Yale students might soon have a new furniture-purchasing option besides the Salvation Army, the Rubber Match, and the Yale Bookstore. On Oct. 2, a proposal to allow Swedish furniture chain IKEA to buy and rebuild the old Pirelli Tire site came one step closer to realization when New Haven’s City Plan Commission unanimously passed a proposal to rezone the site.
The proposal would allow IKEA to build a 300,000-square-foot store at the site on Sargent Drive. Last month, Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez referred the matter to the City Plan Commission and the Board of Aldermen’s Legislation Committee for consideration.
“The Pirelli building is just sitting there doing nothing,” said Ward 7 Alderwoman Dolores Colon. “It needs to be developed.”
According to Joy Ford, a planner at the New Haven City Plan Department, the committee members decided at the meeting to pass the change-of-zone proposal to create a planned development district. A planned development district for the New Haven Galleria mall already exists at the same site, but since that classification can only refer to one project, the area must be rezoned specifically for IKEA.
There will be another meeting Oct. 15 before the Legislation Committee of the Board of Aldermen. If the proposal is approved, it will go back to the main board for another vote.
Several members of the Board of Aldermen said they are enthusiastic about the proposal.
“IKEA’s not my taste, but it is a good store,” said Ward 24 Alderwoman Elizabeth McCormack. “It will bring people into New Haven to shop, and anything that does that is a good thing.”
The plan’s supporters hope that the store will encourage economic growth and help revitalize that particular area of New Haven.
Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold said she is “more than satisfied in terms of the career ladder that IKEA provides.”
IKEA, which as of Aug. 31 of last year had 143 stores in 22 countries, would be a short drive from the Yale area on Interstate 95 . If plans for the store continue and are approved, it should open in the spring of 2004.
The proposal includes partial demolition and adaptive reuse of the former Pirelli building, as well as surface parking for the store and the adjoining office buildings.
According to a report from the New Haven City Plan Commission, there have been some concerns over how construction might affect the surrounding area. Development would include traffic improvements such as widening roads, adding turn lanes, and installing new and upgraded traffic signals. These improvements are all proposed at the developer’s cost and will need the approval of the State Traffic Commission.
The commission agreed with the Department of Traffic and Parking that these improvements may slightly depreciate the existing level of traffic service in the area at peak store hours. It also found, however, that IKEA’s estimates for traffic problems are for the “worst case” and they generally overestimate what the problem could be.
“In terms of economic development, it’s the best proposal we’ve seen in a long time,” Gold said. “I don’t see any cons.”