Marriott’s plans to build a new Residence Inn in the Dwight neighborhood are facing serious opposition from neighborhood residents.
The plan was first proposed at a New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals meeting this past July, when Courtyard Marriott developer Douglas Cohen, CEO of the Newport Hotel Group, and his attorney James Perito presented a model for a six-story, 115-room residence inn behind the chain’s current Courtyard hotel located at 30 Whalley Ave. Intended to be a new inn to complement the current Marriott, the new hotel will have suites with kitchenettes to target visitors planning on extended stays, Cohen said.
If approved by both the New Haven City Plan Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Residence Inn will be up and running by spring 2016. Last night, the Commission denied the hotel’s request to count satellite parking lots toward the overall hotel quota. Law requires 267 spaces for a hotel of that size, and the current space devoted to space devoted to parking at the Residence Inn only holds 215 cars.
Last week Dwight neighborhood residents urged city zoners not to approve the Marriott’s request, stressing that the developers had not properly consulted the residents in the area. This was the first Board of Zoning Appeals meeting since the one at which the project was originally proposed.
“We need to start moving this project along,” Perito said at the meeting last week. “This is a business world, and we’d like to see this move forward.”
Two requests were discussed at the meeting: the permission for an increase in the floor-to-area ratio, which would allows a larger building than the zoning code permits, and a special exception to allow the hotel to provide only 215 parking spaces. Following the meeting Wednesday night, this approval has become an even more pressing issue for the Newport Hotel Group.
The Board has decided to vote on those two issues at the next Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in October.
Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglass said that, while he would like to see the hotel built, the developer has not shown enough true community engagement.
“When you look at the ways they are going about this in the community, there are concerns that need to be addressed and resolved,” Douglass said.
At the meeting, Perito said that some design changes were put into effect after the developer met with neighborhood residents and community groups.
Executive Director of the Whaley Avenue Special Services District Shelia Masterson was supportive of the expansion. She stated that the expansion would greatly increase the number of jobs in the area.
“Opening the new [Residence Inn] would create jobs for desk clerks and marketing directors and maids and housekeepers,” Masterson said.
In addition, Masterson said that she believes that New Haven lacks hotel room space. She added that the city is specifically deficient in rooms meant for long-term stay. Having worked in the hotel industry herself, Masterson said she remembers being booked months in advance for special events simply because there was not enough space to house visitors.
Of 20 Yale students interviewed, 15 said they were in favor of the Marriott’s expansion and 11 said their parents or relatives have faced difficulties booking rooms in the past, especially during busy times like Parents’ Weekend or Commencement.
Alexander Lu ’15, a resident of the area, testified at the Board meeting that the Marriott’s project would result in major parking problems and increased congestion for those living in the neighborhood.
The next Board of Zoning Appeals meeting will take place on Oct. 7.