A bid to turn an unoccupied building at the corner of Whalley Avenue and Dayton Street into a branch of the discount store Family Dollar has sparked debate among New Haven residents, city officials and developers interested in the property.
At the Sept. 13 Westville Community Management Team meeting, Northeast Retail, a Windsor-based real estate development company, pitched a plan to convert the building at 1150 Whalley Ave. into a Family Dollar. This potential project represents the first show of interest from the private sector in the property since CVS Pharmacy, which used to occupy the lot, abandoned the space two years ago in favor of a location down the street. However, the community has pushed back against the Family Dollar idea — a consequence of the plethora of convenience stores in the area and of what city officials describe as the under-recognized potential of the property.
City Hall has developed its own vision for the building: a plan to transform the single-story building into a multi-story, mixed-use complex.
“It’s not that we have anything against Family Dollar, but other community desires could be filled,” said Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75, director of the city’s plan department.
The property in question is a 9,000-square-foot building that sees roughly 40,000 vehicles pass by each day, giving the property significant potential, Gilvarg said.
Despite its current vacancy, the building has been redeveloped over the years by companies such as CVS and McDonald’s. Moving forward, Gilvarg said, the site could be developed in a number of different ways.
“We, in New Haven, are ambitious and creative,” Gilvarg said. “There’s nothing preventing someone from expanding the building with retail on the first floor and housing above that.”
In fact, 1150 Whalley Ave. could be expanded to a height of 45 feet, allowing three to four stories of housing space, she said.
At the same time, however, empty storefronts in New Haven are not ideal, and the owner of the property has been looking to fill the space for almost two years, said Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, the city’s economic development administrator.
“We can’t always select the store we want,” Nemerson said.
This early into a project, he added, it is difficult to know whether a store is the right option for a community.
Many of the issues expressed in regard to the new Family Dollar stem from New Haven’s past experience with the retailer. In the past, Family Dollar has not integrated itself into New Haven communities, Gilvarg said. The company has not engaged with the local business association nor attempted to make its storefront displays attractive to the community, according to Gilvarg and Nemerson.
The developer proposing the project, Daniel Plotkin, said the sentiments being expressed by community members and public officials are important to his company. The neighborhood reminds him of the one his grandparents lived in when he was growing up, Plotkin said, and he wants to make sure the community supports the project and has met with Ward 27 Alder Richard Furlow to discuss the site.
According to Gilvarg, City Hall has not received formal applications for the property, merely inquiries. Plotkin referred to his planned proposal as “theory,” and said that if the proposal is accepted, the project would not begin until the spring or summer of 2018. Furlow, the alder representing the area that contains 1150 Whalley Ave., could not be reached for comment.
Plotkin said he would love to see the space filled by a local business if the opportunity arises.
“People want to go back to neighborhood, noncorporate stores, but they’ve been killed off by corporate business,” he said.
According to Plotkin, the property was formerly home to a Kosher supermarket that was run by a local family for decades.
Family Dollar currently operates a location at 81 Whalley Ave.
Madison Mahoney | firstname.lastname@example.org