Many Wooster Square residents struggled to find seats in a crowded City Hall meeting room at a Downtown Wooster Square Community Management meeting last Tuesday.
Chair of the city’s independent Financial Review and Audit Commission Mohit Agrawal GRD ’20 joined representatives from a current development project at St. Michael Church to present on the state of Wooster Square and other local developments. Netz Group, one of the largest developers in the city, intends to acquire property from St. Michael Church in order to develop dozens of high-end apartments for the neighborhood.
“We as a parish are excited that we have a New Haven developer that will come in and beautify the area and avoid squatters that have been trying to break into some of the buildings,” Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa said.
At the meeting, Frank Micali, chief investment officer of Netz Group, explained the process by which the development group plans to purchase land currently owned by St. Michael Church on 29 Wooster Pl. The acquisition only includes the property of two old school buildings and a convent building — not property on which the church currently lays.
Many buildings at St. Michael have been left unused — resulting in homeless people inhabiting the property. Festa, who serves on the board of the parish, welcomed Netz Group’s development plans.
Netz Group intends to transform the buildings into 23 high-end apartments. Micali stressed that the apartments would — at least initially — be rented out to tenants rather than purchased as condos. Additionally, Micali said the developers intend to create a parking garage consisting of 19 parking spots, increasing the amount of parking spots on the property to 32.
The project comes after New York developers MOD Equities were denied the right to purchase the land from the church by the city’s Board of Zoning appeals in 2014. The proposal was denied due to the project’s density — MOD Equities intended to build 39 apartments, which the Board of Zoning appeals said would be impractical given the property’s limited space.
“We need to make it a higher-end project in order to make it work under such small circumstances,” Micali said.
The only obstacle potentially derailing the acquisition is the debate over the property’s exact geographical limits. The church’s property lines extend towards Greene Street, while the line should extend onto Wooster Street, according to the church representatives. The Board of Zoning is currently handling the appeal to resolve the issue, with a hearing scheduled for November. Both Micali and church representatives said they would update the community management group at the November meeting.
The Netz Group already holds multiple properties in New Haven, including buildings on Whalley Avenue, Orange Street and Derby Avenue.
In addition, Agrawal — who became the chair of the Financial Review and Audit Commission in April — told attendees that the city, although holding $900 million at this moment, is facing $2 billion in liabilities, resulting in a debt of over $1 billion. Additionally, he said that the city is “very dependent” on alternate sources of income.
“What is a little bit concerning is that of this 900 million dollars that we spend, we are only able to raise $270 million ourselves through local taxes,” Agrawal said.
Agrawal noted that the city has been refunding bonds and taxing the income investors receive from these bonds. Given these financial moves, Agrawal predicts that the city will end the calendar with zero net spending.
The Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team convenes on the third Tuesday of every month.
Nick Tabio | firstname.lastname@example.org .