Given the attention the News has given to the Broadway District, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss University Properties’ overall philosophy on Broadway.
Fifteen years ago, Broadway was a very different place. There were significant vacancies, many of the buildings were beyond their useful life and students did not always feel comfortable in the area, particularly in the evening when there was no activity.
Today, Broadway is an inviting area for students, residents and visitors offering a variety of different shops and restaurants across multiple price points. There is also more to come. Buildings have been renovated, weekend events and promotions are held on Broadway Island and we continue to make parking improvements. Yale University Properties’ mission is to enhance the quality of life in New Haven by providing a unique merchandising mix of restaurants and shops. Through Yale’s community investment program, the University has contributed to the vibrancy of downtown New Haven, created jobs and become one of the city’s top taxpayers.
As students are only here about eight months of the year, it is critical to find tenants who not only serve our immediate local population, but also draw shoppers from a wide radius around New Haven. The mix on Broadway cannot only cater to students or the merchants do not survive, as past history demonstrates. University Properties is, however, sensitive to students’ needs. Given the diversity of the Yale population, not all stores will appeal to all students.
It is not surprising — and it is indeed rewarding — to see the level of interest Yale students show in our downtown community. There were a number of Yale students who spoke thoughtfully and constructively to University Properties about their concerns regarding Gourmet Heaven’s labor violations. They understood that as a landlord, the University has only certain legal rights and that there were many considerations to take into account, including the welfare of the existing employees. The Broadway lease was set to expire in two years; University Properties and Gourmet Heaven agreed to an earlier termination of June 2015. This was done to give everyone, including the several dozen employees, time to adjust to this circumstance. University Properties will be looking for a similar grocery-type business to serve students’ needs, hopefully one that operates 24 hours a day.
We at University Properties welcome feedback from all sources and we run student focus groups and surveys to solicit input. We encourage you to attend the upcoming College Night on September 12, a shopping event designed specifically for university students, and fill out one of our surveys letting us know what you would like to see on Broadway.
In the end, each tenant does their own work in projecting sales volumes. On Broadway we have a limited number of large spaces for tenants who need a significant amount of square feet. Retailers make their own decisions about whether to bring their business to Broadway. It is our job to make their decision as easy as possible by providing a successful and inviting retail environment.
Lauren Zucker is the Associate Vice President for University Properties and New Haven Affairs.