Yale will relocate the structure of the historically significant building at 87 Trumbull Street to a new location at 85 Trumbull Street to make way for a new economics center.

The relocation will involve moving the existing building structure from its location northwest of the intersection of Hillhouse Avenue and Trumbull Street to a new one on that intersection’s northeastern corner. Yale Senior Program Planner James Elmasry and other University officials presented the plans to the City Plan and Historic District Commissions multiple times in 2019, where they were scrutinized at meetings in late November and mid-December, respectively. The building to be moved is listed as a contributing property to the Hillhouse Avenue Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places district. With the move down the street, Yale aims to preserve the building’s historic status. The University will build a four-story, 37,750 square foot economics center at the newly-vacated address, which is strategically located next to existing department buildings.

“The new building will connect to existing structures and allow for the consolidation of economics and [Institution for Social and Policy Studies] into a new economics center,” Director of University Media Relations Karen Peart told the News in an email. “Economics remains our most popular undergraduate major, and represents an area of investment as Yale carries forward its academic priorities.”

The new economics center will be home to the new Tobin Center for Economic Policy and connect to all existing economics offices at 28 and 30 Hillhouse, Peart said, which will allow the Department of Economics to be housed in a single structure for the first time. The building will also connect to the Institute for Social and Policy Studies, or ISPS, at 77 Prospect, and it will house some of the ISPS faculty and staff who currently have offices at 87 Trumbull. The center itself will be of a modern design but aims to fit with the historic Hillhouse Avenue on one side and the more modern Prospect Street on the other side.

The historic building will move to the site of the former Maple Cottage, which Yale knocked down in 1999 to build a parking lot. The Cottage was designed by renowned American architect AJ Davis and was also listed as a contributing property under the existing historic district.

At the time, protestors vehemently opposed the demolition, said then-protester and New Haven Urban Design League President Anstress Farwell GRD ’78. Yale ultimately resorted to using its own police to block Trumbull Street and quickly demolished the building despite an ongoing court appeal process surrounding the building and various procedural permits, according to Farwell.

Farwell expressed some satisfaction at the difference in Yale’s treatment of historic buildings then and now. She told the News in an interview that while the current building move “doesn’t replace the important cultural asset that was lost,” it is “a very good thing to see Yale approaching this rebuilding in a very carefully considered way.”

“It’s just really deeply
appreciated by all of us who have cared for this area for so many years, Farwell said.”

Like many of its historic Hillhouse peers, the building that will settle at 85 Trumbull has seen moves before. It was initially built as a residence in 1807 before it was moved to the 87 Trumbull address and rebuilt in 1871, according to the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The building has two later brick additions that Yale had initially planned to demolish in the upcoming move of the original clapboard structure to the new address. But according to Farwell, the University has plans to meet with the State Historical Preservation Officer, who may find that the additions are historically and architecturally significant and may ask Yale to move them with the rest of the existing building. University representatives declined to comment on the timing or outcome of such a meeting.

At the City Plan meeting in November, commissioners unanimously approved Yale’s site plan for 85 Trumbull and an amendment to Planned Development District #89 to allow for the new economics center, despite some concerns about traffic blockages and the architectural design of the new building from Commissioner Leslie Radcliffe and Commissioner and Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand GRD ’99, respectively.

Yale plans to move the building sometime after the 2020 commencement, according to Elmasry. The entire project is due to take until the end of summer 2022.

Before it can move the building, Yale must build a foundation on the new lot. Currently, a 30-space parking lot exists at 85 Trumbull, but the relocated building will only take up five spots from that parking lot and will force Yale to build a new driveway into it.

“Yale deserves some credit for going out of its way to save 87 Trumbull,” Downtown/Wooster Square Community Management Team member Aaron Goode told the News in a statement. “But it shouldn’t be necessary to applaud the university for fulfilling one of its basic responsibilities as a member of the community in good standing.”

The Department of Economics is currently located at 28 Hillhouse Avenue.

Jose Davila IV | jose.davilaiv@yale.edu

Clarification, Jan. 15: This article has been updated to more clearly describe Yale’s plans for 85 Trumbull Street and what will be housed inside of it.

Jose Davila currently serves as a Public Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered Yale-New Haven Relations as a staff reporter and served as a Managing Editor. He is a senior in Morse College majoring in Global Affairs.