The Haven Project, RIP?
What everyone believes, was announced last week, but Mayor Nancy Rossi’s administration is not so sure. The 25-year attempt to redevelop the lower Elm Street area was given a death knell by Rep. Dorinda Borer (D-115) in a declarative statement on a local television program. Listening to the mayor, however, the project is still on the boards.
According to the report, the developers are looking to level the remaining structures in the area and will attempt to sell the property for between $33-$35 million. Insiders are saying the company may have spent as much as $41 million and is selling at a loss.
The company has filed for permits to continue demolition, and fees for eight more buildings were received.
According to Borer, the decision to halt the plan was made in a May meeting between city officials and the city’s state delegation. The Simon Group was looking for more help from the state. The announcement posed its own questions and concerns. While Borer says the project is dead, Rossi is saying she knows no such thing.
The first question regards who made the announcement. Dorinda Borer, not Mayor Nancy Rossi, made the disclosure, which we believed was a bad decision by City Hall. Rossi, not Borer, is the leader of West Haven, and the mayor put herself in the forefront of negotiating with the Simon Group, while using her bully pulpit to announce fines on the project if demolitions did not take place. When asked about the Borer pronouncement, the mayor referred the question to Borer.
The May meeting, the session where the Simon Group allegedly announced its intention to scuttle the project, is not as cut-and-dried as some would think, according to the mayor. Rossi insists while doubts were raised, no declaration was made by a member of the Simon Group indicating the project was dead. The dispute seems of a piece with the entire history of the project.
The entire Haven saga is one of a city desperate to get something accomplished and willing to deal from a position of weakness to get something – anything – done. The Simon Group from the outset has been unwilling to be a cooperative “partner” in the venture, refusing to give simple answers to questions about tenants, construction timelines, and other information. Even when demolition began in 2020, it seemed to be a grudging response to city leaders’ pressure. The 2014 presser to announce the deal has been its high-water mark.
West Haven, meanwhile, used the 2005 Kelo v. New London decision (one of the worst decisions by the then-liberal Supreme Court) to force sale of properties, taking people’s homes away from them. Those homes continue to stand today as a monument to at least four city administrations’ failed attempts to add to our tax base. The homes may be razed, but the failure remains.
The original “Water Street Project” was announced in September 1997. It was changed to the West River Project and the West Farms Project only to be shelved for lack of interest. The Haven project centers around a mall in an era when over-the-counter sales are declining in favor of online purchases.
It remains to be seen what comes next. We hope a commercial venture of some sort is built on the property. What we don’t want to see there is housing, which will further tax our resources, while adding nothing to the tax base.