For most Yale students, New Haven’s underdeveloped Ninth Square district is no more than a spot passed on the 10-minute cab ride to Union Station.
Bordered on the west and east by Church and State streets and on the north and south by Chapel and George streets, the Ninth Square district was the last of New Haven’s original nine squares to undergo redevelopment — a historical reality apparent in the vacant storefronts and crumbling buildings that have defined the area for as long as any Yale student can remember.
But the district’s mixed population of small commercial interests and middle-income residential tenants may soon have to pass by one less vacant building as they go about their business in the neighborhood.
A Branford, Conn., development and restoration company and the owner of a Chapel Street restaurant have submitted a joint proposal to the city to restore the old National Hotel at 116-120 Crown St. and to turn it into a combination restaurant, high-class hotel and loft-style apartment complex.
Anderson Wilcox Corporation and Suzette Franco-Camacho, owner of Roomba, a Latin American restaurant on Chapel Street, have offered the city $15,000 for the building, which was badly damaged in a fire and then acquired by New Haven three years ago through foreclosure.
Doug Anderson, a partner with Anderson Wilcox, said this is a “great opportunity” for his firm and for Franco-Camacho.
“We have the capital, and this is a chance for us to get in on Ninth Square on its way up,” Anderson said.
Franco-Camacho declined to comment about the proposal.
The partners hope to turn the ground floor of the five-story building into a restaurant and then convert the second floor into six New York City-style boutique hotel units featuring Internet access and in-room work stations.
The three remaining floors will house two 12,000-square foot loft-style apartments, which the owners plan to rent on a monthly or yearly basis, Anderson said.
If completed, the project would cost about $1.4 million, said Mark Nichols, an official with the Livable City Initiative.
Nichols added he is excited about what he hopes will be a first step in realizing the city’s long-term vision for Ninth Square — converting it into an upscale residential-commercial district with loft-style apartment complexes and art galleries.
“We’re getting closer,” he said. “It’s been tough to get the feel we want because renovating the old buildings in Ninth Square was so expensive.”
Many who are familiar with the Ninth Square project have speculated about the city’s apparent inability to implement its long-term goals for the area.
“It looks like they’re starting to bring stuff in to Ninth Square — but they should have done it ages ago,” Anderson said.
Nichols added that over the last 10 years, the city has been approached by several non-profit organizations who wanted to renovate space in Ninth Square but did not have the money or resources to do so.
“The roof of the National Hotel building was blown off in a fire — no nonprofit has the resources to fix a problem like that,” Nichols said.
Anderson added that there was a “strong possibility” that his firm would be involved in Ninth Square development if the National Hotel project was successful.
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