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West Haven waterfront business development signals economic rebirth

West Haven waterfront business development signals economic rebirth

By Mayor Edward O'Brien of West Haven

West Haven is on the cusp of an economic rebirth, one that Mayor Edward M. O'Brien is hopeful will shape and strengthen the landscape of the city's business climate for the better in the decades ahead.

Anchoring the years-in-the-making revival is The Haven outlet mall development, a $200 million proposal by The Haven Group LLC to build dozens of high-end retail shops, a 200-seat amphitheater, seven restaurants and a waterfront promenade in the 24-acre Water Street project area on New Haven Harbor. Phase one of the two-phase, 347,826-square-foot development, known as The Haven South, is expected to include 60 upscale outlet stores and encompass 250,000 square feet.

The privately financed project, directed by internationally renowned developers Sheldon M. Gordon and Ty Miller, is expected to create hundreds of full­ and part-time jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs, and generate $2 million in annual property tax revenue for the city.

O'Brien said The Haven is the game-changing economic engine that West Haven has long sought since the demise of the old Savin Rock amusement park in 1966, a transformational project that will make it a destination, much like in its heyday of "the Rock," and steer development in the coastal city for generations to come. Ripe for development, West Haven is teeming with economic development opportunities to grow its grand list of taxable property, O'Brien said, from mixed-use to commercial to workforce housing possibilities. Leading the charge in the heart of the city's Allingtown neighborhood is The Atwood, a new 90,150-square-foot building at 222 Boston Post Road that will house 67 market-rate apartments and 15,200 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, according to officials familiar with the project.

The $18 million, four-story building, just down the road from the University of New Haven on Route 1, is being developed on the former 89-year-old site of the Carroll Cut-Rate Furniture store by Forest Manor LLC, a company that includes former Starter Corp. sportswear founder and CEO David A. Beckerman. The Atwood, which should open next summer, will net the city $1.8 million in property tax revenue over the life of a seven-year tax deferral agreement for the developer.

West Haven's groundswell of contemporary development initiatives are blazing a new frontier of development in the city of 55,000 people, an upward trend that has not gone unnoticed. Because of the city's creative, modem and sophisticated planning, O'Brien was recently invited to participate in the East Regional Session of the Mayors' Institute on City Design in Florida. The invitation-only event, set for Sept. 21-23 in Miami Beach, is limited to eight mayors, eight design and real estate development experts and MICD partners.

For 30 years, MICD has been the nation's pre-eminent forum for mayors to tackle city design and development issues. The institute is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation.

O'Brien was asked by MICD, which is paying for his expenses to participate, to discuss a planning matter facing West Haven that the institute can explore from the perspective of city design. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city of West Haven," said O'Brien, who will talk about the transit-oriented development, or TOD, zoning district for the area surrounding the Metro-North Railroad commuter station, a project aimed at "encouraging a more walkable, bikeable, mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly environment." "I am excited to discuss this progressive development plan with other mayors and design experts from across the country and seek their advice on ways to potentially enhance the TOD," O'Brien said.


TOD plan also underway back to top

MICD Chairwoman Jane Chu said the design experts will give presentations on topics "carefully chosen to address the case studies that the mayors bring to the institute." A roundtable discussion will follow each presentation, offering "a rare opportunity for the mayors and design experts to discuss the issues candidly and explore design solutions that can improve the built environment of their cities," Chu said.

West Haven has received a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development's Brownfield Remediation Program to assess six city-owned properties, totaling 3.99 acres, in the TOD district for future use.

The grant, announced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Feb. 10, was awarded for the cleanup of blighted properties to attract new development, said city Grants Writer Eileen Krugel, who wrote the grant with Planning and Development Commissioner Joseph A. Riccio Jr. and a team of environmental experts. "This critical brownfield funding is helping the city create an economic development strategy that will connect the train station and other sections of West Haven to our downtown," O'Brien said.

Lighting the way for the TOD plan is the 561,000-square-foot Armstrong South complex at 475 Elm St. O'Brien said a prominent developer has shown significant interest in the former Armstrong Rubber Co. factory. The 7.32-acre industrial site, owned by Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC, is across the street from the 3-year-old train station.

Armstrong shuttered its West Haven-based tire manufacturing plant in 1982 after operating near Sawmill Road for seven decades. Other major developments include an ambitious expansion at MacDermid Enthone, a leading global supplier of high-performance specialty chemicals and coatings, along with budding expansions at UNH and the Yale University West Campus. USA Enthone, headquartered at 350 Frontage Road, operates in more than 50 countries with 10 production facilities and nine technical centers worldwide.

The expansion projects are joined by a new multimillion-dollar, multitenant development on the former site of the American Steakhouse at 354 Sawmill Road, which features an Aspen Dental, a Chipotle Mexican Grill and an expanded Starbucks Coffee. The Route 162 property is owned by the Tartaglia family, who owns the Monroe­ based American Steakhouse chain, which has locations in Bridgeport, Meriden and Norwalk. In three years under O'Brien's leadership, his administration has accomplished a track record of successful development initiatives unlike any predecessor in recent memory. The surge in new development - and the tax dollars it will yield for West Haven - is impressive, an economic boom the state has not seen for many years in the city.