Decades-long plans to transform four blocks between downtown and Union Station may finally materialize next year, after hanging in the balance over the summer.
Stamford developer Randy Salvatore, who plans to build roughly 140 apartments and 170,000 square feet of commercial and bioscience spaces across four blocks in the Hill neighborhood, stormed out of a City Hall meeting in June after an aldermanic committee declined to approve his zoning request for a lot at the intersection of Tower Lane and Church Street South. The aldermanic committee wanted to hold off on granting approval after hearing from various community members, according to the New Haven Independent. But Salvatore wanted then to get approval for every part of his construction plan — which consisted of three other legislative requests that were approved with the zoning request.. On Aug. 1, with Salvatore threatening to pull out of the deal, according to the Independent, the Board of Alders voted in favor of his requests.
“Everything is not born from the head of Zeus fully formed,” Matt Nemerson SOM ’81, an economic development administrator in New Haven, said. “In the real world, you must negotiate. It’s part of the process and you throw ideas out there. Then you never know until you push too hard and the other person walks out of the room.”
Salvatore is now specifying building plans for his project and working with City Hall officials to secure funding for affordable housing, which will comprise 30 percent of the apartments he hopes to build, Nemerson said.
The developer now aims to break ground and begin construction sometime in 2017.
The project’s alder, Dolores Colon ’91, who was a part of the June aldermanic committee but voted in favor of Salvatore’s zoning requests in August, said she voted for the plan because the developer would not have proceeded with the plan without all of the necessary zoning changes. She voted in favor also because Salvatore, who built the Novella — a new apartment complex on Chapel Street — had earlier agreed to increase his proportion of affordable housing from 10 to 30 percent.
But, Colon said, the alders should have been allowed to hold off on approving the zoning request so that community members had more control over the project’s end results.
For residents of Tower One/Tower East — the senior home across the street from the lot Salvatore has just been approved to build on — Salvatore’s four-block project is a crucial part of the Elm City’s revitalization, Tower One/Tower East CEO Mark Garilli said. But the residents of Tower One/Tower East had been in favor of holding off zoning until more was known about what Salvatore planned for the lot and what would be built in place of the neighboring Church Street South apartment complex, which will be demolished this year.
As of now, residents know little about what future traffic patterns will look like, as well as how their access to transportation and local amenities will be affected.
“We just wish there had been more thought put into that property,” Garilli said. “Right now it’s very difficult for residents to get anywhere, and we wouldn’t want the project to cordon us off and turn us into a city block.”
The developer’s firm, RMS Companies, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
The aldermanic vote in early August represents a step forward for the city’s decadeslong plan to redevelop the area of land between downtown and Union Station. Since the first efforts in the 1980s, recruited developers have since abandoned their projects, leaving key blocks in the Elm City largely uninhabited.
“The land is so valuable,” Nemerson said. “This way we can make sure the city is getting millions of dollars from it instead of nothing.”