “showed either little interest or insisted there be more parking.” A rendering of 360 State on the development’s official Web site depicts a grocery store labeled “Natural Foods.”

The construction crane at 360 State St. will be removed today so that the finishing touches can be put on the development’s retail and parking structures.

Comments

  • Yale10

    While this may make attracting a grocer easier for Becker + Becker, I hope 360 State’s decision doesn’t affect the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affair’s efforts to attract a store to Shaw’s. I know, of course, that Shaw’s is not Yale property, not is it their legal responsibility. But I hope beyond hope that Yale does everything possible with its “soft power” to secure another grocer. It knows, as does the community, that an actual grocery store in a linchpin of the neighborhood, to say nothing of the only place for Yalies, on or off campus, to buy real food that isn’t prepared or exorbitantly priced. More than any of the storefronts on Chapel or Broadway, Shaw’s (or what was once Shaw’s) matters.

  • newhaven

    bring shoprite!!!!!! this people will not just come they have to make sure they make money i hope the studies are there so we can have a shop in New Haven and New Haven will support it!!!!

  • Resident

    It’s an easy walk from Shaws to 360 State. Hopefully we’ll have two… but one wouldn’t be a major loss

  • Resident 2

    Any easy walk from Shaws to 360 State St?! At night? With bags of groceries? Come on!

  • huh?

    shaw’s is closing? i hate shaws in general (bad selection, high prices), but it would be kind of amusing and said for a mid-size city like New Haven to have NO major groceries whatsoever within its city limits.

  • student

    Huh — What about Stop and Shop in Westville? That’s a major grocer in city limits.

    Also there are a number of mid-size grocers scattered around the city that do heavy business, such as C-Town and Ferraros, or the Walmart in the city that has a huge grocery business. Most cities have a mega grocer or two, but there are also many cities (or neighborhoods within cities) that do not, and rely on mid-size stores like these.

    New Haven covers a very small land footprint compared to most cities that are of a similar size – New Haven is 17 square miles of land, whereas Wichita, Kansas is 140 square miles, for example, yet people think of the two as mid-sized cities with a similar population. If you compare apples to apples (e.g., using urban area definitions of the city rather than political ones), New Haven is actually one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the country, and has an extremely large number of major grocery stores within a 10 minute drive of City Hall.

  • @6

    A large number of grocery stores within a ten minute drive of City Hall? What hour of the day are you driving around New Haven and how many red lights do you run in the process?

  • Yale ’08

    Easy walk from Shaw’s to 360?? NOT!

  • Yale ’08

    #6,

    I think you miss the point here, though you are right to say there are several grocery stores in NH.

    But you are defining New Haven using an urban agglomeration approach. Thus the city ‘core’ of NH might seem small but its peri-urban size is much bigger. I think this way of seeing the city is really false when it comes to its inhabitants, many of whom are concentrated in a very small space that is politically defined as NH proper. These people are generally lower income and do not have cars. They need local grocery stores that serve the local community. Not grocery stores that are technically in Hamden, West Haven, or North Haven. To say New Haven is one of the wealthiest cities in the country (which is ridiculous) shows why it’s dangerous to measure cities in agglomerative rather than political terms.

  • #7

    10 minutes may be a stretch, but certainly within 15 you can be at a large number of stores.

    I think the #6 point was that if you compare cities, you need to use definitions that are comparable, not political ones given the fact that New England cities are (government wise) tiny slivers of land compared to the ones in any other part of the country.

    Use standard definitions, like the Census MSA, or the 25 minute drive radius. If you do that (the 25 minute radius), New Haven has a population of about 1.1 million and average income of close to $90,000, making it easily among the wealthiest U.S. urban areas. Comparing a 15 square mile area as a “city” to a 150 square mile area as a “city,” and complaining that the former only has a handful of groceries compared to the latter, just doesn’t make any sense.

  • Hello?

    We. Do. Not. All. Have. Cars.

    That is part of why it’s extremely important for a new grocery story on Whalley to replace Shaw’s.

  • Yaleman

    Would Whole Foods be interested? Or Trader Joe’s? Do they make more sense than Stop & Shop?