Real Estate: Green Gamble
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To most, September of 2007 would seem to have been a particularly bad time, if not the worst time, to start construction on a 32-story, 500-unit apartment building in downtown New Haven. Just a few months earlier, the economy had begun the nosedive that may be leveling off only now. Companies would soon by laying off employees in droves. And in the two to three years it would take for a development of that size to be completed, financing for commercial real estate dried up.
But Bruce Becker was not deterred. Becker is the president of Becker+Becker Associates Inc., the Fairfield architectural and development firm behind 360 State Street, the ambitious new mixed-use complex of retail space and rental apartments in the lower Chapel Street section of the city.
In the current analysis, Becker appears to have been right. In late July of this year, two months ahead of schedule, the first 110 tenants began moving in, followed by a second wave in September and more expected this month. The project has benefitted from an unusually available and affordable labor pool, lower costs for materials and none of the delays that so often accompany big construction projects. As Becker notes, “It’s a good time to build when other people aren’t building.”
360 State Street also had the early support of city planners and state housing officials—and with good reason. It is the first new, ground-up residential building in downtown New Haven in more than 20 years, and the first structure on the 1.61-acre site of the former Shartenberg’s Department Store, which closed in 1962.
The city is hoping the development will spur interest in a section of the downtown, lower Chapel Street, that has stubbornly failed to bloom, even during the urban renewal of the 1970s.
“Having 800 to 1,000 new tenants is good for our businesses,” says Kelly Murphy, Mayor John DeStefano’s economic development administrator. “It means more people eating in restaurants, going to our museums, shopping in stores. Also, this has been a long-vacant space that now will connect to the downtown and to Wooster Square on the other side of the railroad tracks. And as a major investment, it’s encouraging others to invest.”
The 700,000-square-foot building comprises a 25-story residential tower atop a four-story parking garage and 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Rentals break down to 50 “affordable” units and 450 units priced at market rates.
Those range from efficiency studios to one- and two-bedroom units and three-bedroom penthouse suites with terraces. Rates begin at $1,165 for studios, $1,555 for one-bedroom units, $2,325 for two-bedroom units and $4,409 for three bedroom apartments. The development sits directly across from the State Street train station and within walking distance of three bus stops, dozens of restaurants, museums and shops, and the New Haven Green, a block away.
Better still, 360 State Street is a model of green design and energy efficiency—laudable considerations, to be sure, but also smart selling points in this highly eco-conscious time and town.