New colleges clear final hurdle

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Photo by Victor Kang.

Yale’s 13th and 14th residential colleges cleared the final legal hurdle for construction Wednesday.

The City Plan Commission approved the site plan for Yale’s two proposed additional residential colleges Wednesday night, with the estimated $600 million project set to begin this summer. Although plans were delayed following the 2008 economic downturn, the colleges are scheduled to be completed before the fall term of 2015.

“The two new colleges will take a site long-owned by Yale and transform it into a much higher and better use,” University spokesman Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, wrote in an email to the News Thursday evening. “The primary benefit will be to allow hundreds more students to enjoy the benefits of a Yale education.”

The two new colleges will house more than 800 additional undergraduates, according to current plans, and will be designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP, which is owned by School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern. But plans for an undergraduate theater and certain street improvements were pushed to a later date.

According to Yale’s Vice President of Development, Inge Reichenbach, the original goal for project fundraising was set at $250 million for construction, and was subsequently increased to $500 million following the financial crisis. The project has raised about $187 million to date, Reichenbach said, adding that developers are contacting alumni and other potential donors who have an interest in funding the colleges.

“President Levin has successfully secured substantial financial support for the two new colleges and the university is working to build on that momentum going forward,” Morand wrote. “There is a lot of work to do to secure the remaining funding and we all are optimistic that alumni and friends of Yale will continue to respond to this important project.”

City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph said that the new residential colleges are an example of productive partnership between Yale and New Haven.

“We’ve been supportive of the University growing because it grows jobs in the city,” Joseph said. “If you want to attract good high-paying jobs, you grow job generators.”

Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, who is the Board of Aldermen’s representative on the City Plan Commission, agreed. He added that in addition to construction jobs, the college expansion would bring more positions such as teachers, dining hall workers and custodial staff. Given that the current site is “not the most attractive [place] in the world,” he added — referring to the underdeveloped blocks which will become the new buildings — the residential colleges will also serve to “clean up” the area.

In September 2006, the University entered into a development agreement with the city in which the University received rights to develop the area of the colleges’ proposed site in exchange for a contribution of $10 million towards improving roadway infrastructure in the adjacent area, completing another portion of the Farmington Canal greenway and expanding Scantlebury Park in the Dixwell neighborhood.

Earlier this year, the Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to approve a Planned Development District around the site, which will allow the University to build the colleges, Elicker said, while Wednesday’s vote, also unanimous, was over the “nitty gritty” of the plans. Now that the site plan review is complete, Elicker said all major city hurdles to construction are over.

“Following this detailed plan approval by the city, the University now will work with its architects to complete the construction plans and specifications for the two new colleges, all of which is the normal course for any project,” Morand wrote. “This project is quite large, so there remains a good piece of work to complete the plans and specifications.”

The two new colleges will be located north of Grove Street Cemetery in the triangle comprised of Prospect, Canal and Sachem streets.

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