Facing community opposition, Newport Hotel Group has withdrawn its plans to build a Residence Inn hotel at the corner of Elm and Howe Streets, although it plans to apply again.
Though the project had been the subject of several city zoning meetings since July, neighborhood leaders have stressed that the hotel developers displayed a pattern of poor communication with residents of the Dwight neighborhood. The planners, residents said, failed to consider their input throughout the planning process. During a meeting last week between Newport Hotel Group CEO Douglas Cohen and the Dwight Central Management Team, a group of neighborhood representatives, Cohen withdrew the hotel group’s application to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals for development, saying he hopes to incorporate more community input when he reapplies.
“We’re starting all over again and want to involve as many people as possible in the dialogue process,” he said at the meeting, The New Haven Register reported. “But the first thing I want to do is apologize. We made some mistakes and there’s been some bad communication.”
Cohen could not be reached for comment this week.
Cohen and his attorney James Perito first proposed plans for a new Residence Inn at a New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals meeting this past July. The Newport Hotel Group is a real estate management firm that served as the developer for the Courtyard Marriott in New Haven. Cohen and Perito presented a model for a six-story, 115-room Residence Inn behind the Courtyard Marriott located at 30 Whalley Ave. The hotel would have targeted visitors planning on extended stays, according to Cohen.
Community opposition first arose at a meeting last September, when members of the Dwight Central Management Team, made up of residents and business owners who organized to advocate for neighborhood issues, criticized Cohen for not being in open communication with Dwight residents. They cited the fact that Cohen failed to meet with the team before the matter went to the zoning board. In order to assuage residents’ worries, Cohen agreed to show up at the management team’s October gathering at Amistad School on Edgewood Avenue to discuss the plan.
However, tensions rose further when prior to that meeting, the team received an email from Perito stating that Cohen would not, in fact, be in attendance. In the email, Perito claimed that the developers were not ready to meet with residents because plans for the hotel were not yet complete.
Dwight Central Management Team members interpreted these actions as snubs to Dwight residents’ input in the project. The October meeting, attended by around 40 people, quickly escalated into a mass denunciation of the developer and the Residence Inn. Some even suggesting that the hotel find a different neighborhood in which to expand.
“I don’t think that they were intentionally ignoring our requests, and I’d personally love to see some development in this neighborhood, but this is our home; we wanted to know that we’d be included in the planning process,” Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglass told the News.
Other residents are concerned that the construction of the new hotel would clog up the area, resulting in increased traffic and fewer parking spaces. Alexander Lew ’15, a Dwight resident, testified last September at the second of three New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals meetings, expressing worries that congestion would increase dramatically with the hotel’s construction.
“If there are not enough parking spaces provided by the hotel, the visitors will spill over into the surrounding area, making it much harder for people who live near the hotel to park near their homes,” he said.
During the Dwight Central Management Team meeting last Wednesday, Cohen said he is unsure when a revised version of the project will come before city zoning officials.
Construction on the new hotel is projected to take 12 to 15 months.