Talia Soglin

The University of New Haven is one step closer to beginning construction of a new marine science center at the Canal Dock Boathouse on Long Wharf Drive.

Members of the Board of Alder’s city services and environmental policy committee voted unanimously to authorize the city’s lease agreement with the university on Thursday evening. Mayor Justin Elicker will execute the lease on behalf of the Elm City.

“The City aspires to create a first-class community resource that not only accommodates significant regional boating demand for recreation, but also support access to water-based ecosystems for residents beyond traditional users of the Boathouse,” reads part of the Board’s resolution.

The Canal Dock Boathouse is located at the former site of Yale’s historic Adee Boathouse, which was razed in 2007 to make way for the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, now part of Interstate Highway 95. The new boathouse was constructed using federal funds. In 2015, before construction was complete, the Board of Alders authorized a long lease of the property to Canal Dock Boathouse, Inc. — a nonprofit corporation created to operate the boathouse.

But according to filings submitted to committee members, that long lease has not been executed; instead, CBDI has operated the boathouse under a series of license agreements. Under the new agreement, CBDI and UNH would both operate at the boathouse, including potentially collaborating on programming and educational goals.

Aïcha Woods, the executive director of New Haven’s City Plan department, told alders on Thursday that the original plan had been to have CBDI host UNH as a tenant. However, she added that construction of the building had taken longer than originally anticipated and that UNH was eager to begin construction of the marine lab so that the building can be ready for programming in the fall of this year.

If the mayor executes the lease, the University of New Haven will pay the city $59,010 in rent on its portion of the property, in addition to other prorated payments for building operations and capital improvements. The city will then deliver the payment, minus a portion set aside for utilities, to CBDI for use in operating the boathouse.

UNH plans to construct a traditional marine life sciences laboratory on the mezzanine level of the boathouse. In addition, the boat bay area will be used as a utility space for the lab, said Louis Annino Jr., the associate vice president and chief facilities officer at UNH.

Kristen Przyborski, a lecturer at UNH who works to coordinate Canal Dock outreach, said that UNH is looking to work with students and teachers from New Haven public schools at the boathouse. Specifically, the university is looking to spearhead a mentorship program between UNH students and high school students. She added that UNH also plans on strengthening existing relationships with nonprofits, and on building programming for community members not associated with the school system — such as hosting speakers on the Sound’s ecosystem or environmental issues within New Haven.

CBDI currently operates programming like boating, rowing and environmental education at the boathouse for New Haven youth. The organization’s new executive director Hollis Martens said that it was looking at ways to expand its current programming.

Though she only met Przyborski today, Martens said she and the UNH lecturer discussed potential ways to collaborate. The two will likely have “some solidified plans” by the end of the quarter, Martens explained.

Several alders — though they voted in favor of the resolution and praised the partnership’s potential — expressed concern about the length of the lease, which is 10 years long. Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola suggested that the parties report back to the board and receive public input after five years. Typically, the board approves leases in five year-long terms, DeCola noted. As it stands, representatives from UNH are required to meet on a monthly basis with the city, though without the public comment suggested by DeCola.

In response to a question from Ward 30 Alder Honda Smith about whether the city might receive tax revenue from the new partnership, interim economic development administrator Michael Piscitelli said that while CBDI is a nonprofit and UNH an academic institution, there is some potential for hypothetical tax revenue. If one of the organizations had a license agreement with another entity, such as one operating recreational activities at the site, New Haven could benefit from additional  tax revenue from this development, Piscitelli explained.

Talia Soglin | talia.soglin@yale.edu