Surface parking lots and piles of dirt have given way to rising cranes, skeletal assemblies of wood and steel, and even the occasional “Now Leasing” sign — as the city’s years-long building boom transitions into its next stage of development with over 1,700 new apartments coming online.
A recent self-guided bike tour across the city by your intrepid local reporter revealed just how much of New Haven’s environment has changed under the shovels and hard hats and heavy machinery of construction crews.
A year and a half ago, piles of dirt and debris seemed to mark the beginnings of a shift from past commercial and industrial use to future apartments and retail.
Today, New Haven’s years-long glut of new housing proposals, approvals, investment, demolition, and construction appears to have yielded different visual fruit.
The piles of dirt are largely gone (with some key exceptions). They have been replaced by the frames of new buildings—as well as by construction crews, cranes, and equipment steadily fleshing out those projects into places where actual people may one day live.
Recently finished projects and those just weeks away from opening (e.g. The Audubon Phase 1, 2 Washington Ave., 216 Congress Ave., 18 High St.) have added 705 new market-rate apartments in and around downtown.
Apartment projects that are still in the middle of construction (e.g. 87 Union St., 9 Tower Ln. 630 Chapel St.) are slated to add another 954 market-rate rentals to downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. Some mid-construction projects, like Farnam Courts Phase 2 and the old Welch Annex School conversion, will also bring 118 new affordable apartments to the city soon.
And projects that still in the demolition stage and earliest stages of construction, such as 201 Munson St. in Newhallville and 500 Blake St. in Westville, should add still another 528 new apartments, almost all market-rate, to the city.
And that’s not even counting projects that have been approved by the city but have yet to break ground, such as the Coliseum site redo.
“Things are more challenging” now during the Covid-19 pandemic, said Stamford-based developer Randy Salvatore if RMS Companies. Construction work has nevertheless continued apace. “When things get tougher, you have to pay a lot more attention to detail and work a lot harder.”
That means more upfront planning around Covid-safety precautions for construction workers. It also means lining up reliable supplies of high-demand raw materials like lumber, which Salvatore said has tripled in price in recent months thanks in part to pandemic-induced plant closures.
Nevertheless, even as Covid-19 has upended virtually every aspect of social and economic life in the city and across the country, these new buildings—predominantly market-rate housing built atop former parking lots in the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown—keep going up.
Some are finished and open for rent, like Salvatore’s six-story, 104-unit apartment building at 2 Washington Ave., an adjacent six-story, 90-unit apartment building at 216 Congress Ave., and a nearby 110-unit, mixed-use development at 22 Gold St.
Some are just weeks away from completion, like Crown Court Apartments LLC’s new six-story, 132-unit apartment building at 129 York St., also known as 18 High St.
And several more are still months or years from opening their doors to new tenants, like the 399 new apartments in the works at the former Olin factory site at 201 Munson St., and the 129 new apartments on the way at the former 500 Blake Street Cafe site in Westville.
“We are very grateful to have a great crew, architects, and builders who were able to pull through for us during these unprecedented times,” Sholom Andrusier about his company’s all-but-finished new apartment complex where a Brutalist parking deck once stood at Crown Street, High Street, and York Street.
Even as cranes rise and excavators rumble at sites across the city, still more planned new developments have yet to break ground. Those include site plan-approved projects like the 200-unit Phase 1 Coliseum redo, the 166-unit Corner Block complex on Chapel Street, the 10-story, 500,000 square-foot bioscience lab tower at 101 College St, and Yale New Haven Hospital’s $838 million new neuroscience medical research and treatment center. They also include projects that should be on their way soon to the City Plan Commission for site plan review, like an overhaul of Dixwell Plaza into a grocery store, 150-plus apartments, an office tower, and a performing arts venue; and the potential conversion of 50 Fitch St. into 200-plus apartments.
New Apartments On The Rise
One of the new construction projects closest to completion is the 132-unit apartment building at 18 High St. That complex stands right in front of New Haven Towers, replacing a parking deck.
Both downtown apartment buildings are owned by the same landlord: Sholom Andrusier.
Andrusier’s company received site plan approval from the City Plan Commission for the project in July 2019.
According to the city’s building permit online records, his company pulled a building permit for $15.1 million in new-construction work in October 2019. In December 2019, his company pulled an electrical permit for $1.3 million in work and a plumbing permit for $1.475 million in work, along with other associated building permits.
Andrusier told the Independent on Tuesday that the building should be finished and open by the first week of June.
