Yesterday, city and state officials joined community leaders in launching a long-awaited construction venture.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, Mayor Toni Harp and other community leaders gathered at the vacant Route 34 West Project to announce the official groundbreaking on a new 30,000 square-foot building, which will serve as the administrative base of Continuum of Care, Inc. and its affiliate, Continuum Home Health, Inc. The project has been both praised and criticized by residents of the neighborhood, who fear that development will complicate access to the neighboring Hill Regional Career High School.

The development will encompass a five-and-a-half-acre block bound by North Frontage Road, Legion Avenue, Orchard Street and Dwight Street. It will incorporate over 80,000 square feet of neighborhood retail and medical office space over the next several years, according to Continuum’s recent press release. Continuum is a non-profit organization that provides residential, crisis and medical home care services to the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled and the autistic. It currently services roughly 1,500 people every year, having seen a 700 percent increase in number of people served over the last decade. Patti Walker, Continuum’s president and CEO, said the organization has been planning the project for the last three years.

The state will provide Continuum with $7.5 million to construct its new facility. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Malloy praised Continuum and emphasized the organization’s importance to New Haven.

“I applaud the organization, the city of New Haven and Centerplan Development Company for coming together to fill this critical need,” he said.

Harp also commended Continuum for working on behalf of those who are unable to provide for themselves. She said that the lot’s development would physically connect the Dwight and Hill neighborhoods, which are located along the Route 34 corridor. Harp noted that the project is anticipated to create over 250 construction jobs and over 550 permanent full-time jobs upon completion.

According to Walker, the building’s main function will be to geographically centralize Continuum’s administration, which is currently split between four offices across New Haven.

“This will allow us to act with greater synergy,” Walker said.

During the ceremony, Harp addressed residents’ concerns that construction would make it more difficult for students, parents and teachers to travel to and from Career High. She said that the city’s commitment to the community will not cease over the course of the construction, but did not specify what actions the city will take on this front.

Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglass told the News that residents living in the Hill portion of the development wanted a street that cut through the project’s center to allow easy access to and from the high school. Douglass said that he personally supports Continuum and their new project, noting that he believes much of the discontent with the project will dissipate if the developers slightly alter the construction plans to make the development more pedestrian friendly.

“I’ve been living here all my life, for 61 years, and I’ve seen that lot go unoccupied for about 50 years,” he said. “Let’s give credit for the city for developing what has been left unattended for so long.”