West Haven Neighborhood Thriving On New Mixed Use Developments
As construction workers working for Acorn development affiliate Forest Road Manor LLC are putting the interior finishes on the four-story Atwood, which will offer 67 market-rate apartments and 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, marketing people have put out a two-page flyer touting two similar-sized buildings.
“The Forest” would be built on the former site of the Forest Theater at the main intersection of the Boston Post Road, Campbell Avenue and Forest Road, and “Park Place” would be built behind the Allingtown Green along what now is Cellini Place — but in the brochure’s rendering, looks as if it would be abandoned.
The Acorn Group website, which calls the flyer’s “Park Place” building “Park View,” refers to them collectively as “University Commons.”
The flyer, entitled “Be Part of The Birth of a College Town,” was posted Tuesday on the city’s website, along with a short narrative. It shows The Forest with 50 apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space and Park Place as offering 62 apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail space.
Together, they add up to 240,000 total square feet of development, including 50,000 square feet of retail space and 179 apartments — with an estimated total of 400 new residences between them.
“I hope my fellow Westies are as excited as I am about the forthcoming opening of The Atwood, an upscale housing and retail development that will generate much-needed property tax revenue for the city while helping to transform our Allingtown neighborhood into a true college community,” Mayor Ed O’Brien said in an emailed statement.
“I am grateful to David Beckerman for bringing his unique vision to this project, which is expected to include at least three national tenants,” said O’Brien, who joined Beckerman, the former Starter Corp. CEO, and Acorn Group Vice President Gary S. Letendre Wednesday for a tour of The Atwood to see its progress.
O’Brien’s development chief, Commissioner of Planning and Development Joseph Riccio Jr., did not return several calls for comment. Neither Beckerman nor Letendre could immediately be reached for comment.
The brochure, aimed at potential retail tenants, boasts that at The Atwood, 6,000 students on the University of New Haven’s campus, just off Route 1 up the hill from the development, are “only 400 feet away.”
According to the flyer, The Forest would include 62 market-rate apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail space. Park Place would include 50 market-rate apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space.
$1 million in new property tax revenues back to top
Collectively, the three projects are estimated to produce more than $1 million in annual property tax revenue for the city, officials have said.
The Atwood, which at the time it was approved was valued at $18 million, would generate $101,776 in property tax revenue for the city in its first year and $370,279 by the eighth year of a property tax phase-in the City Council approved early last year, officials have said.
The brochure lists projected completion dates of June 2018 for The Forest and June 2019 for Park Place — although it also suggests that The Atwood’s retail space would be available in January 2017 and its residential units would be available in June of this year; both goals it appears to have run over.
The developer has yet to file any applications for the second and third buildings, said Assistant Planner David Killeen.
“They’ve talked with (Commissioner of Planning and Development Joseph Riccio Jr.) and they’ve shown us schematics,” but have yet to file any applications, Killeen said. “We’ve been expecting any time that they would bring it in.
“I think it’s exciting,” Killeen said.
No application for abandonment of Cellini Place has been filed with the City Council — although a proposal to sell a portion of the parking lot of the Louis Piantino Allingtown Branch Library was on the agenda at Monday night’s council meeting.
It got a frosty response from some residents who worried that it might mean that the library itself — located behind the proposed Park Place site along Forest Road — was at risk.
“You’re going to sell the library parking lot?” asked an incredulous Michael Hickey during the council’s public comment session.
Democratic mayoral challenger Nancy Rossi, a former council member, urged the council to be cautious, saying, “Allingtown is the most needy district,” both for the library, itself, and things such as Wi-Fi.
“That library must always be there,” she said.
If the city is considering selling it, “someone has to have a long-term plan” under which anything the city loses gets replaced, she said. “I don’t want to hear that the parking lot got sold for 20 bucks.”
Sean Brown, son of West Haven Black Coalition President Carroll E. Brown, whose coalition offices moved into the part of the library building under O’Brien’s administration, was more than a little concerned.
“I see where this Allingtown Library project is going,” Brown told the council, decrying the fact that “no one informed (Carroll Brown). I just found out. You’re talking about a community leader.”
But beyond that, “You have kids that use the Allingtown library,” Sean Brown said. “Why can’t you go into another library that isn’t being used.”
Council Chairman Jim O’Brien, D-6, responded.
“Just so you know, there’s no action against the library,” he said.
“You’ve got the black coalition in there, trying to do programs,” said Brown. “They need their parking lot. If you think you’re doing right, you need to think again, because these are people there. ... You’re getting ready to move them out!
“Selling properties, moving people out,” Brown said. “These are people! When are you going to start fighting for the people, instead of this money thing? Allingtown has been ignored for decades. My mother has been fighting about this for 40 years.”
He cautioned the council that with a primary scheduled for Sept. 12, “This is how long you have to make real changes for real people .”
Later in the meeting, economic development chief Riccio spoke about the library issue, saying, “Anytime you sell city property that wasn’t taken by foreclosure, you need to go to Planning & Zoning for a referral. P&Z will report back to you about whether it complies with the Plan of Conservation & Development.
"Let me just say that we do have an agreement in principle with Mr. Beckerman on a portion of that library property,” he said, adding that he had met with library officials “and I think they understand the needs of this project” and have no problem as long as the parking is replaced.
The council took no action other than to refer to proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission for an opinion. The council eventually will vote once it receives that opinion back.