New Haven’s historical Wooster Square district, known for its cherry blossom trees and proximity to delectible pizzas and canolies on Wooster Street, is about to get a facelift.
The Elm City plans to sell four parking lots in Wooster Square to convert them to four small family homes. Erik Johnson, the executive director of the Liveable City Initiative, said these parking spaces are highly underutilized, as less than a dozen cars park there each day. After the city receives bids on Nov. 27 for the lots, a five-person committee, including aldermen, City Hall staff and Wooster Square residents, will review the bids and present Johnson and the Liveable City Initiative with a recommendation.
“These parking lots are not well-used right now,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “Selling these lots will produce revenue for the city and will help provide housing for families in a beautiful historic area.”
The development marks a major neighborhood change in the minds of locals. Charlie Murphy, a resident of the district and member of the historic Wooster Square Association, said he cannot remember any new construction in the neighborhood since 1970.
Johnson said the highest bidder will not necessarily receive the site. The initial committee will choose a proposal it believes is in the best interest of the neighborhood, Johnson said. Since the parking spaces are within a designated historic district, buildings will have to uphold the integrity of the Wooster Square neighborhood.
“Wooster Square is a neighborhood we found people want to live in,” Johnson said. “The city needs to build more quality housing … to try and strengthen what’s already a great neighborhood.”
City Hall Spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 stressed that the bidding process is open to anyone, not only construction companies. An individual may purchase a property and hire a construction company to do build his or her home, she said.
Alderman Michael Smart is in charge of selecting which community members will serve on the five-person committee, Benton said. Once the committee has come to a consensus, the recommendation will be passed to Johnson, who will make an assessment of what is “financially feasible,” he said. It is too early to speculate on when construction will begin since they city has not received bids, Johnson said.
Some residents, like Murphy, have reservations about the new buildings. While Murphy said he generally supports the idea of new development because additional homes lead to a more “alive” neighborhood, he is concerned about the loss of parking. At times, parking around the square can be scarce, so eliminating some parking may cause traffic problems, he said.
Murphy said he parks in the street instead of in the parking lots because the lots cost money, but he said some of his friends use the parking space on the corner of Green and Olive — one of the parking lots that will be converted. He added that several cars are usually parked at the lot.
Wednesday marked the deadline for bidders to submit questions about the site to city officials, and city representatives will respond to questions by the end of the week.
Wooster Square became a historic district on June 11, 1970.