Demo clearing way for waterfront West Haven mall

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WEST HAVEN --  A highly contested, upscale, waterfront mall in West Haven is now more than just a plan.

For four years The Haven, to be built just north of First Avenue, has been in the works and Thursday morning, it became closer to the real thing.

The first of over 50 properties that will need to be demolished, was leveled at the corner of First Ave. and Main St.

"It's music to my ears," said Mayor Ed O'Brien (D-West Haven). "It's exciting to see this demolition starting. The Haven is finally starting to be built!"

And, while the developer pulled all of the necessary permits, the Mayor didn't realize demo would start Thursday.

"Usually, every morning, I drive around parts of the city to see what's going on and I turned from First Avenue onto Main and saw this big crane taking the house down," he said with a smile.

"This is a quarter billion dollar project," noted Joe Riccio, West Haven's Commissioner of Planning and Development, who noted the mall is billed by developers as coastal, chic shopping.

"Within 100 miles of this area, the income is just incredible and that's the basis for their business plan," added Riccio.

O'Brien, who is seeking reelection as a write-in candidate, after losing the Democratic primary in September, said the mall will feature "seven restaurants, 1,200 jobs, 65 luxury retail stores."

"It was boarded up for two and a half years, so, they're making some progress," said Kathryn Johnson, who lives a half block from the development.

"Really, what do we have here in this area that's like right on the water," queried Scott Guerrera, another nearby resident. "You can't beat it. You can shop, eat right on the water."

O'Brien says once construction is complete, about two years from now, The Haven will be first waterfront outlet mall in the country, which will build the city's tax base.

"The estimate is about $3 million with personal property and everything else involved with all the taxes," O'Brien said.

O'Brien says that while he was concerned the city might have to acquire some of the properties through eminent domain, that was not necessary as the property owners all struck deals with the developer.