Vaibhav Sharma

On Monday evening, the Board of Alders finalized and unanimously approved a 35-year agreement between the city of New Haven, the State of Connecticut and the New Haven Parking Authority for the new development and operation of Union Station.   

The resolution entails the construction of a new 600-space parking garage and the renovation of Union Station’s first floor, second floor and basement to accommodate new storefronts. The plan also redirects the station’s revenue toward its development, rather than toward various statewide projects. Furthermore, the agreement consolidates the management of Union Station and State Street Station under the New Haven Parking Authority. Amendments made to the proposal call for future revisitations to the agreement, the creation of apprenticeships and the implementation of new software.

“It’s been a long journey between the city and the state to have some coming together of visions for this very important facility, this very important hub in our community,” Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand said. “So this is a progressive agreement.”

The plan for the lease was first revealed in September 2020 after undergoing years of negotiations between the city and state. Since its inception, alders have revised the agreement to finalize its language. 

The Board reworked the resolution to include suggestions proposed by council members during their Oct. 14 meeting, according to Marchand. 

The first change called for the Board to revisit, and if necessary update, the lease at 10 and 33 years from its initial implementation.

“I’m thankful for the fact that there’s language here to make sure that we come back and look at the agreement to make sure things are working,” Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said. “Because the things that work today might not work 10 years from now, might not work 30 years from now. … This amended item will really help our community grow overall.” 

The second revision occurred in the Minority Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise sections of the lease. The lease now commits to creating meaningful opportunities for career advancement, specifically apprenticeships to train future railway workers.

According to Marchand, this new order is a response to feedback from members of the Board of Alders Finance Committee.

“We have to remember that the availability of people working in [the railroad industry] is becoming smaller,” Morrison said. “So we have a responsibility to create more skilled labor in order to keep our train station going well, and so I’m so happy that the administration agreed with us to add the apprenticeship language.”

The updated agreement also requires the Parking Authority to integrate new asset management software. This type of software will allow the organization to track details about the utilization, costs, and maintenance of its assets. The Board added this requirement when the State Department of Transportation notified the city that it was standardizing its software, Marchand said. Beyond these additions, the finalized lease incorporates new language in various sections that clarifies the duties and obligations that the three parties have to each other.

Alders unanimously approved the amended resolution and expressed their hopes for the future of Union Station.

“Union Station is a beautiful gem which is completely underutilized in terms of retail,” outgoing Ward 7 Alder Abigail Roth said. “So I am excited by the plans to expand that, to bring in a lot more revenue which is going to allow us to improve operations.”

Roth noted she wants the station to be a destination for shopping and dining, in addition to transit. 

Ward 10 Alder Anna Festa voiced her hope that Union Station would eventually bolster New Haven’s economy by facilitating multimodal transit. 

“This is a positive partnership between the state and the city and the New Haven Parking Authority,” she said. “With all the development that’s happening, being connected is extremely important and this is a step further in accomplishing that goal. And I’m confident that once high speed trains become a reality, this will allow for additional train ridership and boom New Haven’s economy.”

Union Station was completed and opened in 1920.

RACHEL SHIN