Aldermen weigh Whalley developments

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Photo by Diana Li.

Representatives of the Greater Dwight Development Corporation presented their plans Thursday night to the joint community development and legislation committee of the Board of Aldermen to purchase two parcels of land near Stop and Shop off of Whalley Avenue.

Dwight Golden — a non-profit company affiliated with the GDDC — presented the proposal to purchase 485 Orchard St. and 561 Elm St. from the city. The plan calls for the group to spend one dollar to buy the two plots, which currently stand as unused vacant lots, and then finance their environmental cleanup. After this, Dwight Golden plans to lease the land to Stop and Shop on Whalley Avenue for the development of a gas fueling station on the properties.

Shaw’s Supermarket, also previously located on Whalley Avenue, shut down in March 2010; Stop and Shop opened in its place in April 2011. Stop and Shop operates discount gas stations, with one nearby on Amity Road in New Haven. Like the Stop and Shop store and gas station on Amity Road, customers receive points with purchases at the store that can be used to help pay for fuel at the adjoining gas station.

“A while ago, we were devastated when Shaw’s pulled out of the city and we had no full service grocery store,” said Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s economic development administrator, who added that both of the land parcels in question are in need of drastic cleaning. “The [GDDC’s] project will get the sites cleaned up, result in investment by Stop and Shop, strengthen the overall shopping district, and provide social services and community development.”

Another benefit of developing the vacant lot into a gas station will be additional taxes to the government after the gas station is built, Murphy said.

According to Linda Townsend Maier, the executive director of GDDC, the Dwight community has played an “integral role” in the decision-making process and tends to be supportive of GDDC’s work in the area. Four residents testified and expressed their support for the selling of the land and the construction of the gas station.

“This [plan] is important to keep the Stop and Shop viable. It generates more loyalty among customers, it generates more sales, and it turns into tax payments for the city,” said Lynn Smith, who works at Start Community Bank on Whalley Avenue. “I think this store is an example of a good corporate customer and they deserve and have earned our support.”

The gas station will have to replace certain existing parking spaces in the area around Stop and Shop, and GDDC also requested that the Board of Aldermen approve their request to lower the number of required parking spaces in the area. Currently, the ratio is 4.5 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of supermarket floor area; GDDC wants to lower it to 3.75, according to the proposal. At most, the supermarket will remove 13 parking spaces.

To demonstrate that the impact this change will be minimal, the GDDC commissioned a study that concluded that over half of the lot’s 357 spaces are not used even during peak hours, Murphy said.

“[The vacant lot] is an eyesore that has brought down the perception of the neighborhood for the past twenty years. It’s an embarrassment for the people that live in the area to drive by that very unsightly location,” said Kate Walton, a city resident who lives nearby.

Also present at Thursday’s committee meeting were Janis Foo LAW ’13 and Ming-Yee Lin ’13, who are serving as legal counsel for GDDC.

The Board of Aldermen will vote on whether to approve the proposals on Oct. 15.

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