Wire fences on the corner of Howe and Edgewood streets may soon be replaced by sculpture projects as Yale officials move forward on plans to redevelop a surface parking lot into a new home for sculptors at the School of Art.

Yale officials submitted a proposal to redevelop Lot 80 as a mixed use site to New Haven’s City Plan department earlier this month, Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said. If the city approves the proposal, construction is slated to begin next March and would aim for completion in August 2007. The sculpture program will not move into the building until a year after the project’s completion, as the site will house the Yale School of Architecture during the renovation of the Art and Architecture Building.

The new four-story, 55,100 square foot home for the sculpture program will sit in the center of the block bounded by Chapel Street, Howe Street, Edgewood Avenue and Park Street. The plans also include the construction of a one-story gallery facing Edgewood Avenue and a four-story parking garage with retail space on the first floor facing Howe Street.

In addition to moving the sculpture program from Prospect Street to the center of the Art School campus, the redevelopment of Lot 80 will help turn abandoned sidewalks into a retail and arts area, Morand said.

“Surface parking is an underperforming use for urban land,” Morand said. “This dynamic project will maximize use of a key site for the campus and the neighborhood. The presence of active retail and office uses on Howe Street will transform a barren midblock stretch into a vibrant one.”

After being plagued by crime and retail troubles a decade ago, the Upper Chapel area has undergone a resurgence in recent years, but community members said Lot 80 is a remaining blemish on Howe Street. New Haven real estate developer Joel Schiavone ’58 said he welcomes any development that will eliminate the unsightly wire fences surrounding Yale’s surface parking lot.

“We need to get rid of those fences,” Schiavone said. “We need to create life on Howe Street. The only dead spot on the entire street right now is [Lot 80]. I don’t think it makes any difference what goes there as long as they put something there.”

Local business owners said they were excited about the redevelopment plans. Chapel West Special Services District Manager Brian McGrath said his business advocacy group, which opposed the city’s plans to move the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School to Lot 80 two years ago, will support Yale’s redevelopment efforts.

“Our board … decided they would support it completely,” McGrath said. “It’ll bring a lot of life to the area, foot traffic, and students to Howe Street. It’s going to help us. It’s not going to cause us any burden.”

McGrath said the city’s plans to move the Arts COOP to the site were met with fierce opposition because of the project’s large scale and the lack of built-in parking. But School of Architecture critic and Director of Exhibitions Dean Sakamoto said Yale’s plans are significantly different because the proposed four-story parking garage will add 100 additional parking spaces to the area as well as a strip of retail establishments on its ground floor.

“It’s a vital portion of Howe Street that really needs the residential services, laundromats, restaurants markets,” said Sakamoto, who has been involved in Chapel West’s efforts to revitalize the district. “[The addition of] retail that keeps decent hours, long hours in the evening, will enhance [the area’s atmosphere].”

The retail strip, along with the security offices that will be housed in the building, will also improve safety on Howe and Edgewood streets and increase foot traffic in the area, where many Yale students live in off-campus housing, Morand said.

“Areas that have more activity and more people using them are safer,” Morand said. “The combination of academic, office and retail in this project will add dynamism to a neighborhood that already has a great base of residences and restaurants.”

Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen ’01 said she has been looking forward to the redevelopment of Lot 80 for years and approves of Yale’s plan. But Chen said Yale officials need to make sure that the new parking lot does not exclude community members.

“There are a lot of people who live on the street who … don’t have access to Lot 80,” Chen said. “[Yale should] expand their parking policy in [the new parking building] … to be open to more people in the community.”

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