Crucial renovations to the New Haven Green came one step closer to fruition Tuesday night, as a joint meeting of the City Services and Environmental Policy committees of the Board of Alders approved an application from the New Haven Parks Department for a $1 million state grant.
The grant, if it goes through, will pay for the installation of LED lights for all streetlights on the Green and a larger stage for entertainment in the space, City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05 said. Parks Department Director Rebecca Bombero said the improvements aim to make the Green more functional as a public space, a safer place for residents and a center for more activity in the city. The outward appearance of the Green, Zinn said, will not see significant change from the improvements. Prominent in the plans for the grant is the purchase of a new stage to house the musical events the Green hosts throughout the spring, summer and fall. The current stage, Bombero said, is too small to attract the “world-class” performers New Haven aims to draw.
“There’s a lot of activity that goes on on the Green,” Bombero said. “There are great, world-class shows out there. And we have the potential as a city to attract better events.”
Bombero noted that much of the grass on the Lower Green — between Church and Temple streets — is often waterlogged and muddy, and the sidewalks surrounding the space are crumbling. The grant will also pay for improvements to remedy those problems, she said. The city eventually plans to spend $400,000 on sidewalk repair. Zinn added that the uneven topography of the Green makes addressing waterlogging difficult.
Zinn said the improvements funded by the grant will make the space safer for residents. The LED streetlights, he said, will provide better lighting in the area, and the new stage will draw more activity to the area. Subsurface renovations, such as underground electrical repairs, may also make the Green safer, Zinn said.
“There’s a lot that you can do subsurface … where you can make the Lower Green in particular a much more flexible space,” he said. “The safest, most attractive Green is an active Green, and we really want to see three full seasons of programming here.”
Zinn said representatives from the Parks and Engineering departments have spoken with members of the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team in preparation for making the improvements.
He added that the city will match half, or $500,000, of the grant, bringing the total amount of funding up to $1.5 million. But the Parks Department hopes for more — a study completed five years ago found the space needs anywhere between $11 million and $15 million in improvements, Bombero said.
After East Rock Alder Anna Festa asked whether the grant will bring any revenue into the city, Bombero said that matching the grant might serve as an investment that will allow the city to leverage other state grants from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development in the future. Bombero added that there is a possibility that renting the new stage will become a revenue source for the Elm City. The city currently rents out the stage to local organizations like Jazz Haven, which use the structure for music festivals.
Alders on the committee expressed favorable responses to the grant proposal.
“I think [the grant is] a positive,” said Tyisha Walker, board president and West River alder. “It’s going to be improvements to the infrastructure of the Green — that’s important.”
The Board of Alders is not the only authority that must approve the grant. The Proprietors of the New Haven Green, the private body that has owned the space since 1641, has the final say over whether the improvements will take place. But Bombero said she expects no problems with the group, adding that the Parks Department is in close communication with the Proprietors about all proposed changes and has an agreement with the group. Zinn said the city plans to start work on the new LED lights over the winter.