Cambridge Marine Construction, a small business based out of New London, will soon relocate its headquarters to the Fair Haven Waterfront, revitalizing the area.
On Oct. 20, the company received unanimous approval from the members of New Haven City Plan Commission to begin developing at 24 River St., a plot adjacent to the Quinnipiac River. The new headquarters will compliment surrounding neighborhood buildings, create local jobs and provide public space for the community.
“We investigated what the city was looking for, and it was a team effort to put everything together,” said Mark Kallmeyer, intern architect at Silver/Petrucelli and Associates, Inc. and architect for the proposed headquarters.
Cambridge Marine President Jeff Johnson said he must now find financing for the project, which is estimated to total between $3 and $4 million. He hopes to have the building completed by the fall of 2017.
Cambridge Marine met twice with the Fair Haven Wealth Management before the City Plan Commission to incorporate residents’ ideas into the building’s design, said Milan Patel, CEO of the site’s developer Patel Construction.
It was also the management group’s idea to incorporate architectural motifs from the surrounding buildings into the new headquarter’s design, Kallmeyer said, to “blend” it into the neighborhood.
To accomplish this, Kallmeyer used brick and cinder blocks to mimic the materials used in an adjacent property that was built in the late 1800s. He also took the Victorian and Romanesque style Brewery Square Apartments, which are located across the street from the proposed site, as inspiration for his design. Ten to 15 workers, preferably local, will be hired to work at the Cambridge Marine headquarters, Johnson said.
Johnson began to search for a new site when the company could not purchase any water property in New London.
“I just didn’t have places to put my barges and my cranes,” Johnson said. “I had to lease a pier or a dock to get equipment on a barge.”
The Fair Haven Waterfront was available, protected from storms and situated ideally for the company, which has outposts throughout the East Coast, he said. After a year of preliminary meetings, the City Plan Commission applauded the proposal, Johnson said.
Since residents and New Haven officials were involved in the building’s design process, Patel Construction could incorporate the city’s sustainability requirements and minimize the building’s environmental impact while still revitalizing the waterfront, Patel said.
“What’s there and what we’re supplying in return is much more valued by the community and the city,” he said.
Kallmeyer was also able to include a small public plaza in his design, incorporating long sidewalks and seating for the public as well as a gathering area for employees, he said.
According to New Haven Economic Development Officer Helen Rosenberg, the plan is to take down an old building that’s not very functional, put up a new building that is very attractive, create community spaces on the street and create 15 jobs almost immediately. An existing yet unoccupied building at 24 River St. will be demolished for the headquarters. That structure is vacant and dilapidated, while the proposed building will be brand new and made of glass, Patel said.
“Ultimately they will be stabilizing the waterfront to facilitate their use for their business, so it’s a positive investment in that area which has been underutilized for many years now,” Rosenberg added.
This project may also mark the beginning of even more construction and development in the Fair Haven Waterfront area, Patel said.
Cambridge Marine works mainly with the United States Department of Defense, but its exact job varies from contract to contract.
“We do everything from energy projects to heavy highway projects to marine construction,” Johnson said. “We’re a multifaceted company, and we do all aspects of construction, not just marine construction.”
Because of the company’s versatility, Kallmeyer designed a large warehouse with room for maneuvering and storing machinery as well as office space for managerial and design purposes, he said.
Johnson said he was unsure why the Fair Haven Waterfront area is not more popular for development on account of its location and length.
“I’ve been asked that,” he said. “I’ve asked myself that. I’ve asked a few of the people I’ve worked with, and I don’t know.”
Still, this project signifies an investment in the New Haven waterfront community that has not been seen in many years, Patel said. Rosenberg added that the building if the first new one to the constructed within the limits of a Fair Haven development project that passed 15 years ago.
Fair Haven is situated two miles to the east of the New Haven Green.