Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer
At a Tuesday night meeting, the New Haven Board of Alders unanimously approved the sale of city-owned land for a planned $200 million Dixwell Plaza redevelopment.
Two nonprofit connected corporations, the Connecticut Community Outreach Revitalization Program, or ConnCORP, and the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, or ConnCAT, have played a vital role in New Haven’s economic development efforts through employment opportunities and new facilities for residents. The organizations will purchase the plaza property, a mid-century strip mall on Dixwell Avenue, from the city for approximately $750,000.
ConnCORP’s plan, which was officially unveiled in January 2020 and has been in the works since 2013, includes the redevelopment of the Plaza complex, described by Ward 21 Alder Steven Winter as “rusting and neglected.” The plan would build a new commercial building to hold a grocery store, child care center, banquet hall, performing arts center and more.
The ConnCORP is an economic development corporation associated with ConnCAT. ConnCORP looks to “drive economic development [in Dixwell and Newhallville] by investing in local commercial and residential real estate.
“This is about lives. This about job opportunities. This is about growth,” Ward 29 Alder Brian Wingate of Newhallville told his fellow alders at the meeting, thanking them for the board’s continued support for the project. “I really believe that we need this in this community at this time,” Wingate said.
Project funds will come from “private equity, subordinated debt, new market tax credits and fundraising,” Erik Clemons, the president of ConnCAT, told the Independent in January 2020. According to Clemons, the project has no links to Yale.
Winter described the new development and the investments as “brought by an accomplished local development team,” noting that the space, together with the Q House, a community center in Dixwell in the process of rehabilitation, will “meet an array of community needs and fuel an engine for lifting families out of poverty.”
Winter noted that the Dixwell Plaza development does not “move the needle towards affordable housing,” but it does “provide a strong basis for hiring Black and brown New Haveners.”
For alders like Winter, local ownership remains a priority in a changing Newhallville neighborhood. At the meeting, several alders pointed to a resident’s decision to keep real estate in local hands as a point of pride. Initially, alders said, an out-of-town investor made a high bid for a three-story house on Winchester Avenue, but the homeowner chose to sell the building to a local owner at a lower cost instead.
Winter noted that community feedback on the Plaza plan has revolved around building design, hiring policy and project affordability.
A change to the most recent version of ConnCorps’ plan requires that 25 percent of the total project value — the sum of costs including construction, acquisition and design — must be awarded to minority-owned businesses. In addition, according to the plan, 25 percent of project hours must be awarded to New Haveners, and “25 percent of project hours must be worked by Black and brown New Haveners, minorities as defined in city code 12.5.” Funding to the Q house also increased.
In a speech before the final vote, Ward 22 Alder Jeanette L. Morrison of Dixwell thanked ConnCORP for its efforts in her community. The development, she said, has the potential to diversify the types of businesses and improve the livability of the neighborhood.
“This is the time to ensure that the Dixwell community has all the amenities it needs,” Morrison said. “My father always used to say to me … ‘When I came here, if you lived in the Dixwell community, you never had to go downtown. Because everything you needed was right there, and that’s what ConnCORP is representing in this project.”
Dixwell Plaza lies between 200 Dixwell Ave. and 26 Charles St.
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