UP CLOSE | Yale, meet Gateway

The construction of Gateway Community College's new downtown campus is slated to be completed in 2012.
The construction of Gateway Community College's new downtown campus is slated to be completed in 2012. Photo by Lindsey Raymond.

Yalies who venture down Church Street on their way to Rite Aid or Union Station now see a new structure emerging from the depths. It is a college building, and when it is completed in September 2012, its more than 14,000 students will flock to downtown New Haven.

But these students are not Yalies.

Gateway Community College will begin classes that year at the college’s new $200 million, 380,000-square-foot campus, currently under construction at 2-20 Church St., between George Street and North Frontage Road. City officials hope the expansion will be a boon for nearby business owners, as the downtown commercial district expands south toward the Route 34 Connector instead of remaining concentrated near Broadway and Wall Street — in other words, near the Yale campus.

Construction on Gateway Community College’s downtown campus officially began last December.
Construction on Gateway Community College’s downtown campus officially began last December.

There is no question that Gateway — with courses on subjects such as aviation maintenance and telecommunications and classes that start as early as 6:30 a.m. — is academically and socially different from Yale. The average Gateway student is an employed white female in her late 20s who has children, according to the school’s spokeswoman, while the average Yale student is a 20-year-old former high school student from outside Connecticut.

Only the future will show how the two demographics will interact on their shared turf, and how the new building will affect business and security downtown. But one thing is clear: Yalies, prepare for thousands of new neighbors.

NEW DIGS

Gateway is currently separated into two general facilities, on Long Wharf and in North Haven, but administrators have been interested in building a single, comprehensive facility since 1995. Quickly after Dorsey Kendrick, the college’s president, took her post in 2000, she designated the Gateway expansion as her primary goal.

Not only is shuttling students between the two campuses difficult, but the existing facilities are crowded and difficult to access by car, Gateway spokeswoman Evelyn Gard said. The North Haven campus is located in a former middle school, and the Long Wharf building is an old warehouse that lacks organized parking, large enough rooms and adequate light, she added. Kendrick’s office, in Long Wharf, has no windows.

Not all 85 of Gateway’s academic and technical programs will fit in the new downtown facility. (The automotive programs, for example, will be housed in a separate, yet to be determined facility because of air quality and missions industry standards.) But the 2-20 Church St. building will offer 380,000 square feet of primarily glass, brick and metal panes, with a concrete parking garage covered by plants that will grow around a large metal trellis, said Scott Eaton, the construction project manager at the new site. The first floor, open to the public, will include a library, a restaurant attached to Gateway’s culinary school, and a health clinic and day care center open to the public.

It remains to be seen how much the Gateway project will affect the daily lives of Yalies, despite the move closer to Yale.
It remains to be seen how much the Gateway project will affect the daily lives of Yalies, despite the move closer to Yale.

Designed by Perkins + Will, an international architecture and design firm with a regional office in Glastonbury, Conn., the new building will primarily use solar power, hot water, natural light and photovoltaics to increase energy efficiency. The structure will be the first public building in Connecticut to receive LEED Gold standing, the second-highest certification given by the United States Building Council.

In addition to space, Gateway administrators chose the new site, Gard said, because it is convenient for Gateway students, about 46 percent of whom live in New Haven, she said. The new campus will be near the New Haven Green, a hub for several bus routes.

The downtown New Haven location is also opportune for Gateway because it is close to the Yale-New Haven Hospital. Yale-New Haven spokesman Vin Petrini said that for the past five years, the hospital has given $1 million in grants to the Gateway nursing program and that it offers internships for Gateway students training as nurses and radiation technologists. The hospital also hires many Gateway students as radiation technologists, he added, and in 2005, 20 out of the 25 nurses hired were Gateway graduates. Now, when the college moves into its new site on Church Street, students in Gateway’s nursing program may start practical training at the hospital.

ROAD TO A ‘COLLEGE TOWN’

The building’s site comprises the location of New Haven’s former Macy’s department store and an abandoned big-box retail mall. Macy’s closed in 1995, and soon after, the city, using state funds, purchased the property for $2 million in bankruptcy court and the abandoned mall for $1 million.

The new Gateway Community College building, designed by Perkins + Will, plans to receive LEED Gold certification.
The new Gateway Community College building, designed by Perkins + Will, plans to receive LEED Gold certification.

