Moving one step closer to completing a building intended for graduate student housing on Elm Street, Yale submitted a request for a variance and special exception from zoning regulations to the Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday.
According to the filing, written by Yale Associate Vice President for Facilities John Bollier, the housing complex, to be constructed on the parking lot adjacent to Tyco Printing, will be a six story, 73 foot building with 51,000 square feet of space. The first two stories will be used for non-tax-exempt retail space, while the tax-exempt top four stories will contain graduate student apartments. The building’s size will exceed that currently allowed by zoning code, so the Board of Zoning Appeals will need to grant Yale a variance in order for the building’s construction to proceed.
The proposed building’s size and partly-tax-exempt status has provoked some controversy among residents and activists. At a meeting in December, community activist Olivia Marston said that the proposed building is too tall, and she further criticized its tax exemption.
But according to Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, the city is not concerned about losing tax revenue from the building. He said that the two stories of retail space will likely bring in more tax revenue than the current parking lot does.
“The main thing that concerns me is that we are not building high enough,” Nemerson said. “We’re a city with very little land, and what I ask every developer is to build as high as they can. Every acre is precious and every square foot is precious.”
In addition to requesting a variance for construction, the University is also requesting that the BZA allow zero parking spaces in the lot, which requires over 200 parking spots according to the city’s zoning code, according to the New Haven Independent.
Bollier writes in the report that granting this request would not significantly impact traffic, parking or future development and that the new building adhered to the city’s goal of promoting “the concentration of facilities and efficient use of current lands,” according to the New Haven Independent.
The proposed graduate housing will not resemble Yale’s other downtown housing, University Provost Benjamin Polak wrote in an email to the Yale community on Jan. 15. He said that the building, which is slated for completion in 2017, will be composed of two-bedroom apartments equipped with kitchens.
Polak said in the email that the University has conducted extensive research to determine the criteria that matters most to its students. But some graduate students said they would not choose to live in the new housing.
“I don’t think I would live there simply because it does not have the same culture [as HGS],” said Michael Sierant GRD ’20. “What keeps me [at HGS] despite the overly expensive and exorbitant cost of living and mandatory meal plan is the history, the ambiance and the location.”
After the new building is constructed in 2017, the University will begin renovations on the Hall of Graduate Studies. Polak said that by renovating the Hall, Yale hopes to turn it into a hub for the humanities at Yale. Specifically, Polak mentioned placing different humanities departments in closer proximity with each other in order to facilitate more collaboration across disciplines.
Erik Stassen GRD ’15, who currently lives in HGS, said the building would benefit from renovations, noting issues with the building’s heating system.
Currently, HGS houses 168 graduate students.