In the light of Max Norman’s ’18 recent guest column (“The Patagonia problem,” Sept. 1, 2017), I write as associate vice president for University Properties and New Haven affairs to share University Properties’ overall philosophy on Broadway. I wrote a similar piece for the News almost exactly three years ago (“Regards to Broadway,” Sept. 5, 2014), but much of it needs repeating given the natural turnover of the undergraduate student body.
Fifteen years ago, Broadway was a very different place. There were significant vacancies, and many of the buildings were beyond their useful life. Students did not always feel comfortable in the area, particularly in the evening when there was no activity.
Today, Broadway is an inviting area for students, residents and visitors, offering a variety of different shops and restaurants across multiple price points. Buildings have been renovated; weekend events and promotions are held on Broadway Island; parking improvements have been made. Yale University Properties’ mission is to enhance the quality of life in New Haven by providing a unique merchandising mix of restaurants and shops. Through Yale’s community investment program, the University has created jobs, contributed to the vibrancy of downtown New Haven and become one of the city’s top taxpayers.
As students are only here about eight months of the year, it is critical to find tenants who not only serve our immediate local population, but also draw shoppers from a wide radius around New Haven. The mix on Broadway cannot only cater to students. Otherwise, the merchants do not survive, as past history demonstrates. University Properties is, however, sensitive to students’ needs. Given the diversity of the Yale population, not all stores will appeal to all students.
We at University Properties welcome feedback from all sources. To this end, we run student focus groups and surveys to solicit input. Both Patagonia and L.L. Bean, which will open next summer, have resonated well with students and others in our surveys. And for the sake of clarity, it bears mentioning that Patagonia is taking the place of the existing Denali store, and operates under the same local ownership. I encourage all students to attend the upcoming College Night on September 14 — a shopping event designed specifically for University students — and fill out one of our surveys letting us know what they would like to see on Broadway.
Retailers’ decisions to open stores in New Haven reflect the city’s growing reputation as a vibrant retail center with significant cultural and dining offerings. We pursue merchants who are not found in every shopping center throughout the country in order to create a unique retail environment. Patagonia has only one other location in Connecticut; Barbour operates no other Connecticut stores.
We do indeed have national tenants in our portfolio, including Apple, Barbour, J. Crew, L’Occitane and Urban Outfitters. But in order for the smaller retailers to survive, they rely on the larger tenants — who can typically afford a greater marketing expenditure — to draw shoppers to the district. These national tenants help support our smaller local merchants, such as Trailblazers, idiom, Raggs New Haven, Derek Simpson Goldsmith and dwell New Haven, which just opened this week on Chapel Street.
In the end, each tenant does their own work in projecting sales volumes. Tenant mix is also ultimately subject to the physical space available. Retailers make their own decisions about whether to bring their business to Broadway. It is simply our job to make their decision as easy as possible by providing a successful and inviting retail environment.
Lauren Zucker is the associate vice president for University Properties and New Haven affairs. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .