After more than three decades as a parking lot, a block at the corner of Orange and Grove streets will soon be transformed into hundreds of new apartments.
South Norwalk developer Spinnaker Real Estate will begin construction in fall of next year on a 269-unit mixed-use apartment complex on the parcel of land next to Trinity Baptist Church, replacing 484 parking spaces. Frontier Communications sold the lot, which makes up the majority of the block, to Spinnaker for $5 million this May. The only condition was that Spinnaker provide parking spaces to Frontier employees in the new garage that Spinnaker will build. The new project will stand seven stories tall, with ground-floor spaces for commercial use.
Spinnaker aims to break ground on the $75 million to $80 million complex, which will require 18 months of construction, in the third quarter of 2017. City Hall must first approve the project.
“We think New Haven is a promising area, one of the few areas in Connecticut that feels like an urban city,” said Matthew Edvardsen, who is the head of the project.
Though the city initially thought it would have to set up a fund to build a parking garage on the site, the developer was willing to provide a parking garage on its own, said New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81.
The apartment complex, which will encircle the 500-lot parking garage, will comprise 177 one-bedroom units and 36 studio units. The remaining units will be two- or three-bedroom apartments and townhouses along Audubon Street.
“It looks like a well-designed, well-thought-out plan,” said Pete Maniatis, owner of local eatery Zoi’s, which is located next to the project on Orange Street. “Nothing was a surprise because [Spinnaker] did a good job of getting community feedback.”
Throughout the design phase, the developers hosted several community meetings, Maniatis said. Sometimes they went door to door to talk with people in the area, he added.
Allocating a portion of the complex for retail was one of the ideas discussed by developers and community members. Spinnaker will set aside 4,000 square feet of space bordering Orange Street for restaurants and possibly clothing stores, Nemerson said.
“[The apartment complexes] start becoming self-contained livable cities,” Maniatis said.
He added that he predicts Zoi’s, which has been open for 13 years, will have more customers because of the development.
The eatery, which employs 12 residents, could hire up to six more employees once the complex is occupied, Maniatis said. Zoi’s physical space might also expand if Maniatis were to purchase the neighboring Egidio’s Hair Studio to expand the deli’s seating capacity.
Though several law firms surround the new development’s block, many of the nearby tenants are medical and graduate students at Yale University, Zoi’s said. Some apartments are even rented by Yale parents so they have a place to stay while visiting their children since New Haven does not have many hotels, he added.
Before the lot became a parking space in the 1980s, it housed the newsroom and printing press of the New Haven Register, Nemerson said. The neighboring lot was home to an event center called the New Haven Arena. The Register moved to the building that is now Jordan’s Furniture and the arena closed in the 1970s because of the competing New Haven Coliseum on Orange Street, which was demolished in 2007.
The New Haven division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation built its headquarters on the old arena site, while developers considered using the Register’s old lot for office buildings, Nemerson said. But time ran out and Southern New England Telephone purchased the site for employee parking.
Frontier Communications purchased Southern New England Telephone in 2014, becoming owners of the lot.