Approval for the beginning of Hill-to-Downtown — the city’s plan to link Union Station and Downtown with new commerce — failed to move past the Board of Alders joint Committee on Community Development and Legislation for the second time.
The committee voted at its biweekly meeting Thursday night to table a plan that would have approved the beginning of Stamford-based developer RMS Companies’ development projects. RMS Companies — currently the only developer signed onto the city’s project — plans to create five properties across four blocks in the area. Hill Alder Dolores Colón ’91 and Westville Alder Adam Marchand GRD ’99 — two members of the aldermanic joint committee — urged the alders to vote to postpone any further hearing on the issue until certain newer revisions to the building agreement between RMS Companies and the city were approved by a committee of city residents and officials.
“As longtime Hill residents, we want to see new developments come to the community, but also have processes that are good,” Colón said. “We want an official steering committee to shepherd the project going forward.”
Public testimony in support of RMS Companies’ development agreement with the city stressed the economic benefits of the Hill-to-Downtown plan. Town Green Special Services District Executive Director Winfield Davis said Hill-to-Downtown would bring many positive changes to at least 300 property owners in central New Haven. Davis cited the economic vitality and increased quality of life for city residents that would come with additional commerce.
Other benefits, Davis said, include the affordable housing units that RMS will build as well as biotech companies that Hill-to-Downtown seeks to attract. RMS Companies is obligated to make 10 percent of its units in Hill-to-Downtown affordable housing. Developers have not yet decided how many housing units they will build.
Public testimony against passing Hill-to-Downtown stressed that the new developments would increase traffic, leading to disturbances for city residents. They also said high rises would take away the neighborhood feel of the area. Other opponents, including alders and New Haven residents, asked RMS and its allies in City Hall allow for greater resident input.
One resident said a new high-rise at 100 College St. — biotech company Alexion’s new headquarters — has infringed upon the residential feel of her neighborhood. She added that Hill-to-Downtown would only bring more high-rises like Alexion’s.
“Most of you all probably have a nice lawn and not a big obstruction,” she said. “I’m mad about this.”
Opponents also brought up Tower One and Tower East, an assisted living community in Hill-to-Downtown. Public testimony stressed that RMS Companies needs to collect more input from residents in these communities.
City Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81 said the city needs to continue showing developers that New Haven is a viable, attractive destination. Nemerson added that some of the revenue from selling the land in Hill-to-Downtown would benefit other neighborhoods that will receive some of the revenue.
“We are taking that money that we are getting from the market sales for this land,” Nemerson said. “Some of this money will also be earmarked into going into neighborhood improvements.”
Parishioners at Saint Anthony’s Church had voiced opposition in November that Hill-to-Downtown would bring high-rises to the area that would cast shadows over the church’s parking lot and create icy conditions in the winter. But Nemerson said research on the sun’s light has shown that the only shadows cast over the parking lot would be created by the Church itself.
Thirty representatives sit on the New Haven Board of Alders.