With a new apartment complex and coffee shop set to open at 320 Ashmun St., Science Park and Dixwell residents are looking forward to fresh architecture and a new neighborhood cafe.
Mayor Toni Harp and former mayor John DeStefano Jr. came together in front of the site Monday afternoon to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the Ashmun Flats, a new three-building apartment complex. The properties, which include eight apartment units and G Cafe — a ground-floor coffee shop and bakery, are the latest in property developer Juan Salas-Romer’s business endeavors with his company, New Haven Redevelopers LLC.
Addressing a crowd of roughly 100 Elm City residents, Harp said she is glad the new developments have created new residential spaces in the neighborhood.
Before Salas-Romer purchased the buildings in November 2014, a now-defunct bar occupied the space where G Cafe now stands.
“[The] completion of this construction project is another positive sign for a growing city,” Harp said. “The addition of these eight new apartments will address the city’s low vacancy rates while the G Cafe on the first floor contributes to the city’s ongoing economic development.”
At the opening Monday, Salas-Romer’s developments received an outpouring of positive responses from local residents. Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison, whose constituency includes most Science Hill residents, said when the newly renovated buildings housed a bar, she regularly received noise complaints from local residents. Morrison said she wholeheartedly welcomes the new developments, adding that she is particularly pleased that G Cafe will provide employment opportunities and goods residents of all ages can enjoy.
Several Dixwell and Science Park residents interviewed at the opening echoed Morrison’s enthusiasm.
Elaine Jackson and Alexis Perkins, two Dixwell residents living near the developments, said the recent infrastructural changes in Science Park have markedly improved the residential neighborhoods. Shirley Kelley, who lives in Science Park, added that the developments, with their mahogany and white-brick facades, will improve the look and value of the neighborhood.
“When people come here, they’ll see the beauty of it and see that New Haven is a nice place to live,” Kelley said.
Still, residents expressed concerns about the hefty prices of the Ashmun Flats apartments, with several stating that they hope further developments will bring more affordable housing options as well.
Rent in the Ashmun Flats runs from $1,400 monthly for two-bedroom units to $2,450 for three-bedroom apartments with two bathrooms. Though she acknowledged the developments’ positive effect on the neighborhood, Kelley said she hopes future developers will create housing for lower-income families, particularly those who lived in the area before the new developments began.
Meeting the community’s preferences while sustaining a business is a balancing act, Salas-Romer said.
Salas-Romer frequently met with Ward 22 constituents and acted on their input as the new properties were being developed, Salas-Romer and Morrison both said. Salas-Romer said he designed five of the eight apartments as three-bedroom units after Morrison said his apartment complex should be suitable for families as well young professionals.
After residents expressed a preference for a family-friendly shop in the location, Salsa-Romer leased the ground floor of one of the Ashumn Flats to G Cafe, he said.
“Listening to the community and finding out what they like to see is something that through the whole process needs to happen,” Salas-Romer said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have the people out here being so supportive today. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had Alder Morrison here being so supportive today.”
New Haven’s original G Cafe Bakery is located on 141 Orange St.