Nati Tesfaye, Contributing Photographer

Yale University bought two more commercial buildings — 51 and 57 Broadway — for $7 million on Nov. 17.  Yale now owns eight of the nine buildings on the north end of Broadway following the purchase, which was announced by real estate firm O,R&L Commercial

Yale will honor all existing leases with the current tenants, which include Campus Customs, Broadway Salon and One Good for Another consignment, according to Lauren Zucker, the University’s associate vice president and director of New Haven affairs. 

Jeremy Cobden, the owner of Yale Customs, which is located at 57 Broadway, expressed his optimism about the property’s new ownership and the great relationship the University has with other tenants.

“We are very excited for the future. Yale does an amazing job taking care of the property that it owns,” Cobden wrote in a statement. “The Shops at Yale marketing efforts have been fantastic over the years. We look forward to embracing these new efforts.”

Yale’s involvement in Broadway began to draw attention in the early 2000s, when the University began a concerted effort to acquire several properties in the area, according to Elihu Rubin ’99, associate professor of urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture.

Rubin, along with co-creator Elena Oxman, explored the changing nature of Broadway, particularly the shuttering of local businesses, in their 2000 documentary “On Broadway: A New Haven Streetscape.” At the time, as local businesses folded for a variety of reasons, Yale worked to bring in well-known national retailers, such as Urban Outfitters. 

Broadway currently hosts national chains including Lululemon, Apple and J. Crew. 

Zucker described the Broadway of 20 years ago as a “very different place,” noting empty storefronts and a sense of discomfort among community members when visiting the street, particularly in the evening. Now, Broadway, branded as part of the “Shops at Yale,” is an “inviting” space for New Haveners and Yale community alike to enjoy a diverse set of retailers, both local and national, according to Zucker. 

“In order for the smaller retailers to survive, they rely on the larger tenants — who can typically afford a greater marketing spend — to draw shoppers to the district,” Zucker wrote to the News. “These national tenants help support our smaller, local merchants such as Grey Matter Books, Ay Arepa, and Tyco for example.”

Seventy percent of the University’s properties portfolio has tenants that are either regional or local owners, according to Zucker. She also emphasized women and BIPOC-owned tenants such as Any Occasion Florist, Soulful Threads and Soap-edi. 

The last non-Yale owned storefront on that stretch is 21 Broadway, which is owned by 1055X Properties LLC, according to reporting by the New Haven Independent. When asked twice if the University had future plans to acquire 21 Broadway, Zucker did not directly respond. 

Rubin acknowledged that depending on perspective, community members may characterize Broadway and its national brands as “sterile” and “inaccessible” while others may view the space as “safe” and “well-managed.” While it is difficult to assign a value judgment on Yale’s vision for development, Rubin said that he was worried about one entity’s control over the future of an entire public space. 

“The overall issue here is that, increasingly, it’s one organization making those choices,” Rubin said. “More traditional retail or commercial districts are built over the course of many years, and through the decisions of many different people. And that’s what gives certain urban districts a sense of inviting heterogeneity.” 

For Rubin, Broadway has become a “mall managed by the University,” listing Yorkside Pizza and Toad’s as some of the few remaining interesting retailers. He also questioned the utility and price accessibility of national clothing retailers for the everyday Yalie. 

Rubin linked an increase of popular national stores with a spike in homogeneity of the nation’s cities and towns, many of which are opening the same chains and establishments. 

Husso Hwang, the owner of Blue Jay Cleaners, said he is excited about the prospects of 57 Broadway’s new ownership amid Yale’s continued expansion. 

“It’s very exciting to see Yale bought the property,” Hwang said. “We have been here a long time, almost 30 years, so it’s good to have an owner you can trust. We don’t expect any changes to how we operate and it will be business as usual.”

According to the 2023 fiscal year’s estimates, the University would pay New Haven an expected $117,469 in combined taxes for the two properties.  

One of the properties also includes a vacant space facing Yale’s campus that previously housed Newman Architects. The properties total more than 30,000 sq feet. 

The recent transaction follows previous acquisitions of 1, 15, 23, 29, 51, 57, 65 and 77 Broadway by the University. 

Broadway is home to 65 businesses and establishments. 

Nati Tesfaye is a sophomore in Branford College from East Haven, Connecticut. He covers business, workers and unions in the city of New Haven. Last year, he covered housing and homelessness for the News.
Laura Ospina covers Yale-New Haven relations and the Latine community for the City desk. Originally from North Carolina's Research Triangle, she is a sophomore in Branford College majoring in Political Science.