Neighborhood Marketing Program: Newhallville Follow-up Report

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1 Neighborhood Marketing Program: Newhallville Follow-up Report By Peter Katz, Consultant; This report is submitted in fulfillment of project responsibilities related to Neighborworks America (NWA) Task Order # CS36. The client group is Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New Haven. Background / Situation The work in this follow-up project is intended to advance the implementation of the marketing and community revitalization program described in the prior revised document (dated ). It included several on-site meetings with NHS staff and a formal presentation of consultant recommendations to Erik Johnson, director of the City of New Haven s Livable Cities Initiative (LCI). As a native of Newhallville, and a well-positioned staff supporter of the potential project, Johnson could be a powerful champion for NHS revitalization efforts going forward. Owing to an upcoming mayorial election, however, to replace a nine-term incumbent, Johnson s ongoing involvement in the project is not a certainty. Although many feel that Johnson, an appointed director, is likely to remain in a future administration, his future role is a significant variable. The recent trip to New Haven also included research and screening of potential developer partners for parts of the proposed neighborhood redevelopment that are outside NHS recent core capabilities. Specifically this includes creating a critical mass of low-rise mixed-use (but mostly residential) buildings surrounding Winchester Crescent (described in detail in the prior revised document; the salient excerpt can be found in appendix 1). Report NHS staff expressed that the meeting with Johnson seemed to go well, and have had several interchanges since then with Johnson that confirm that impression. Because LCI (the city) controls key land parcels in Newhallville in the vicinity of the proposed Winchester Crescent, and because the project calls for certain improvements such as a park and community facilities that would likely be municipally funded, LCI s support for the project will be critical. Although there has been prior discussion of other city-led planning activities focused on the area, and specific steps going forward are somewhat unclear, NHS staff believes that significant progress was made in relation to its preferred approach to the revitalization of Newhallville. NHS staff hopes to see continued progress as a potential development team including them, other developer partners and LCI comes into existence. On the last point, working on the basis of referrals from well-regarded New Haven consultants, three candidate developers were identified and preliminarily reviewed.

2 Follow-up Report Page 2 Screening, performed jointly with NHS staff contacts, included evaluation of work examples and other information publicly available on the web. Candidate firms included Leyland Alliance of Tuxedo Park, NY; POKO Partners of Port Chester, New York and Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of Norwalk, CT. During the visit to Connecticut, meetings were held with representatives of Leyland and POKO, in locations that were also active development sites for the respective companies. These included Leyland s Storrs Center mixed-use development adjacent to the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and POKO s mixed-use renovation of 1001 Main street in downtown Bridgeport, CT. Subsequent to the New Haven visit, a third site visit took place in September at the Pitkin Theater Center, a completed POKO development in Brooklyn, NY. Leyland Alliance s mixed-use Storrs Center project began as a public private venture with the University of Connecticut.

3 Neighborhood Marketing Program: Newhallville Follow-up Report Page 3 POKO s sensitive renovation of a historic arcade (above) at 1001 Main Street remains consistent with the character of this important downtown landmark (vintage postcard at right, above). It provides retail and gallery space that serves as an amenity for housing in the same complex. POKO Partners Pitkin Theater Center (above) preserved a neighborhood landmark. It includes 70,000 square feet of retail space and a charter school.

4 Follow-up Report Page 4 From the meetings and site visits, POKO, with its extensive experience partnering with nonprofits on successful affordable housing and reuse projects, has emerged as a strong candidate for a possible partnership with NHS in Newhallville. The next step in the process would be an introductory meeting to discuss the opportunity with both parties. Conclusion The Newhallville neighborhood continues to encounter significant challenges. Several problematic incidents have caused Yale University s Architecture school to discontinue a joint summer program to build a student-designed house in the neighborhood. Recent violence and drug related crimes have brought negative headlines to the area. At the same time, NHS staff reports that rising prices for local property and concerns about gentrification have contributed to heightened tensions in the area, particularly in relation to a possible future development initiative. NHS great work in renovating existing homes to a high standard of appearance and functionality gives one great hope for the area, but their current production volume (of approximately 10 houses per year) is not significant enough to stem the overall decline that s taking place across the neighborhood. Their strategy of clustering makes sense because it concentrates resources and energy in one place, but even that approach has not been able to overcome the larger forces now affecting the community. NHS leadership and staff seem to support the strategy, described in the prior document, that takes the clustering concept up several notches, and combines NHS energies with those of other developers and the city. In so doing, one would hope that the necessary critical mass could be achieved to transform Newhallville, and communicate to the larger community that Newhallville IS turning around. NHS believes that consultant support of the process has been helpful, and that progress has been made during recent visits, and as a result of consultant-produced deliverables. Lacking funds for ongoing support of consultant participation, staff and consultant have explored possible alternative means of engagement. Those conversations are ongoing.

5 Follow-up Report Page 5 Appendix 1 [The following is excerpted from the Neighborhood Marketing Program; Revised ] Winchester Crescent The initial revitalization area would be called Winchester Crescent. The development strategy is to consciously crete a small yet highly secure safe zone on the north side of Science Park for prospective residents who would not otherwise consider the area. The initial offering consisting of (mostly) new residential buildings fully surrounding a crescent-shaped public square, is consciously intended to jump start an improvement pattern that will ultimately transform the entire neighborhood for the better. It is important that this first phase of development be of sufficient scope, scale and quality to transform the perception of this one part of the existing Newhallville neighborhood. To accomplish this goal, we recommend that the new development be conceptualized as an immersive environment. The term, originally coined by staff at Walt Disney Imagineering, is used here to describe a physical environment that is internally focused and groomed to a high standard of appearance and amenability. The consultant team believes that this approach, along with strong physical and marketing linkages to Science Park, offers the best opportunity to significantly transform

6 Follow-up Report Page 6 perceptions of the area. The image collage (following page) suggests a range of possible building types and architectural treatments for the buildings that surround the future Winchester Crescent. Options range from large detached single-family and duplex homes similar to the existing stock at Newhallville (center image within the collage), to townhouses, storefront buildings and 2-4 story stacked flat buildings. Buildings may have commercial uses at the ground level such as convenience retail or professional office (doctor, dentist, insurance, etc.). Note that the building configurations shown here are generally concave in relation to the crescent-shaped public square, helping to better define and enclose that public space. Most proposed buildings are also large enough to screen out nearby views that would detract from the desired goal of an immersive environment.

7 Follow-up Report Page 7 The park itself, also named Winchester Crescent, is conceptualized here as a formal square intended for passive uses but with some areas designed to support activities for young children (below, left). In addition, a significant public building (below, right) intended as a combined community center /recreational facility (possibly aquatics) will act as a further anchor and enhancement of the newly conceptualized Winchester Crescent. The latter facility will also house the police substation currently located at the corner of Winchester Avenue and Hazel Street.

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