The impending construction of a new Yale science building will not create parking issues for the Elm City, University officials stressed at a City Plan Commission meeting Wednesday evening.
At the tail end of the three-hour-long meeting, city plan commissioners and staff heard from University officials on Yale’s latest iteration of a building that has been in planning since the 1990s. Yale is seeking approval for a site plan review that features a proposed six-story building of 280,300 square feet, primed to replace the current J.W. Gibbs Laboratory on Science Hill. Unlike previous construction plans, this new plan for the Yale Science Building does not require the approval of zoning variances. At the advice of the city plan staff, the commission opted to table the item until next month’s meeting, citing the need to discuss stormwater calculations with the Engineering Department and Yale’s parking plan with the city’s Department of Traffic, Transportation and Parking.
“Every month this project gets delayed, that’s a month people do not have a paycheck in their pockets,” Associate Vice President and Director of New Haven Affairs Lauren Zucker said.
Although the new building will be larger than the current Gibbs building, that additional space will not be occupied by more people, Zucker said. Instead, the space aims to alleviate overcrowding and will accommodate an array of specialized equipment, extra washrooms and other needs for new laboratories.
Zucker also acknowledged “the elephant in the room” — an ordinance passed by the Board of Alders in January 2016 enabling the BoA to review large-scale development plans by entities like Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital regardless of how much parking those plans entail. This ordinance altered previous regulations allowing alders to review plans which changed parking by 100 or more spaces. The 291 parking spaces for Gibbs would not change with the new project.
The Yale Science Building is the first new project presented to the commission since the ordinance passed, Zucker said, adding that the project will have no impact on parking and would thus should not be held up by parking concerns.
The University has already presented the plans to both the Newhallville and East Rock community management teams, Zucker said. Responding to an earlier query from Newhallville Alder Brenda Foskey-Cyrus regarding the project’s capacity to create jobs, Zucker added that it will open up 280 construction jobs.
At the beginning of the meeting, over 20 members of Local 455 — which represents New Haven-area labor and construction workers — gathered outside the meeting room in support of the project.
Ralph Inorio, the secretary and treasurer of Local 455, said large-scale projects such as the science building were “fruitful” for the union’s membership. He added that the University, which Inorio praised for ensuring jobs for city residents, had previously notified the union of the commission meeting.
Executive Director of the City Plan Department Karyn Gilvarg asked University developers how Yale intended to handle parking for construction workers.
Officials present said the number of workers at the site would peak at 230, with all contractors, subcontractors and individual laborers parking their vehicles at the Pierson-Sage Garage on the corner of Whitney Avenue and Edwards Street.
Construction for the project, previously called the Yale Biology Building, had been postponed in early 2009 due to the economic downturn. But demolition of the Gibbs building is now slated for fall 2016, with construction spanning from February 2017 to the beginning of the academic year in fall 2019.
Zucker noted that construction on the project will “ramp up” as other projects, such as Yale’s two new residential colleges, begin to wrap up.
Commissioners on the board voiced no serious objections to the new proposal at Wednesday’s meeting.
“I don’t think we’re going to hold this up a great length,” commissioner Edward Mattison LAW ’68 said.
The City Plan Commission will hold its next meeting May 18.