Slowly but surely, downtown New Haven is coming back to life.

Since a major urban renewal program a generation ago, New Haven’s downtown had become known more for its decaying structures than for its once-innovative institutions.

But all that could soon change.

With plans to revamp the Chapel Square Mall, as well as a newly-revived Broadway shopping district with stores including Urban Outfitters and J. Crew, New Haven’s downtown may be on its way back to its past glory.

In early April, New Haven sold the shopping mall to developers. By New Year’s Day, new stores could move in to the 160,000 square-foot mall, which will undergo major renovations during the summer.

Other nearby landlords have joined the redevelopment trend. Yale University Properties has been working for months to fill two vacant storefronts on Chapel Street just a block from the mall.

But two vacant parcels the size of city blocks remain adjacent to the shopping mall. Formerly, the sites housed the Macy’s and homegrown Malley’s department stores. Now, New Haven officials hope to infuse additional retail and arts destinations into the sites, which are city-owned.

One possible tenant is the Long Wharf Theater, which has outgrown its 37-year home on Sargent Drive in the Long Wharf neighborhood. Theater management is considering both of the former department store’s plots.

But while vibrant days soon may return to the Chapel Square Mall, the New Haven Coliseum — a signature arena now considered to be decaying — may require demolition.

The city already devotes $600,000 of its share of the state’s hotel tax to the arena annually. New Haven will decide this summer if it will keep the arena open.

If the Coliseum does stay open, it would require $30 million to repair the 11,171-seat structure.

Meanwhile, the Broadway shopping district is in the final stage of a seven-year overhaul.

In the first phase, the city replaced cracked concrete sidewalks with wide brick walkways, improved streetlamps, and upgraded public parking.

In the next phase, the University renovated the Yale Bookstore and replaced dilapidated buildings with modernized stores.

University Properties upgraded its tenants with national retailers J. Crew and Urban Outfitters. Local eateries such as Koffee Too? and A One Pizza on Broadway offer late-night hours.

Currently just four vacancies remain in the district and University Properties expects to fill them next year.

–Yale Daily News