Although the City Plan Commission approved a Yale site plan for new graduate student housing on Elm Street Wednesday evening, the University’s proposal to build a parking lot two blocks away did not fare as well.
At the commission’s monthly meeting, University property developers presented the commission with two site plans. The plan for the graduate student housing project, which the University announced in September 2014, was approved unanimously. The proposed mixed-use development will span 272–310 Elm St., which is currently an empty parking lot adjacent to Davenport College, bordered by Tyco Printing on one side and outdoors retailer Trailblazer on the other.
The University’s momentum stalled, however, when it submitted a proposal for a parking lot to the commission. The proposal was rejected and criticized during the tail end of the three-and-a-half hour meeting.
“It’s not an incredibly imaginative plan,” City Plan Commission Chair Ed Mattison said of the blueprints to construct a 62-space parking garage across the street from Popeye’s fried chicken restaurant.
Commissioner Leslie Radcliffe expressed dismay at the University’s lack of research into the proposed home of its new development.
Radcliffe asked the officials present — including attorney Joseph Hammer and University architect Stephen Brown — what community the parking lot, which is bordered by Goffe Street and Dixwell Avenue, was in. She was met with silence.
Following questioning from Radcliffe — and after the neighborhood the lot would be built in was determined — the officials acknowledged they did not know if the University had met with the Dixwell Community Management Team. Assistant Director for New Haven and State Affairs Lauren Zucker, who usually conducts community outreach, was not present at the meeting.
Radcliffe said a key benefit of speaking with the community management team would be to find out how the lot would benefit the neighborhood it is sited in.
Officials exited the meeting room briefly to inquire if the University had indeed already met with management team.
When they returned to the meeting room, Hammer acknowledged that he had not been able to reach Zucker, but had instead contacted Community Affairs Associate Karen King. Officials said that Dwight Alder Frank Douglass and Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison had been previously consulted about the proposed lot, but Dixwell’s community management team had not.
Ultimately, the plan was tabled for the commission’s meeting next month.
The University’s parking lot plan involves demolishing a building near the southern portion of the lot, while leaving an existing building at the northern end to remain. The lot will house spaces for cars and two spaces designated for buses. The lot is intended for public use, officials said, adding that visitors to Yale could pay for hourly parking while Broadway district employees could purchase monthly permits.
Earlier in the meeting, the commission greenlighted the University’s Elm Street project, but not before asking questions about how construction might affect the Broadway district.
The development of the space, described by officials as University-owned and underused, aims to fill in “a missing tooth in the Elm Street streetscape,” Hammer said.
The University has been working closely with the city’s Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, due to the complex nature of the site’s location, said Joseph Devine, a professional engineer for the development. Marchand said that since the area around the proposed graduate student apartments is already developed, the construction could disrupt local traffic and activity.
All four lanes of traffic on Elm Street will remain open during the construction, which will begin this summer, Devine said, adding that the University aims to move graduate students into the top four floors of the building in the fall of 2018. The building’s lower two levels will be devoted to retail and restaurant space.
The commission’s next meeting is March 16.