City planners are preparing to move forward with the second phase of an economic development project that would connect downtown New Haven and Union Station.
At a Monday meeting at the New Haven Public Library, city representatives presented the plans for phase two of the New Haven Downtown Crossing/Route 34 East project, which aims to link downtown with Union Station and the Hill.
The Downtown Crossing project has been in the works for a decade. The project’s goal is to increase New Haven’s livability, walkability and connectivity while moving away from the wide, one-way boulevards favored by city planners in the post-World War II period. It aims to connect New Haven’s downtown, the Medical Center and the Hill by constructing city streets.
The first phase of the project, the construction of the Alexion Pharmaceuticals building at 100 College St., is currently underway. The planners hope that the project will boost New Haven’s economy while making southern downtown a mixed-use, pedestrian- and bike-friendly community easily accessible from the train station.
Meanwhile, the second phase of Downtown Crossing focuses on the intersection of Route 34 with Orange Street. Currently, Route 34 cuts off South Orange Street from its northern section. The plans for the second phase propose that Orange Street should be extended through Route 34 to join South Orange Street south of the highway.
“The goal is to make the walk from downtown to the train station more welcoming,” said Michael Piscitelli, the deputy economic development administrator for the city.
With the construction, Route 34 will meet a red light at the intersection with Orange Street, located east of the red light in place at Church Street. Piscitelli noted that with the proposed red light on Orange Street, pedestrians would no longer need to walk under the Route 34 bridge to reach Union Station, a point attendees received enthusiastically.
The project also includes adding a mixture of devoted and shared bike lanes as well as more clearly delineated pedestrian crossings.
“We’re seeking to make Route 34 into a 21st century urban boulevard,” said Executive Director of the City Planning Department Karyn Gilvarg, explaining that boulevards now tend to be more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.
Max Reim, a director of the Coliseum redevelopment project — which aims to construct a mixed-use development on the 4.5 acre parking lot on Route 34 — described the project as “stitching the community together with the South Orange Street crossing.”
Mayor Toni Harp echoed this sentiment, similarly emphasizing that the project seeks to unify communities.
“The first of these [goals] involves knitting together a community that has been artificially separated now for decades,” she said in a press release.
Project planners hope the Downtown Crossing project will also spur economic development and attract new residents to downtown New Haven. The project includes the construction of 320 apartments and 200 hotel rooms, as well as nearly 400,000 square feet of university and research space. Planners added that the Downtown Crossing project is also necessary for the success of the Coliseum redevelopment project, which will add another 524 apartments and 160 hotel rooms to the city.
The Downtown Crossing project, according to its planners, seeks to make the area between downtown, the Medical Center and the Hill neighborhood feel more urban. “Route 34 will come to a stop on Orange Street, which is intended to make Route 34 feel more like an city street and less like a highway,” said Piscitelli.
Other components of the project, including reducing the width of lanes on Route 34 and making lighting on the highway more lane-specific, will hopefully limit speeding on the highway, Gilvarg said.
Construction on the Alexion Pharmaceuticals building began last year and is scheduled for completion sometime in 2015. The Board of Alders approved the second phase earlier this year.