Construction could begin next summer on $400M development



NEW HAVEN — A plan to redevelop the former Veterans Memorial Coliseum site took  a major leap forward December 2, when the Board of Alderman unanimously approved it, along with a land transfer agreement with Montreal developer Live Work Learn Play (LWLP).


“We’re very pleased and we’re very excited,” said LWLP vice president Richard Martz. “It’s been over three years since we started working on this project, and we’ve invested a lot of time and energy to come up with a plan that everybody supports.”


LWLP estimates the total project cost will be $395 million, including $363 million in private funding.


According to a city economic impact analysis, if fully redeveloped by 2020 the 4.5-acre site will have 719 residential units, 76,900 square feet of retail space, 200,000 square feet of Class A office space, a 160-room hotel, 785 parking spaces and 52,670 square feet of public space. The entire project also is expected to create 4,676 construction jobs, 2,800 full-time jobs and generate annual sales tax revenues of  $2,340,000.


Martz says LWLP now will focus on finalizing plans with Newman Architects for the first part of the project: a public square surrounded by several buildings with first floor retail and upper-floor rental units. Construction could commence as soon as next summer.


But advancing from site plan to reality depends on government-funded infrastructure improvements, Martz says. The most important upgrade, he stresses, is the creation of an intersection at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Orange Street, where the hotel will be sited. 


The new intersection, along with landscaping and other infrastructure improvements, will cost around $33 million, according to city New Haven economic development administrator Kelly Murphy. The city has promised as much as $12 million — up to $5 million for Phase 1 and up to $7 million for Phase 2.


Murphy and other city officials and legislators are vigorously lobbying state officials for the rest. “All we can do is make the strongest case for economic return on this investment,” she says.


“We tried for a TIGER grant but didn’t get it,” adds Murphy, referring to a fifth round of U. S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant fund the city applied for in June, requesting $12.5 million to redesign the intersection and extend the Water Street bike route to the Coliseum site, among other improvements.


In late November, the city sent preliminary designs of  the new intersection to the state’s Department of Transportation.


“The next step will be to advance the designs and go out for public input,” according to Chris Canna, city project manager for the Coliseum project. 


“Our goal is to begin moving dirt next summer (2014) and target finishing the first phase — the town square and retail — by summer 2016,” Martz says. “Our commitments are very much tied to the infrastructure improvements. Ideally it’s most cost-efficient to do everything at once, but we understand that there may not be enough funding to do it that way. We can do it in phases as long as there’s a commitment to the first half of the infrastructure improvements.”


Martz says he is “cautiously optimistic” about obtaining public funding.


“I think the state has been very receptive to the project,” he says. “We want to make sure it is shovel-ready next summer so that we’re ready to go whenever we get the green light.”