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July 23, 2019

Digging dirt: Downtown Crossing Phase 2 begins

Photos | New Haven BIZ Digging up dirt: Ceremonial groundbreaking for Phase 2 of the city’s ten-year Downtown Crossing project.

A gaggle of public officials from U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-3) and New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp on down took ceremonial shovels in hand in the sweltering sun Monday afternoon to launch the city’s newest downtown-development initiative.

It may not be quite of the magnitude of the Louisiana Purchase, as DeLauro suggested, but the second phase of the Downtown Crossing project is a big deal nevertheless, adjusted for the scale of the Elm City.

Thomas Jefferson’s 1803 steal-of-a-deal from a slightly distracted Napoleon Bonaparte practically doubled the territory of the United States — and at the low, low, low price of $15 million (three cents an acre!) was actually less than the $20 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II (TIGER) grant money that jump-started the Downtown Crossing project three years ago, or the $21.5 million kicked in by the state’s Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD).

Such a deal. Phase 2 of Downtown Crossing will reconnect the Orange Street corridor severed a half-century ago, reconciling the central business district with Union Station and the Hill neighborhood.

When completed two years hence the project will reconnect Orange Street with South Orange Street across the infamous “highway to nowhere,” better known as the Rt. 34 connector.

The new grade-level highway crossing will be Connecticut’s first protected intersection for pedestrians and bicyclists. (It will also accommodate automobiles and buses.

L-r: Mayor Toni N. Harp, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and city transportation director Douglas Housladen on Orange Street Monday afternoon.

“This critical project will relieve congestion, improve traffic flow, address flooding and create our state’s first protected intersection for bicyclists,” said DeLauro. “It will also create good jobs that cannot be outsourced, spark economic growth and open new opportunities for our city to flourish.”

“The grade-level Orange Street crossing continues the work we’ve done these past six years to unify downtown with Union Station, the Hill and the [Yale-New Haven] medical complex,” said Harp. “Progress on Downtown Crossing will continue to add jobs as we yield some ten acres of developable land to the city’s property-tax base.”

The Orange Street improvements will pave the way for the redevelopment of the adjacent block that once housed Veterans Memorial Coliseum. New developer Clay Fowler of South Norwalk’s Spinnaker Real Estate Partners will now quarterback a mixed-use development of housing and retail, slated to begin construction in the spring of 2021. 

Begun in 2013 and completed three years later, Phase 1 of the Downtown Crossing project  converted the College Street corridor across the Rt. 34 Connector and reclaimed the 2.4-acred parcel that is now the site of the 14-story, 450,000-square-foot medical laboratory and research facility at 100 College Street.

Set to begin in 2021 at the conclusion of Phase 2, Phase 3 will connect Temple Street to Congress Avenue via a bridge that will accommodate motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. That final element of Downtown Crossing is scheduled for completion in 2023.

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