Locals divided over residential development

With a new residential housing development in the works, the corner of Chapel and Howe Streets may soon become a destination for more than Miya’s Sushi and Rudy’s Bar and Grill.

Stamford-based construction firm RMS Companies submitted a proposal to the New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals in mid-September for a 136-unit apartment complex at the corner of Chapel and Howe Streets. RMS founder and lead project developer Randy Salvatore said the complex will enliven the neighborhood by drawing significantly more foot traffic. Local residents, however, fear a large residential building will overwhelm the area’s parking capacity and clash with the neighborhood’s historic roots.

“The proposal sits in front of the Board of Zoning Appeals right now,” said Joy Ford, an official at the city plan department. “The city plan department thinks Salvatore presents good qualifications for his proposal, but there are some remaining concerns about design.”

The residential development would occupy the current 1229, 1245 and 1249 Chapel St. properties as well as the 169 and 175 Dwight St. lots. According to Salvatore, the location is a strong site for housing and will help meet the large demand for more high-quality housing in New Haven.

While Salvatore said the project has been met with broad support from Yale-affiliated, neighborhood and government organizations in New Haven, the proposal is not without its critics. Celeste Greer GRD ’15, a resident of 1249 Chapel, said she believes the 10 zoning variances the proposal seeks — which would exempt the property from certain zoning regulations — are too many for one building.

“The apartment complex doesn’t include any yard space and it destroys important historic buildings. Neighborhood events like the annual Chapel West party would be permanently altered,” Greer said.

If the proposal were approved, Greer’s building at 1249 Chapel St. would be demolished.

Olivia Martson, a Dwight Street resident and former Ward 2 alderperson, also voiced opposition to the proposal, raising concerns regarding the 90 parking spaces to be included in the apartment complex.

“Five years ago, Yale promised to open its Chapel Street parking garage to local residents who are not affiliated with Yale, but the University has not kept that promise,” Martson said. “I am frustrated that this apartment complex will add even more private parking spaces to the area when, with the still-private Yale lot, public options for parking are extremely limited.”

In spite of these and similar concerns, the New Haven Preservation Trust, the Chapel West Services District and the city’s Department of Economic Development all voiced support for the proposal.

John Herzan, preservation services officer of the New Haven Preservation Trust, said he is most focused on how the project will affect neighborhood historical properties. He said he was pleased to learn at a meeting held in August that two buildings on Dwight Street, both of which belong to the Dwight Street historical district, would be rehabilitated as part of Salvatore’s project. Tony Bialecki, deputy director of economic development for New Haven, said the Department of Economic Development and Salvatore both agree the complex will revitalize its surrounding neighborhood.

“The developer is proposing a building type that fits in well with the immediate neighborhood, serves a need, will activate the street and immediate area with 130-175 new residents who will shop, eat and enliven the streets and immediate neighborhood,” Bialecki said.

Salvatore said he is intent on making compromises with wary neighbors in the hopes of gaining their support for his project. In response to locals’ concerns, he said he has altered the original façade of the building to appear more like a retail location. He also added a provision to the project proposal that would allow the space devoted to parking to be significantly reduced in the future, should residents decide less parking is needed.

Regardless of the concerns neighbors’ have expressed, Salvatore said he is highly optimistic that the Board of Zoning appeals will approve his proposal, adding that the neighbors’ opposition is typical of compromises between developers and local residents.

“Certain neighbors definitely want parts of the proposed project tweaked. We at RMS are trying our best to accommodate these requests as best we can,” Salvatore said. “In fact, we have delayed meeting with the city plan commission until November or December just so we could continue meeting with people affected by the project.”

The New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, Oct. 9th.

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