The first shops in the refurbished Chapel Square Mall should open this August, developer Lehr Jackson said Thursday.
Jackson, one of the principals of Williams Jackson Ewing, the firm developing the property, spoke at the Town Green Special Services District’s annual meeting. In addition to hearing Jackson’s presentation, members of the district, which stretches from the New Haven Coliseum to the Neighborhood Music School and the Yale Repertory Theater, focused on its accomplishments over the past year.
The firm has previously worked on Union Station in Washington, D.C.; Grand Central Terminal in New York City; and the University of Pennsylvania. Jackson said his firm stressed working with local businesses in all of its projects and plans to do the same in New Haven.
“The locals are really carrying this city,” Jackson said.
The developers are trying to stay away from the traditional idea of a mall, and the new center might even get a new name, Jackson said. They already have five anchor stores lined up, Jackson said. The plan he showed at the gathering included spaces mapped out for a home furnishings store, a fashion store, a restaurant, a cafe and a fitness entry.
An audience member questioned the impact that the incoming IKEA store in the Long Wharf area might have on the planned home furnishing store. But Jackson said the IKEA, which he called “a regional draw,” should actually benefit the mall by bringing more people to the city.
Jackson also addressed the logisitical issues of the Chapel Square site. He said Church Street is too wide and the sidewalk in front of the mall is too narrow. He called for better transportation in the region, including improvements to the airport and commuter rail system.
“Its location is phenomenal,” Jackson said. “But it’s tough to get here.”
Scott Healy ’96, executive director of the Town Green Special Services District, said businesses like Andrea Ward, Elm City Java, the Original Falafel and, most recently, MexiCali Grille, have helped to fill 20 vacant storefronts in the last year. District Chairman Eugene Harris agreed, commending the energy of downtown business owners.
Healy also praised the details that add to downtown life, citing activities such as the holiday store decorating contest and the facade improvement program as “those small things that make downtown pleasant.” He acknowledged the increased buzz about the city in the national media, which he credited to the Greater New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau, and urged the state not to cut its funding.
Chip Murphy, director of the Clean Team and the Downtown Ambassadors, praised each member of the units by name. The Clean Team maintains the upkeep of the district; the ambassadors aid visitors and promote safety. Last year, the team cleaned up 32,810 pounds of litter and the ambassadors worked at 540 different events.
The district also honored Jeff Ghazali of Bentara restaurant and Bitsie Clark, the former executive director of the Greater New Haven Arts Council, who left their positions on the board. Both received replicas of the planters that are placed throughout the district. Giuliana Maravelle, owner of Bottega Giuliana, was also honored. Healy praised Maravalle as “a visionary businessperson” and named her downtowner of the year.