Developer begins transforming a disconnected New Haven neighborhood

NEW HAVEN - For decades, New Haven's leaders have been trying to reconnect the city's Hill neighborhood to the downtown after years of separation as a result of the construction of the Route 34 Connector off of I-91 and I-95.

Finally, they're finally making headway.

A new mixed use development is under construction only a couple of blocks from Union Station, Gateway Community College, the Yale Medical School and Yale-New Haven Hospital.

On Gold Street, next to Amistad Park, the foundation for an apartment building, which is the first development in what's called the Hill to Downtown Community Plan, has been poured.

The four story, 110 unit, 148,000 square foot building will be the first piece of an 11.6 acre transformation of an area that included neglected properties and surface parking lots in the former Oak Street neighborhood, which dates back to the 1800's.

"This is where the Jews and Italians came," said Matthew Nemerson, New Haven's Economic Development Administrator. "This is where the Lender’s bakery and bagels was invented, right here."

Two years ago, the Board of Alders, including a native of the Hill neighborhood, paved the way to this mixed use development.

"When it comes to your neighborhood it’s a sense of pride that there’s some redevelopment and it’s going to not only bring up the value, but just make the Hill look pretty," said Alder David Reyes (D-5), who recalled coming to a bakery right near the Gold Street development.

The project is getting a boost from $5 million in funding, from the Connecticut Department of Housing. It's money that allows the developer to offer 30 percent of the units at affordable housing rates.

"It’s very unusual where you find four or five parcels of land in a city like New Haven, where you can develop and create a neighborhood," said Randy Salvatore, the President & CEO of Stamford based, RMS Companies, which completed construction of and leased to capacity The Novella, a 136 unit apartment complex on the corner of Chapel and Howe Streets two and a half years ago.

Salvatore said the apartment complex at 22 Gold Street should be ready for occupancy by year's end.

"So, there’ll be three new buildings right around here, in a circle, and then there will be a rehab (rehabilitating a former school) across the street and then a block away, there’ll be a tower," said Nemerson, as he was describing the project RMS has taken on.

"I’m confident that a few years from now these new developments will activate this neighborhood and further connect it to the downtown and the train station," said Salvatore.

It's estimated that this Hill to Downtown Community Plan could create 2,500 permanent jobs and 10,000 construction jobs over the next 10 years. Also part of the big picture of the rebirth of the Hill is the the demolition of the nearby, condemned, Church Street South apartments, which is scheduled to begin this month.