The long-awaited redevelopment of Dixwell Plaza —bringing a new performing arts center, banquet hall, grocery store, museum, office complex, daycare center, retail storefronts, and 150-plus apartments and townhouses to the neighborhood’s fraying commercial hub — took one step closer to becoming a reality.
That step came Wednesday night, when the project’s developer, ConnCorp, a for-profit subsidiary of the Science Park-based nonprofit Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT), gained a unanimous vote of approval from the City Plan Commission.
The vote authorizes the developer to go before the Board of Alders for approval of a DLDA, or Development and Land Disposition Agreement, negotiated with the city.
The group has been steadily buying up condos over the past year-and-a-half in the 1960s-era shopping complex on the western side of Dixwell Avenue between Webster Street and Charles Street
It is now ready to acquire the balance of the property of the entire 7.5 acre site.
ConnCAT Board Chair Carlton Highsmith said the DLDA would release land for the Dixwell Plaza project, with the proposed purchase price approximately $750,000.
The rebuilt project is to be dubbed “ConnCAT on Dixwell.” Ultimate plans include the now Science Park based arts and vocational training center to relocate to the new site when it’s ready.
The job of analyzing and negotiating the DLDA was not the task of the commissioners on Wednesday night. Those details are discussed and the DLDA ultimately voted up or down by the Board of Alders in committee and then before the full board.
At Wednesday night’s gathering, conducted on the Zoom teleconferencing app and overseen by CPC Chair Ed Mattison, commissioners rather had to decide whether the project’s aims and components are in consonance with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and are meeting pressing needs.
There was no disputing that on the part of the commissioners, as Highsmith described the general plans including the construction, over five years, of 150 living units, with no less than 20 percent affordable.
Click here for an article about how Highsmith and ConnCORP’s other principals, Paul McCraven and Erik Clemons, previously unveiled plans and solicited input from supportive Dixwell residents.
“This is a project of transformative significance for Dixwell and New Haven as a whole,” said city Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli.
The aldermanic representative to the commission, Westville’s Adam Marchand, characterized it as “a pivotal moment to bring life back to an important artery going into the heart of the historical African-American community in New Haven.”
“This is a critical commercial corridor. This strip mall could be something fantastic, but it’s not meeting that potential now,” Marchand said.
Marchand added that the Board of Alders is already having lots of discussion on the project in its details, all of which will come before the City Plan Commission in a future site plan review.
“What’s before us tonight is simply should we advise the Board of Alders to convey city land to the developers for this, and I’d say supporting the revitalization of this corridor is a pretty high goal and part of the comprehensive plan.”
With that, the vote was swift and unanimous.