Aldermen approve SOM campus

As expected, the Board of Aldermen gave the green light for the School of Management’s new campus designs at the board’s meeting Monday evening.

The decision — in which 25 of the 26 aldermen at the meeting voted to approve the proposal — came after a 20-minute discussion. Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson objected to the proposal, arguing that the approval process “zoomed along” too quickly. But while some aldermen who supported the proposal — including Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 — said they had reservations about the campus’s current design, supporters said they are convinced the campus will be an economic boon for the city and that the surrounding neighborhood is in favor of the current proposal.

Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar heads the legislation committee that recommended the approval Monday of the SOM proposal.
Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar heads the legislation committee that recommended the approval Monday of the SOM proposal.

“Twenty-five to one is a great outcome,” said Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, University associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs, speaking after the meeting in front a room of construction workers who want the jobs the construction project will generate.

The University will next present site plans to the City Plan Commission in April, expecting approval in May, Morand said last month. If the site plans are approved, the University could start construction as early as the end of this year, he said. He added that fundraising for the new campus is well underway and does not pose a problem for the projected schedule.

But Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11 said he thinks the approval process is flawed because aldermen, who generally do not have technical architectural knowledge, must make a subjective decision about whether building designs fit the context of the neighborhood. Still, Jones said he voted for the proposal because the building satisfies zoning regulations.

“We ought to make the decision with information in the books,” Jones said after the meeting.

Elicker said that, as a private citizen, he had concerns about the size of the building. But he voted for it because the majority of his constituents support the proposal, he said.

Monday’s approval may be considered a relief to Yale officials, who in their push to construct the new SOM campus encountered some obstacles.

In December, the City Plan Commission approved the plans but recommended that the design of the 230,000-square-foot building be changed to appease neighbors’ concerns that the building was too large and too close to some residents’ homes. At the first aldermanic public hearing, in January, Yale presented revised designs by the original architectural firm, Foster + Partners, including more landscaping and wider walkways.

But the design still met opposition from some neighbors and preservationists, including New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell ARC ’78. After a lengthy second public hearing Feb. 11, the Board of Aldermen’s legislation committee announced it would recommend the proposal before the full board, but not without tacking on three amendments to ease neighbor’s concerns.

The first amendment would make official the newly revised designs, which Yale officials presented during the January hearing. The second requires Yale to grant pedestrians and bicyclists access to the walkways around the building so they can travel more easily through the neighborhood. The third amendment says the city can regulate the site between demolition and construction periods to prevent the lot from remaining empty in case Yale does not have the funding for construction. These amendments were also approved by the full board at Monday’s meeting.

Thirteen aldermen interviewed Sunday said they would vote for the design, signaling that the design would be approved without delay.

University Planner Laura Cruickshank said in a recent interview that she hopes the campus will be constructed by fall 2013.

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