During its four years at Yale, the Class of 2001 has witnessed the revitalization of the Broadway shopping district, but it will miss out on the chance to enjoy the finished product.
While New Haven is not yet a world-class shopping destination, its recent success in attracting retailers like Urban Outfitters, Au Bon Pain and New York-style convenience store Gourmet Heaven to Broadway have transformed the once-defunct commercial district. Proud of its latest project, the University hopes the Elm City will soon become a new haven for student and adult shoppers.
Located at an intersection of heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic, Broadway is the chief commercial district for the Yale campus. While New Haven has its historic boutiques on Chapel Street with expensive restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere, Broadway had long lacked the quality, affordable shops and restaurants that would attract consistent student interest.
Over the last five years, Yale has pursued an aggressive retailer recruitment and construction campaign by terminating leases with several tenants, erecting new buildings to house big-name retailers, and adding to its real estate holdings in the areas beyond what was traditionally Yale’s part of the city.
Under the careful guidance of Bruce Alexander, vice president for New Haven and state affairs, and John Maturo, director of University Properties, Yale has breathed its own kind of life into the Broadway shopping district.
Maturo, whose office of students and professionals is responsible for the management of Yale’s real estate holdings in New Haven, is looking for a specific clientele. The University Properties portfolio is primarily looking to accommodate college students and the general under-40 young professional set, Maturo said.
The first major step in the Broadway project occured in the fall of 1997 — during the Class of 2001’s first semester — when Yale replaced the 112-year old Yale Co-op with Barnes & Noble bookstore. The Co-op, which stood at 27 Broadway since 1885 and was the chief supplier of textbooks to Yale students, was forced to move to 936 Chapel St. The switch resulted in the Co-op declaring bankruptcy in 1999, and in the fall of 2000 it ceased operations. This shift from traditional Broadway tenants to trendier merchants characterized the revitalization project on Broadway.
Yale administrators were careful to consider student opinions when deciding what retailers to pursue. Two years ago, University Properties coordinated small focus groups to discuss people’s views on Broadway. Approximately 200 students and New Haven residents participated in the discussions, and an additional 300 people filled out surveys.
With the long-anticipated arrival of upscale clothing chain Urban Outfitters this spring, University Properties acquired what they had been seeking for years — an anchor retailer.
The Urban Outfitters building, also home to women’s clothier Alexia Crawford and new student organization meeting space, suffered many construction delays before it finally opened on March 31.
Another jewel of the redevelopment is the increasingly popular but pricey convenience store Gourmet Heaven, whose arrival came after the University Properties announcement that Krauszer’s, a traditional convenience store on York Street, would lose its lease. University Properties retail recruiters spent 1999-2000 looking for an upscale grocery store which would provide better quality food, the basic necessities and a warm environment for students.
Boasting a premium deli, a wide selection of gourmet and health-food-store groceries, and a 24-hour operating schedule, Gourmet Heaven fills what some claim was an important niche. The University had several complaints about Krauszer’s, including uncleanliness and high prices. But students were unhappy to see the lease of a campus landmark terminated. A poll conducted in September found that 73 percent of Yale students wanted Krauszer’s to stay. This decision demonstrated the somewhat limited voice students had in the Broadway project.
While many have been happy with Gourmet Heaven in the few months it has been open, complaints concerning high prices have plagued the store.
The delays in the construction of both Urban Outfitters and Gourmet Heaven meant that graduating seniors had little time to enjoy the two stores, as well as recently opened creperie Whimsel’s; 21 Broadway, a 24-hour pizzeria and sandwich shop; and Ivy Noodle — which, like its sister store in Cambridge, Mass., serves a wide variety of Asian noodle dishes.
While many Yale students are pleased with the final project, members of the Class of 2001 graduate having seen the hard work which went into the Broadway redevelopment, but unable to fully enjoy the fruits that later classes will.