The final blueprints for New Haven’s redesigned downtown are one step closer to becoming a reality, as the architects for Gateway Community College’s new campus were announced earlier this month by the Connecticut Department of Public Works.

The New York architectural firm Perkins + Will was chosen by the department from a list of five candidates to design the community college’s new campus, which will be located on Church Street, in a space formerly occupied by Malley’s and Macy’s department stores. Perkins + Will is preparing designs for the campus as part of a team comprised of three other firms, including the Yale Urban Design Workshop, which is directed by architecture professor Alan Plattus.

Plattus, who said he has lived in New Haven for most of his adult life, said the challenge in designing the Gateway project will be integrating the site back into the fabric of the downtown. The space is currently empty, following the departures of Malley’s and Macy’s in 1982 and 1992, respectively.

“It’s on a critical site right in the middle of everything,” Plattus said. “It’s a site that’s been a big hole in the middle of New Haven for a long, long time now, so we want to leave it in a situation that strengthens and enhances everything that’s going on around it.”

The state of Connecticut last year approved a total of $180 million for New Haven’s redevelopment projects, said Adam Liegeot ’94, a spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Of that $180 million, $140 million is specifically for constructing Gateway’s new campus; the remaining $40 million will assist in relocating Long Wharf Theatre and in improving the downtown infrastructure and parking facilities.

“The bottom line is that this announcement marks yet another positive stride forward for the city’s downtown,” Liegeot said.

Gateway is currently the state’s fastest-growing community college, with 11,000 students, Gateway public relations director Evelyn Gard said, and the school is expecting the new centrally located campus to attract even more students. Currently, Gateway is situated on two separate sites, one at Long Wharf and one in North Haven.

“If we continue growing at this rate, I would imagine that by the time we open the doors, we would be around 13,000,” Gard said. “I also expect that because it’s a new campus, people will be drawn to it.”

Gateway Community College President Dorsey Kendrick said she is very excited about the selection of Perkins + Will and looks forward to working with them to develop a campus that can engage both the college community and the surrounding city.

“I’d like for the new campus to be a campus that’s open to the community,” Kendrick said. “While it’s a college, it still has things that the community can be involved in.”

While Kendrick said she has yet to sit down with the selected team to begin discussing potential plans, she said she hopes the final design will incorporate resources that could serve the larger New Haven community, such as a community center, a bookstore or a computer lab.

“I would like to see a large community center where we can continue to have activities where the external community can come in,” Kendrick said. “These are things that would create a sense of community.”

Gard said although the school has not yet met with the architectural team, she estimates that the building will likely be around four stories, with the possibility of a fifth floor being added. She said that she expects the building will have some ground-floor facilities meant to be open and accessible to the public, such as a bookstore, day care center or food service vendors.

“The idea of having some kind of college-affiliated retail on the ground floor is actually very attractive to us,” she said.

Plattus agreed with Kendrick and Gard that ground-floor accessibility would be an important part of the final plan.

“I think that’s something that we’re certainly going to explore,” he said. “What are the ways in which the college can shake hands, so to speak, with the city? It’s going to be something that’s very open and hopefully very lively.”

Plattus said he is not yet sure when the plans for the new facilities will be finished, although he said the college is set to open the new campus by 2010.