A few blocks south in the Hill, Salvatore’s development company is at work building a new 223-unit apartment complex at 9 Tower Ln.
His company received site plan approval from the City Plan Commission for that project in May 2019.
According to city building permit records, his company pulled a building permit for $24.9 million in new-construction work in November 2019.
Salvatore told the Independent on Tuesday that the building should be finished and open by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
He also said that his company’s conversion of the rundown former Welch Annex School at 49 Prince St. into 30 new affordable apartments should be done within the next 45 days.
These projects mark the third and final phase of Hill-to-Downtown redevelopment plan.
Looping up to the Wooster Square-Downtown border, two new construction projects slated to bring hundreds of new apartments to Olive Street are underway.
One is at 87 Union St., also known as 44 Olive St. There, the New York City-based developers Epimoni and Adam America are building 299 market-rate apartments and 6,100 square-feet of retail space on a 2.72-acre lot that used to house the Torrco plumbing supply company.
A different real estate team first won site plan approval for that project from the City Plan Commission in 2015. The current developers got a five-year renewal on the site plan approval in July 2018.
According to city building permit records, the developers pulled a new-construction building permit for $25.7 million in work last May, as well as a HVAC, electrical, and plumbing permit for $12.4 million work last June.
Right next door, at the site of the former Comcast building at 630 Chapel St. and across the street atop a former surface parking lot at 673 Chapel St., the Houston-based development firm Hines is building a total of 230 new market-rate apartments and ground-floor retail space across two new buildings.
Hines took over the project from the Norwalk-based Spinnaker Real Estate Partners for nearly $15 million in 2019 after Spinnaker and the city successfully fought off years of lawsuits from the owner of the Strouse Adler building seeking to stymie the new development. The City Plan Commission first signed off on the project’s site plan in 2014.
According to city building permit records, the current developers pulled a new-construction building permit for $25.7 million in work at 630 Chapel St. in November 2019. They also pulled a new-construction building permit for $10.8 million in work at 673 Chapel St. in December 2019.
Back in the direction of downtown, Spinnaker’s construction crews are at work on Grove Street between State Street and Orange Street building 135 more apartments and ground-floor retail space as part of the latest phase of the The Audubon apartment complex.
Renters are already living in the complex’s 269-apartment building, which was finished in 2020. Spinnaker Vice President Frank Caico recently told the neighborhood community management team that this latest phase should be done by the spring of 2022.
Spinnaker received City Plan Commission site plan approval for this latest phase of development at 335 Orange St. in November 2018. In January 2021, they pulled a building permit for $778,000 in foundation work only at 335 Orange St.
Just to the west of Downtown in the Dwight neighborhood, Broadway Living LLC’s construction crew is building up a new six-story, 44-unit market-rate apartment complex atop a former surface parking lot at 104 Howe St.
The local developer Cambridge Realty Partners won site plan approval for the project in November 2019.
According to city building permit records, they pulled a new-construction building permit for $4.3 million in April 2020.
And in Fair Haven at 138 Clinton Ave., Mary Wade Home is in the process of building out a new 75,000 square-foot building that will house 84 one and two-bedroom assisted living units, including 20 reserved and equipped for people in need of “memory care.”
Mary Wade Home CEO David Hunter told the Independent Tuesday that construction on this development should be finished by late July or early August.
He said the total project will likely cost around $25 million or $26 million by the time it’s complete.
“We’ve been planning this building for about six or seven years,” he said. He praised the construction company working with Mary Wade Home for “being poised with all of their scheduling well before Covid. I just think we were fortunate to have already been on board with supply chains before crises hit.”
The long-time local nursing home pulled a new-construction building permit for $11.1 million in work in November 2019.
Q House, Farnam 2, Columbus Ave. Reconnect
Private developers putting up market-rate apartments aren’t the only local builders getting in on the action of New Haven’s construction boom.
On Dixwell Avenue, the publicly-funded Q House is steadily rising at the corner of Foote Street, across from Dixwell Plaza.
The city received site plan approval for the new Dixwell community center in July 2018.
City Engineer Giovanni Zinn told the Independent that the city hopes to finish construction by the end of June.
In October 2019 the city pulled a building permit for $11 million in construction work, not including the cost of mechanical, electrical and plumbing, at 197 Dixwell Ave.
Over on Grand Avenue and Franklin Street, the city’s public housing authority, Elm City Communities, along with the housing authority’s development wing, Glendower Group, is building out Phase 2 of the Farnam Courts / Mill River Crossing public housing rebuild.