That year, state officials were convinced the site would be an important investment in New Haven, said Tony Bialecki, the city’s deputy director of economic development. Otherwise, he added, it would have remained abandoned and attracted squatters and crime to the downtown area.

In 2000, Gateway was searching for a feasible construction site, and it studied several locations in New Haven. When Gateway sent out a request for proposals for possible campus locations in 2002, it piqued the interest of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Bialecki said DeStefano then started an internal initiative to change the city’s economic development focus to education. New Haven was no longer an industrial powerhouse, Bialecki said, so city officials wanted to become more of a “college town.” He added that a community college campus will provide $1.2 million yearly in tax revenue, student spending and construction jobs, as well as 184 full-time and 364 part-time jobs.

DeStefano approached Kendrick in 2003 and, after eight months of negotiations, secured Gateway’s interest in the site. DeStefano said downtown New Haven is close to major employers, which were important considerations for Kendrick. Aldermen approved the project in 2005 to start the expansion, and though Gateway was originally projected to open in 2010, Bialecki said asbestos in the Macy’s building delayed the projected opening to September 2012.

BRIDGING GAPS

Yale has had an interest in the growth of Gateway since 2003, when DeStefano announced the Gateway project. At the time, University President Richard Levin sat in on meetings involving the Gateway expansion.

While Levin said he was not directly involved in the decision to move Gateway downtown, he said he has told Kendrick and DeStefano he supported the move. Levin said he has also discussed the potential for collaborative projects between Gateway and Yale, but he did not provide specifics.

Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 wrote in an e-mail that the University has also been in discussions with Gateway about welcome packages to introduce Gateway students to Yale and downtown New Haven, as well as about collaboration in future community service projects.

Yale likely supports the Gateway project because it will help to develop downtown New Haven, said Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54. Levin added that a higher density of people in the downtown area will help to make the Temple Street area safer and more attractive.

The expansion, thus, may alleviate some security concerns raised in 2006 public hearings related to the Gateway expansion. Gateway officials will also employ a security force and plan to install security cameras around the new building, Gard said.

In addition to security, public concerns raised in the hearings included a loss of tax revenue, as well as parking and traffic problems. On the issue of taxes, Bialecki said the state will compensate for 60 percent of the assessed property value of the site because of the payment in lieu of taxes program. He estimated that New Haven will receive over $1 million in tax revenue from the new campus.

As for parking, a 600-car garage will be constructed along with the campus, and the college will also lease 700 parking spaces in the Temple Street Garage, on the corner of Temple and Crown streets, for students and faculty, who are also able to park behind the Knights of Columbus headquarters at 1 Columbus Plaza, Gard said.

She added that Gateway officials do not anticipate any problems with increased city traffic because, among other things, the majority of Gateway students attend the college part-time and therefore are not in school at the same time. Bike storage and changing rooms, included in the design of the new building, and free bus passes provided by the state of Connecticut will also eliminate parking issues, Bialecki added.

Finally, to encourage foot traffic in the area, the state agreed to install nine new traffic signals, at a cost of $3 to 4 million each, in downtown New Haven in 2012.

A NEW DOWNTOWN?

According to the Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., an independent Moscow, Idaho-based organization that in May 2008 analyzed the economic impact on Gateway’s expansion, the city’s economy is expected receive $389.9 million in regional income each year — or 1 percent of the regional total annual income — because of the college and its students.

The construction, which officially started last December, initially bothered some local business owners. Stwart Au, manager of the restaurant Kudeta, which is located under the Temple Street Garage, said that when workers were building the foundation, he heard noise between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

But since the building’s foundation has been completed, the noise has disappeared. Au said the disturbance was a minor annoyance, and that he expects the new college to be good for Kudeta and other businesses in the area. (Kudeta currently has no plans to prepare for an upswing in business, he said.) While crossing his fingers, George Kriskris, manager and owner of Atlas Restaurant, next door to Kudeta at on Temple Street, said he also hopes the influx of students will be good for his business.

But Gard cautioned that although Gateway students usually attend class from 5 to 10 p.m. during the week, they may have children or second jobs, and so are likely to have little time to spend time around downtown New Haven.

Helen MacGregor, a former Gateway student and now a third-year Eli Whitney student at Yale, said in an e-mail that she thinks Gateway students will likely use daytime local businesses, such as banks, dry cleaners and the post office, while nightclubs and restaurants will remain popular for Yale students. She added that she doubts the Yale and Gateway populations will mingle after Gateway’s move downtown, except perhaps in volunteer or student clubs.

