New Haven’s $400 million downtown development to be underway by summer

Article by: Mary E. O’Leary, New Haven Register

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NEW HAVEN >> Two years after he first met with the developer and city officials, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was back in New Haven with news the state would come through with its share of funds for infrastructure that will make a $400 million development project possible.

Shovels will be in the ground in the summer for the LiveWorkLearnPlay project on the former Veterans Memorial Coliseum site adjacent to Ninth Square.

Where once there were hockey teams and rock shows at the Coliseum, plans are to convert the 5.5-acre site to an “urban village” with more that 1,000 units of housing, 75 local restaurants and stores, as well as a hotel and public square with an office building set for Phase 2.

Malloy, who is in a tight re-election race with Republican Tom Foley that will be determined next week, said he was not making the announcement to curry favor in a city that is expected to come out and vote for him.

The pieces of the complex project had come together in time, he said, two years after it was first proposed and one year after the city gave its blessing.

“We are making smart practical investments in projects around the state that link multi-modal transportation hubs to housing and employment centers in order to strengthen our economy,” Malloy said.

The state’s investment is $21.5 million to reconnect Orange Street across the fast-disappearing Route 34 connector that had divided city neighborhoods since the 1950s.

Mayor Toni Harp said Malloy has been a champion for cities on many levels. She praised his investment in bioscience projects, in particular, as a niche that is a smart move for Connecticut.

The road work in New Haven updates development in the area that includes Yale New-Haven Hospital and Yale University Medical School.

“It means millions of dollars, thousands of jobs that will result in a Connecticut geared up and ready to compete globally in this breakthrough technological field,” Harp said.

The federal government came up with $16 million for the initial work in removal of Route 34 so the city can reclaim some 12 acres of land downtown.

U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, said when she worked for the city decades ago, she wanted to be named director of the Coliseum Authority or head of public works. But neither was seen as proper work for a woman.

DeLauro said there were editorials that she might be a “hell of a gal around the office, but I wasn’t able to run the Coliseum. Well, we are right back here with the money to make this a workable effort.”

She said it will be the largest single development undertaken in the city.

Four years ago, DeLauro stood with former Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and former U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd to announce the federal $16 million TIGER grant for the first phase of removing Route 34.

State Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, worked with DeLauro when they were both part of New Haven Mayor Frank Logue’s administration.

“First of all, living well is its own reward because while the Coliseum is long gone, Rosa DeLauro is still here,” he said.

Looney said Reim’s plan will be “transformative” for the city with the combination of housing and office space, open space and a hotel. It will bring 4,700 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase and 2,809 permanent jobs when it is finished.

Looney called it a “capstone” project for Malloy, who also sent state money to upgrade the Shubert Theater in its 100th season, renovations to Bowen Field and funds for a new “Q” House in the Dixwell neighborhood, among other things.

His more controversial First Five project put money into relocating Alexion from Cheshire to New Haven as the main tenant of the new 14-story 100 College St. building dedicated to bioscience labs.

Aldermanic President Jorge Perez, D-5, said the jobs will benefit all sectors of New Haven’s economy.

Max Reim, the founding partner of LiveWorkLearnPlay, said he has worked in cities all over the U,S. and in Canada.

“I have to say that working in New Haven … has been the greatest source of pride and leadership and partnership between city and developer, community and the alders, state leaders and the private sector,” Reim said.

The new road and intersection at Orange Street will also make a direct link to Union Station, another project the city is working on with the state to upgrade with a new garage and other amenities.

“This will become a vibrant, thriving and iconic neighborhood where New Haven will welcome the world,” Reim said.

Reim referred to architect Herbert Newman, who has worked in New Haven for 35 years, as “our godfather of helping usher in this fantastic project.”