Negotiations for redeveloping the Chapel Square Mall have entered the home stretch.
The city entered exclusive negotiations with Baltimore-based development team Williams Jackson Ewing Inc. and Lubert-Adler Partners from Philadelphia in early January with the aim of closing the deal in 60 days. City officials remain hopeful they can reach an agreement within the next two weeks, but missing the deadline by several days would not cancel the contract.
“If it goes an extra week or two, it’s not a big deal,” said Tony Bialecki, a city economic development officer. “But we’re still shooting for the end of the month, but stretching into March would be fine.”
Currently, negotiations are centered around settling a lawsuit brought against New Haven by 155 Temple St. LC and its owner, David Cordish of Baltimore. Cordish, who developed the Omni-New Haven Hotel at Yale, sued the city when work on the now-canceled Long Wharf Mall project appeared to threaten the promised redevelopment of the 160,000 square foot Chapel Square Mall.
The city and the developing team initially declared Feb. 1 as the deadline for settling the lawsuit, but no settlement has been reached yet.
“They’re pretty close, just some due diligence remains,” Bialecki said. “The lawyers have their final details to work out. It’s a cross the T’s, dot the I’s type of thing.”
Bialecki said because the mall was part of an urban redevelopment project in the early 1960s, the legal aspects are more complicated than normal.
The developing team met its first major deadline in mid-January with a $1 million deposit to the city. New Haven would retain $100,000 if the deal falls through. The developing team is now acquiring additional surveys of the site.
But despite the delays in the lawsuit’s settlement, city officials said negotiations are proceeding as expected.
“Nothing hasn’t happened that is supposed to have happened so far,” Bialecki said.
Complicated redevelopment projects often take months to negotiate, said Henry Fernandez, New Haven’s economic development administrator.
“They are moving ahead as planned to date,” Fernandez said. “There haven’t been any big surprises. This is how projects like this work out.”
The developing team’s plan calls for adding street access to all stores, mixing independent and chain retailers, and renovating the office tower above the mall with a combination of residential and office units. The project would take several years to complete.
The city initially requested bids for redeveloping the entire site of the original Chapel Square Mall, which included the Omni Hotel and the Macy’s and Malley’s department stores.
But while Cordish revamped the hotel in 1998, plans for the mall’s former anchor stores are on hold. Macy’s remains empty, and the former site of Malley’s is now a vacant lot.
“It’s a ways down the road,” Bialecki said. “The feeling was we will get this done first, and then go from there.”