In an important step for the Haven project, the Office of the State Traffic Administration has approved the traffic plan for the West Haven development. The approval comes after months of waiting, leaving demolition of the site up in the air.
West Haven Corporation Council Lee Tiernan said the plan to widen Elm Street has been approved pending the developer, the Simon Group, post a bond of $5 million.
“They are now allowed to go forward with this development they envisioned seven years ago,” said Tiernan, adding the developer now had legal authority to do it.
According to Tiernan, beginning construction of the mall would not have been legal without this state approval.
Tiernan said the Department of Economic and Community Development needs to provide $5 million for the demolitions which need to occur along Elm Street and along the shoreline. He added the Simon Group has told him they have received bids for the demolition costing less than $4 million.
“The DECD $5 million contract will be submitted to the City Council for the July 22 meeting for its approval,” said Tiernan.
The lawyer also spoke to concerns that malls are not fairing as well as they used to due to online shopping. He said the malls built by the Simon group are destination and experience projects and represent the new era of mall development in the United States.
“This is a total different experience (than other malls) which is what gets you up and out instead of phoning it in through amazon,” said Tiernan. “This is what the group does. They are the largest mall developer group in the country.”
Tiernan said the project has potential to increase property value in the surrounding area because other developers may have interest in building commercial and residential projects around the mall. According to Tiernan, it will offset the cost of increased traffic.
“If people are going to be going through West Haven to get there and through West Haven to leave – they shouldn’t worry about the traffic,” said Tiernan, who added the Haven should help other businesses in the city.
Tiernan said all the information he has available to him points to the demolition, along with the rest of the project, moving forward very soon.
“I have no information to the contrary,” said Tiernan. “I fully expect Christmas shopping at that site in 2020. Let me know if you have any questions.”
When completed, The Haven, a $200 million, 261,182-square-foot luxury outlet center, will cover 26 waterfront acres that will feature dozens of upscale retail shops, restaurants, a promenade and a 200-seat amphitheater. The development is expected to generate between 800 and 1,200 jobs and several million dollars in municipal tax revenue and fees.
First announced nearly seven years ago, the plan was the latest in a series of attempts to redevelop the area. It was first announced in 1997 at the “Water Street Project.” Mayor H. Richard Borer, Jr., enlisted the Yale School of Architecture to come up with the original plans as part of his “Gateway Project” that was going to upgrade each artery that led into the city. Over the years it became the “West River Project,” celebrating the movement of New Haven settlers into West Farms, which became West Haven.
The closest the project came to fruition was in 2005, but Borer’s loss to upstart John Picard led to the new mayor scuttling the plans, which called for several units of residential space, a far cry from the commercial-light industrial plan that had been original contemplated.
Picard worked with developers to get a new plan on the boards, and had done the preliminary work with the Haven, but it wasn’t until Mayor Edward O’Brien took office that the formal announcements of the project were announced.