After 20 years of vacancy, the old Macy’s men’s store at 21 Temple St. will be occupied by new tenants. After an initial proposal in July of 2002, the city has awarded Olympia Properties, a development firm based in New Haven, the bid for the site.
The 16,000 square-foot space, which is owned by the New Haven Parking Authority, makes up the ground level of the Temple Street garage, a nine-story building with a 1,250 car capacity.
Parking Authority executive director William Kilpatrick said Olympia was chosen based on its proposal and its past accomplishments in New Haven. He said rather than focusing specifically on what the city wanted at the site, they discussed with Olympia the kinds of tenants they did not want there, including adult entertainment outlets and nightclubs.
“Generally speaking we want to have things that are going to enhance the overall climate and economic development of New Haven — to make it the beautiful downtown that it once was,” Kilpatrick said.
Todd Nicotra, a representative of Olympia Properties, said it was hoping to get three or four varied retail tenants, either local or national, for the space. Possible options include a restaurant, bookstore, florist, coffee shop or grocery store. He said the tenants will match the needs of a growing downtown population.
“Ideally a mix [of retail] would be best. I guess we’re looking for something that would blend well with downtown New Haven right now — you see a lot more people living in downtown, and the more people that live there, the more the need is for basic services,” Nicotra said.
Nicotra said the cost of development was uncertain at this stage. They will only know the extent of the necessary renovations when tenants are secured.
But generally, Nicotra said the renovations would be substantial since the building has been vacant for such a long period of time.
“Basically, everything needs to be done to it,” he said. “It’s going to look nice. It’s going to be really exciting to see it come together; in the last few years this block has seen a lot of growth, and it’s done really well.”
Olympia Properties will be searching for tenants during the next three to six months, after which they will begin renovating the building to conform to the needs of the tenants.
Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said New Haven has seen a lot of growth downtown in recent years, especially in the renovation of old, dormant buildings such as the Macy’s site project. He said after Macy’s redesigned the interior of its men’s store by painting the windows black, the character of the street declined.
“We’re very excited. It’ll be the first time in years that that part of the street will start to come alive again,” Bialecki said, adding that another promising development project in the area is the Bow Tie Partners building at 80 Temple St., which will include a movie theater and other amenities.
Bialecki said people are continually looking to purchase sites downtown, but with the exception of surface parking lots, there are very few left. The current trend is for development to “move outward” from the downtown area to other important or historical locations across the city.
Olympia owns a number of buildings in New Haven, including the Olympia Building at 142 Temple St. that houses the Playwright Restaurant, Anderson Mansion at 442 Orange St., 199 Crown St., and several properties along Whitney Ave. that include a mixture of small office tenants.
“We really believe in New Haven — we have really focused on projects within the city, so everything we own is in New Haven. It’s an exciting place to be,” Nicotra said.