Long Wharf will be renovated over the coming year to help New Haven flourish as a cultural and economic hub, although the city’s exact vision for the area remains unclear.
The architecture and planning firm Perkins Eastman will work with the city over the next nine months to grow the Long Wharf District, Mayor Toni Harp announced in a press conference on Tuesday. The development initiative, known as the “New Long Wharf,” will include a strategic economic plan, new streetscape improvement concepts, a transportation plan along Sargent Drive and landscape improvements, Harp said. The development will occur over approximately 400 acres of land in Long Wharf, said Matthew Nemerson, administrator of economic development in New Haven.
“This plan gives us an opportunity to envision New Haven as a greater center between New York City and Boston, with Long Wharf as the center of it all,” said Juan Salas-Romer, the lead developer and owner of the New Haven Village Suites in Long Wharf, during the press conference.
The Long Wharf Responsible Growth Plan, the official plan for the area, took effect in November after the completion of the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program, said Michael Piscitelli, deputy economic development administrator in New Haven.
The city used half of a $950,000 state grant from the Office of Policy and Management to improve the Long Wharf district for the I-95 program. The other half of the grant has gone towards a planning study for the “New Long Wharf,” Piscitelli said.
“There’s nothing else like this Long Wharf district anywhere; there are so many corporate entities here and so most of the new emerging employees of our state are looking to come to this area,” said Stanton Eckstut, senior principal at Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, a Perkins Eastman company. “We are bringing more opportunities for a way to enjoy this particular site downtown.”
Eckstut and his fellow representative from Perkins Eastman, Eric Yang, provided photographs of some of their other initiatives at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and The Wharf in Washington, D.C. They envision Long Wharf becoming a mixed-use area where economic and public interests converge like at these ports.
Jonathan Wharton — a representative of the Hill South Management Team, a community organization for neighborhoods bordering Long Wharf — spoke about community relations at the press conference. He said members of the community gathered on Monday night to discuss methods of cooperating with residents during the project. While he did not state specific strategies for community engagement, Wharton emphasized that the neighborhood is “very much on board” with the project.
“The wonderful thing that we have here is great opportunity and great bones,” said Nemerson, the economic development administrator. “We don’t want to be displacing things; it’s an additive not subtractive process.”
Yang said that during the study the firm will look closely at increasing coastal resilience in the area. He said the firm expects to complete treatments along the entire wharf, a necessity given rising sea level predictions for the next 50 years. According to Piscitelli, city officials have started the first round of coastal resiliency improvements in cooperation with the New Haven Parks Department by placing new riprap, a breakwater made of stones, around Long Wharf Park to prevent rising sea levels from affecting the area.
Piscatelli said the city hopes to receive more grants from the state or other organizations after creating a plan for infrastructure and economic development in the district.
The city will hold a press conference in June 2018 to discuss recommendations it will consider following meeting with members of the New Haven community over the next six months.
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