Smith said this is the first time Yale has faced a large influx of new students into the immediate area: Albertus Magnus College, though it is just blocks up Prospect Street from Yale’s Science Hill, has only about 2,100 undergraduate and graduate students, and Quinnipiac University is outside New Haven, in Hamden.

Still, Smith said he does not think Yalies will notice the new students because he doubts Gateway students will spend time in the downtown area outside of class. During his undergraduate career at Yale, Smith remembers that three New Haven high schools were located several blocks away from the center of campus. Every time high school classes were dismissed, the campus was flooded with high schoolers, and the Yale campus felt very crowded. But, Smith said, most Yalies simply ignored the high schoolers.

THE ‘COLLEGE EXPERIENCE’

None of the 10 Yale undergraduates interviewed said they were aware of the Gateway construction project. But Bialecki said he thinks this will change once the construction is completed — simply because the new campus will be so big.

Still, Anne Rathey — a 28-year-old first-semester student in the liberal arts program at Gateway who is married to Yale School of Music associate adjunct professor Markus Rathey — said that because many Gateway students live in the city and have already foregone the opportunity to reach out to Yalies, a change in the campus’ location will likely not affect their decision to hang around downtown.

Gateway and Yale students interviewed said that in addition to having different ages and demographics, they have different college experiences. For instance, MacGregor said Gateway made her feel like she was well acquainted with everyone, from the janitor to the school’s president. Most of the communication with faculty was face-to-face, while at Yale she said she finds her communication with professors is largely via e-mail.

MacGregor added that Gateway students do not have the luxury of a “college experience” but are motivated to get a degree to start working as soon as possible. In addition, she said that while Gateway has student clubs and holiday functions, few students have time to participate because of their extra responsibilities, such as jobs or families.

Still, Gard said that when Yale and Gateway students currently come together, such as in the St. Thomas Moore choir, they are often surprised to find they have many similarities, Gard said.

Take “New Haven and the American City,” one of the few Yale classes where students learn about New Haven in an academic environment. Taught by architecture professors Alan Plattus ’76 and Elihu Rubin ’99, the course has for 15 years offered spots to Gateway students, who are now bused to Yale’s campus.

The Gateway students, along with their Yale peers, learn about topics such as urbanism and New Haven public housing, but they also teach the Yale students sitting around them: Typically older and with more life experience, Gateway students show Yalies that “there is life in New Haven and educated people trying to get ahead,” said Dan Courcey, who serves as chairman of Gateway’s social science department and often sits in on the lecture.

Plattus added in an e-mail that while Gateway students have a separate discussion section in the class they are not shy about posing interesting and articulate questions during lecture.

Yale students may have more to learn from their new neighbors, Rathey said. And two years from now, Yalies will have the opportunity to do so.

Correction: Sept. 16, 2010

An earlier version of this article misreported the number of buildings in Connecticut with LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Kroon Hall was awarded the rating (the highest possible) in February.

Comments

  • Sara

    It’s unlikely the Gateway students will bike there unless actually improvements are made to the streets, like what New York City has been doing. Only a few experienced bikers will go on streets like Church and George.

    So far attempts have been pretty lame. The city just painted some bike symbols on the roads downtown, but the paint will probably wear off in a few months and for some reason they didn’t add any on the road to the train station, which would have been the most important section.

    The city needs to adopt an approach like other cities have done, and make cycling feasible and attractive for folks other than the 5% of people who are experienced riders.

    Why they are building a $200 million college and don’t have a few cents to spend on a few protected bike lanes to it is beyond my comprehension. Bad policy all around, hopefully the new Governor will change things dramatically.

  • Dennis

    Re the statement, “No Connecticut building has achieved a platinum standing, the highest certification,)” see YDN, 1 Feb. 2010, “Kroon Hall, the new home of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, has been awarded LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, Yale University announced today.”

    Please explain the contradiction.

  • YaleMom

    What a *wonderful* development! I’m so glad Yale is adding this school. I think those *head-in-the-clouds Yalies* should learn some practical skills. Take aviation maintenance!

  • Yale12

    YaleMom, from your previous posts (assuming you are the same poster), I have a feeling that you’re not being sarcastic. That scares me. Can you…read?