November 9, 2018

Salon opening advances Whalley revitalization

Liese Klein
Liese Klein
L-r: Lauren Zucker, Yale associate VP for New Haven Affairs; Matthew Nemerson, city of New Haven economic development administrator; Ebony Selima Peterson-Dease, owner of Salon E'Selim; Ward 2 Alderman Frank E. Douglass, Jr., and Allen McCollum, commissioner of the Whalley Avenue Special Services District.

With a ribbon-cutting at the new Salon E'Selim on Thursday, local businesses and city leaders celebrated the latest milestone in the revitalization of lower Whalley Avenue, an area that has long struggled with vacancies and blight.

Salon owner Ebony Selima Peterson-Dease opened her business in a newly renovated storefront on the first floor of a building owned by Yale University, at 43-45 Whalley. Peterson-Dease, who specializes in hair extensions, had most recently worked at a Hamden salon after owning her own business in South Carolina.

"The artistry of creating styles and making people feel and look beautiful is what made me want to become a cosmetologist," Peterson-Dease said. "Customers can expect southern hospitality when they enter my salon."

Yale University Properties began a total renovation of the building last year after it had stood largely vacant for years. Currently four apartments on the upper floors are being leased to graduate students while a 720-square-foot commercial space across from the salon is still available.

"It is great to have a partner like Yale, it's great to have neighborhoods revitalized, buildings invested in like this. This whole area of Whalley Ave. is so important to us," said Matthew Nemerson, economic development administrator for the city.

Part of recent improvements in the area include a $100,000 investment by the city in new sidewalks for a one-mile stretch of Whalley starting at Broadway. Another major improvement was the opening of a Stop & Shop supermarket at 150 Whalley Ave. in 2011; earlier this year the store signed a lease to remain at the location for another decade.

Yale University Properties, which manages a real estate portfolio of dozens of buildings around the campus, was eager to renovate the Whalley building, said Lauren Zucker, associate vice president for New Haven Affairs and university properties. The structure was first purchased by the university in 2005 for $288,000.

The building at 43-45 Whalley is the only one owned by Yale on the street, although the university owns about a dozen other properties on neighboring Dixwell Avenue and Goffe Street, and almost every building on nearby Lake Place. The university bought dozens of properties in the period from 2005 to 2013 as part of economic stimulus efforts under Bruce Alexander, the recently retired vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development.

Yale has no immediate plans to renovate other buildings in the Whalley area or purchase more properties, Zucker said.

"The idea back then is that we really wanted to commit to revitalize downtown — now it's actually worked," Zucker said. "The good news is we're happy to have kind of sparked that activity."

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