Mayor Toni Harp, developer Nancy Greenberg ’78 LAW ’83 and various representatives from city departments participated in a groundbreaking ceremony this morning for a new apartment residence at 703 Whitney Ave.

The Whitney Modern is a new rental development that describes itself on its website as “units of luxury living in the heart of East Rock.” In total, there will be 42 new apartments, 38 parking spaces and 10 to 12 bike spaces, with a Yale Shuttle and New Haven bus stop right outside its doors.

“The home address for New Haven 2.0 is 703 Whitney Avenue,” the mayor declared enthusiastically. “It is a pleasure to be a part of it.”

People looking to rent an apartment will have the choice between two buildings: the Modern and the Cottage.  The Modern is a new building with 35 units consisting of one- and two-bedroom apartments, while the Cottage is a fully renovated historic mansion built in 1902. The Cottage, previously owned by the American Red Cross, offers 7 units with a one- or two-bedroom layout. An old carriage house attached to the Cottage will be used to provide amenities for residents, but also has features like a common room and library, according to developer Nancy Greenberg.

Michael Greenberg, Nancy’s brother, told the News that they had purchased the property in 2016, and he emphasized that prior to the last decade, the housing in the area was much older.

“We thought the time had come for a more modern building on Whitney”, Michael Greenberg said, referring to the motivation for constructing the Modern.

The project received approval from the New Haven City Plan Commision in April 2017. Nancy Greenberg bought the property for $1.6 million in November 2016, initially intending to construct a 35-unit apartment complex.

Michael Greenberg explained that they preserved the Cottage’s existing style of building to respect the character of the neighborhood.

“From the outside, the Cottage will look as it did in 1902.”

Greenberg emphasized that historical preservation was central to the project, even though it was not necessarily an economically compelling consideration.

Michael told the News his sister Nancy Greenberg had begun focusing on New Haven about ten years ago, particularly focusing on historical preservation efforts. When the Red Cross building, which is now to house the Cottage, went on sale, Greenberg said that she felt it was a great opportunity to preserve a historic building, rather than tear it down, like some other developers intended to do.

“In the history of New Haven, there have been times when neighborhoods have been erased through urban renewal programs,” she explained to the News. “I love old buildings. Our group really saw the value in keeping the older building. We were dedicated to keeping it.”

At the event, Nancy Greenberg described the apartments in the Cottage as “jewel-like.”

“It truly takes a village to make a village,” she said at the ceremony, as she thanked everyone who has worked on the project.

City representatives at the event lauded the developers for focusing on preserving historical buildings in the East Rock area.

Betsy Herlihy, a representative from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, congratulated Greenberg on the project, pointing out the economic benefits of the construction, in terms of increasing jobs.

She praised the developing team for “holding onto the past and embracing it.”

In her speech, Harp also focused on the benefits of historical preservation.

She said that the “latest Renaissance of New Haven” is underway, and focused on the re-purposing and transformation of city spaces. According to Harp, the Whitney Modern project is “something of a metaphor” for this latest Renaissance.

Fernando Pastor, an architect whose firm is SEEDnh, or SEED New Haven, is working alongside New York City-based architect Peter Gluck to renovate the 1902 mansion. He said renovating the house “is like a Rubik’s cube.” He added that his biggest challenge currently is to put modern-day mechanical systems into a house that has existed for more than a century.

“We have to put 7 kitchens and 14 bathrooms in a house which had 1 kitchen and 3 bathrooms,” Pastor said.

Pastor also noted that coordinating with Gluck and his architectural team has been a positive experience.

According to Michael Greenberg, the new apartments are not intended for undergraduates that live off campus.

“It is more aimed at graduate students, visiting faculty, empty nesters who want to stay in the neighborhood and didn’t have great options before — anyone who wants to be close to Yale and Science Park,” he said.

Nancy Greenberg confirmed the apartments will be rented at market rate. The exact rates are not yet known.

The building will open for occupancy in fall 2019.

Eva Magyar | .