Phase 2 is slated to include 111 new residential units across 10 different townhouse-style buildings at a site that used to house the now-demolished 1940s-era public housing complex. Phase 1, which is already complete and open, includes 94 new apartments.
Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of New Haven President Karen DuBois-Walton said that 88 of the new Phase 2 housing units will be dedicated affordable units backed by HUD RAD project-based vouchers. The remaining 23 will be market-rate, “thereby creating a mixed-income sustainable housing model.”
Phase 2 is broken up into two sub-phases. Phase 2a includes 45 units within four buildings, DuBois-Walton said, while Phase 2b contains 66 units within six buildings.
“The development includes new infrastructure, the creation of a central park and community building that will contain social service officers and community space.”
The housing authority won site plan approval from the City Plan Commission for Phase 2 in July 2019.
Shenae Draughn, the senior vice president of The Glendower Group, told the Independent by email that the cost of building out the vertical rental units, park and community building associated with Phase 2 is roughly $27.1 million. The cost of building out new roads, utilities, and other associated infrastructure work is around $7.6 million. And the total cost of demolition and abatement is around $2.5 million.
She said the housing authority provided $3.72 million and the City of New Haven provided $4 million for this phase of the project. The housing authority then leveraged those public dollars to receive additional private and public resources.
Farnam Phase 2a is slated to be complete by the end of July, and Phase 2b should be done by April 2022.
And, while not a new building, the city is also just about done building out a new road reconnecting Columbus Avenue across the middle of what was once the now-demolished Church Street South apartment complex.
Zinn told the Independent that the road reconnection is part of Phase 3 of Downtown Crossing, and is associated with the land sale agreement around for the 101 College St. bio-tower.
Downtown Crossing will result in the closure of South Frontage Road, he said. This reconnected Columbus Avenue between South Orange Street and Church Street South will serve as a detour.
The new roadway should be open by May 15, he said. The final road will have a separated off-street cycletrack on one side, and a striped bike lane on the other.
Downtown Crossing is all about “creating connections for bikes and pedestrians and vehicles,” he said. This new, extended Columbus Avenue “is just a good connection to have.”
City Downtown Crossing Phase 2 construction crews are also at work building out a new raised, bicycle- and pedestrian-protected intersection that connects Orange Street and South Orange Street across the Rt. 34 corridor, which includes MLK Boulevard, South Frontage Road, and the Air Rights Garage Service Drive.
Still In The Dirt, For Now
While much of the rest of the city bustles with new construction activity, two other prospective development sites are, for the time being, quiet and vacant piles of dirt and debris.
That includes the planned 399-unit upscale apartment complex to be built atop a long-vacant former factory site at 201 Munson St. on the Dixwell/Newhallville border.
Jeffrey Chung of the New York City-based Ironburgh Organization told the Independent that construction should begin this May or June. He said the development team had financing lined up for the project at the very beginning of early 2020—and then the pandemic hit, delaying the construction start time by around a year.
“There were some delays with Covid,” he said. “We have a construction loan we’ll be closing on in the next 30 days.”
Chung said that the massive pile of clean dirt that has stood for years near the northwestern corner of the site will be used towards the beginning of the construction period to fill in and replace contaminated soil moved off site.
“We’re committed 100 percent,” Chung said when asked if this long-delayed project will ever actually get off the ground.
He estimated construction will take roughly two years to complete.
The development team received site plan approval from the City Plan Commission for this project in December 2019.
According to the city building permit database, the most recent building permit pulled for this site was in October 2020. That new-construction permit is for footings and foundation work only, and estimates the cost of that portion of the construction project to cost over $5.3 million.
In Westville, Ocean Management is in the early stages of building out a new 129-unit apartment complex at the site of the former 500 Blake Street Cafe.
The local landlord received site plan approval for the project last May and demolished the former restaurant building this January.
“We are finalizing compliance with zoning, conducting a peer review for structural and are all set for permitting,” the development’s project manager, Melissa Saint, told the Independent by email.
She said the developer’s anticipated start date for construction is April 6. “At that time we will begin with ground improvements.”
And back downtown, the site of the former Webster Bank at 80 Elm St. remains a dusty crater.
That’s where Spinnaker plans to build a new hotel. After Spinnaker demolished the former bank building, as well as a historic former church contained within, the pandemic hit.
Spinnaker’s Caico recently told the neighborhood management team that lenders do not want to support a hotel project at this time as Covid continues to hit the hospitality industry. He said his company hopes to restart the hotel project by 2022 or 2023.