If Monday’s sunshine and warm weather are any indicator, 360 State, the mixed-use development project in downtown New Haven, has a bright future.

In a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site Monday morning, an audience of over 150 listened to project developers and city officials talk about the implications of the 700,000-square-foot, 30-story complex for New Haven’s job and housing market, public transportation options and downtown revitalization efforts. After the speeches, 10 project developers and city officials dug shovels into a pile of dirt at the site, marking the official beginning of construction.

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When completed, 360 State will contain a grocery store, restaurants, retail, four stories of parking, a bike storage facility and 500 apartments, 50 of which will be “affordable” housing, said Bruce Becker ARC ’85 SOM ’85, president of Becker + Becker, the self-titled green development firm coordinating the project.

In his opening speech, Becker elaborated on the benefits 360 State will bring to New Haven, stating that the project will be the largest single private investment in the city’s history.

“It’s green, transit-oriented development, providing high-quality jobs and secure, attractive returns for union pensions,” Becker said.

The project, which will be the largest residential building ever built in Connecticut, will meet the LEED Gold standard for environmentally sustainable construction, Becker added.

After acknowledging the irony of pursuing a $160-million housing project amid an economic downturn caused by a housing crisis, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. echoed Becker’s claim that 360 State will have significant benefits for New Haven’s economy.

“There is demand — demand for housing — just as the market is driving the demand for labor and capital to this project,” DeStefano said. “We can’t look at this project without seeing what is happening in the rest of this city.”

DeStefano said the market for 360 State will draw upon housing demand created by the other New Haven development projects in the works: Smilow Cancer Hospital, the renovation of the social science facilities on Prospect Street and Yale’s two new residential colleges.

Despite the city officials’ and developers’ enthusiasm for 360 State, some said they are not so sure the project, whose retail may target consumers with above-average incomes, will pay off. One New Haven resident and City Hall employee said she felt there was a mixed reaction in the community toward 360 State, with many wondering if the average resident would actually benefit.

Suffolk Construction Company, Inc., a $1.5-billion building contracting firm overseeing the construction of 360 State, is currently ahead of schedule and expects to complete work by summer 2010, Becker said at the ceremony.