NEW HAVEN — Construction is underway for a six-story luxury apartment building with street-level retail abuilding on a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Chapel and Howe streets.


The privately funded project broke ground in mid-May at 1145 Chapel Street. It will have 136 upscale apartments, 92 parking spaces and approximately 5,000 square feet of retail space, according to developer Randy Salvatore, president of RMS Cos., a Stamford-based real estate firm that constructs and manages residential and commercial properties. The “urban chic boutique” Hotel Zero Degrees hotels in Stamford and Norwalk are RMS’ handiwork.


Salvatore’s RMS Chapel Street, LLC recently purchased the 53,000 square foot Elm City property for the apartment building —approximately 1.2 acres — for $3,675,000. The deal includes two houses at 169 and 175 Dwight Street, which will be renovated, and a two-family house at 1249 Chapel Street that is part of the Dwight Street historic district and has been relocated to a vacant lot at 1255 Chapel Street.


The seller was Chapel & Dwight, LLC, a group of property owners represented by Steve Witten and Victor Nolletti of Marcus & Millichap.


“We felt its highest use was residential development and marketed as such nationally,” says Nolletti, executive director and senior vice president of investments for M&M’s Institutional Property Advisors group. “The primary buyer pool was between [Washington] D.C. and Boston, and [Salvatore] was the most viable suitor of around a dozen.”


Salvatore first pitched his mixed-used proposal in 2012, following a call from Nolletti about the property. “When I saw it I thought it would make a great apartment site,” he says. “I know New Haven a little bit. At the time my brother was a grad student at Yale School of Architecture.”


The project evolved along with discussions with community members, a lawsuit by the owner of a neighboring building and the city approval process. New Haven’s City Plan Commission unanimously green-lighted the development last December.


The apartments will be a mix of “very modern” studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, with hardwood floors, stainless-steel appliances and stone countertops, Salvatore says. Some will have balconies. Amenities include gathering areas, exercise rooms, a screening room and a rooftop deck.


Salvatore expects a diverse range of tenants, from graduate students and “young people getting their first jobs” to professionals and empty-nesters.


“Things go in cycles,” he adds. “Right now there’s a big push in all demographics for people to move into the urban areas.”


Nolletti agrees.


New Haven has become “kind of a 24/7 live-work community,” he says, noting the proliferation of restaurants and cultural activities in the city as well as a “demographic shift to Gen-Xers and a mature successful population” attracted to urban living.


“New Haven is an exceptionally desirable city,” Nolletti adds.  “Over the last four years, it has been in the top ten (U.S.) metro areas with the lowest apartment vacancy rates.”


Salvatore estimates the entire project, including the price of the land and the houses, will cost around $17 million. Construction should be completed by spring 2015. 


A restaurant could fill the retail space.


“I don’t have anything solidified yet,” Salvatore says. “Just something to create ground-floor activity.”


Salvatore views the upscale apartment building as “a win-win when all is said and done.


“The Chapel West Association was totally in support of the project, and everyone now is excited about it.”


Adds Nolletti, “This is just going to be a phenomenal development for the neighborhood.”