December 17th, 2009 | News, University

City commission approves SOM plan

A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus.
A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus. Photo by Jordi Gassó.

Despite a recent outcry from New Haven residents, the Yale School of Management is one step closer to breaking ground on its new campus.

The City Plan Commission accepted the University’s application for the 246,000 square-foot campus, set to be located on Whitney Avenue and Sachem Street, at a meeting Wednesday evening.

But the approval was not granted without conditions.

The commission is requiring the University to widen the pedestrian and bicycle pathway adjacent to the planned building and to install around-the-clock lighting along the path. A third condition requires Yale to start construction no more than 90 days after demolition, which will help to keep the property from remaining an empty lot for too long, commission member and Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar said.

The remaining six of nine conditions are typical for similar proposals, the commission’s chairman, Edward Mattison, said. The SOM plan, with the nine conditions, will next be submitted to the Board of Aldermen for consideration.

The approval comes just five days after the commission received a petition from 20 residents in the area, who called the new building “out of keeping with its surroundings” and requested another commission hearing on the plan, designed by Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62.

Mattison said the petition was one of more than a dozen written submissions the commission received between a Board of Aldermen public hearing on Nov. 18 and last Friday, the deadline the commission set for submissions. Most submissions have primarily taken issue with the building’s glass and steel facade and its sprawl across the 4.39-acre site, Mattison added.

“The scale and aesthetics of this project have nothing to do with the adjacent neighborhood,” said Bradley Street resident Andrew Drabkin ’01, who helped to draft the recently submitted neighborhood petition.

New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell GRD ’78 agreed that the new design has difficulty blending in with the historic homes of the Lincoln-Bradley neighborhood.

“It opens up almost like a megaphone,” Farwell said of the building. “A lot of people have compared it to an airport, and that’s not the type of building that belongs in the neighborhood.”

SOM Dean Sharon Oster deferred comment to Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, the University’s associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs. Morand said in an e-mail this week that the SOM community will be a “good neighbor” to the surrounding residents, replacing existing asphalt with landscaping, for example.

Indeed, not all of the submissions the commission received fault the building’s design.

School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 wrote a letter defending the campus and calling the structure “a significant addition to the architectural conversation across time that Yale and New Haven have so productively engaged in over the many years.”

“I think it’s time to get this over with,” said SOM professor Douglas Rae, whose Lincoln Street home abuts the proposed campus. “I think the University has handled the project very generously, with endless meetings, endless discussions, endless tweakings of the plan — it’s finally time to start building.”

University Planner Laura Cruickshank said the new campus will be similar in square-footage to Kline Biology Tower. The site’s completion date is currently estimated for September 2013, she said. While she was not able to provide exact figures, Cruickshank added that fundraising for the project is nearing completion.

  • Anon.

    Is it just me or are the surroundings of the where they plan to put the business school somewhat dowdy. It seems a mixture of not very nice industrial buildings and the Lawn Club parking lot, which itself offers scenic views of other parking lots. I understand that they’re planning on building the new SOM next to a residential neighborhood, but it’s not as though what’s there at the moment is particularly pleasant.

  • Observer

    Hmmm…let’s see…a huge public school in Levin’s backyard. Now this…quid pro quo?? It’s the rest of us that get screwed.

  • TempleSt

    Mixed feeling. It’s true that the building style must evolve over time. It seems dumb to build a new campus with gothic revival style. It is too pretentious (sorry, YLS.)

    On the other hand, this glassy building doesn’t look “Yale-ish”. Will the Yale campus be full of glassy boxes 100 years later?

    Well, it is too late. The residents should understand what’s coming when they saw SOM selected Foster.

  • JR

    I think the design looks pretty cool.

  • Richard

    Why does the city even bother with these hearings? Can anyone name a Yale expansion project which was NOT approved? Columbia is going through the same thing in New York City right now. Is there any possibility whatsoever that the Manhattanville campus expansion project will not go through? My $0.02.

  • NF

    I was expecting something much more interesting when they selected Foster.

  • ’04

    @5: Plans for two new residential colleges in the early ’70s. Hardly small projects, either.

  • ’10

    It will be nice to have campus extended over Whitney, but I too find the design not to be very attractive. Doesn’t look like it will age well, and it doesn’t have much “soul.”

    On second thought, maybe that means it is indeed appropriate for SOM.

  • student

    Having all these big new buildings should have a traffic calming impact on Whitney. That’s great.

    It would be better if they included more pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure in the project, though.

    Sachem/Whitney should be a raised crosswalk and that area between Trumbull and Sachem, currently a no mans land for pedestrians, should be redesigned. Add a crosswalk to Bradley, narrow the street and add medians so that island park is usable.

  • Brad Ford

    I want to know who approved the current SOM building. It looks like an upscale moble home.