The Christmas tree on Broadway and Mariah Carey playing at Gourmet Heaven can mean only one thing: It’s holiday shopping season. And University Properties has eagerly informed us that this winter, New Haven residents will have a whole host of new opportunities for retail.
Looking to drop $36 on a wood-grilled veal chop entrée? Harvest, the new farm-to-fork restaurant on Chapel Street, has got you covered. The menu also offers other dinner options — like $31 rare seared yellowfin tuna, or a simple burger for $21. For the vegetarians among us, Tarry Lodge on Park Street has a goat cheese pizza for $19.
The neighborhood will also see an influx of clothing and cosmetics. Barbour, the upscale British clothing store, is moving onto Broadway with offerings like $400 jackets. Emporium DNA advertises leggings to the tune of $1,050, and Kiko Milano promises an array of Italian cosmetics (for those students who have exhausted all the options at L’Occitane). Then there’s every type of high-end olive oil imaginable on Chapel Street.
These new retail options seem to bear a striking similarity: They all cater to a similar socioeconomic demographic. Lauren Zucker, University Properties’ assistant director for New Haven and state affairs, told the News that the new mix of businesses “appeals to people from all different backgrounds and pocketbooks.” But her statement is hard to reconcile with the retailers’ steep prices.
Yale has lots of invisible costs. Like the expectation that students own laptops, and sushi dinners and posh parties at Union League. And we’ve started to get better at talking about this, wrapping our minds around the awkwardness of living in a community that brings together such privilege with such need. But improving our campus dynamics around class will require more sensitivity — from University Properties in particular.
Having more affordable retail choices in the neighborhood matters first for practical reasons. When Yalies and New Haven residents want to shop, we should have access to stores that cater to a range of budgets. Those looking for more high-end products already have a whole bunch of options, from J. Crew to Ann Taylor. We don’t really need more argyle sweaters and monogrammed purses; we need affordable apparel. Shopping is also a social activity, and no students should be made to feel excluded because they can’t afford the stores that their friends are frequenting.
It’s also a matter of optics. The businesses brought into a neighborhood define its color and character. Walking down Broadway and Chapel, are we passing stores that attract our interests and accommodate our needs, or ones that feel out-of-touch, overpriced? The portrait these stores paint — of $400 jackets and $30 filet mignon — is of a very different Yale than the reality most students experience. Our neighborhood’s incoming businesses don’t really capture the diversity of our community. This is problematic for New Haven residents, for prospective students considering whether they belong here, for Yalies working to make this place their home. University Properties can play a role in encouraging simpler living. Yale already does enough to make us accustomed to a lavish type of lifestyle, the sort that can only be financed long-term through jobs on Wall Street.
To be sure, University Properties has a complex assortment of factors to consider in bringing new businesses to the neighborhood. They have to examine the range of proposals submitted for available spaces, as well as the offerings that will attract shoppers from other cities when Yale students leave in the summer. But it’s hard to believe that there aren’t any more affordable businesses interested in competitive retails spots such as 1 Broadway.
Sure, there will be students interested in buying $36 wood-grilled veal — but there will also be some excluded from these sorts of meals. There will be Yalies walking around campus in Barbour jackets, but others will need cheaper winter apparel. It’s hard to put a price on a comfortable, cohesive community, but it’s certainly valuable. University Properties has to be better attuned to diverse needs, helping all of us to mark down the invisible costs of life at Yale.
Emma Goldberg is a junior in Saybrook College and a former opinion editor for the News. Contact her at email@example.com.