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May 27, 2024 Deal Watch

Historic New Haven mill site approved for major apartment redevelopment goes up for sale

RENDERING | CONTRIBUTED A rendering of the 144-unit apartment redevelopment approved for 446A Blake St., in New Haven.

As a slew of new residential and mixed-use developments continue popping up throughout downtown New Haven, the city’s Westville neighborhood — bordering the town of Woodbridge and near Southern Connecticut State University — is also seeing increased activity.

One potential project in the district is looking for a new owner and developer.

Earlier this month, a 1.8-acre property — which has approvals in place for a multifamily redevelopment — was listed for sale.

The parcel at 446A Blake St. has been approved for 144 residential units to be completed over three phases.

Phase one is a ground-up development of a new five-story, 55-unit apartment building.

Phase two is an adaptive reuse of an existing 45,800-square-foot historic mill building, which is currently being used as office space, into 36 residential units.

Phase three entails construction of a new five-story, 53-unit apartment building.

The approved plans call for a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, some of which would be set aside as affordable, and 36,000 square feet of open space.

Brad Balletto

Bradley Balletto, co-founder and investments managing director of Northeast Private Client Group, which has the listing, said it’s not uncommon for property owners to gain approvals for a development, and then sell the site before construction begins. Some owners are real estate investors who either don’t have the expertise to develop a site, or simply aren’t interested in taking the property through the construction phase.

Developers in Connecticut and nationwide have also hit stumbling blocks in the last year or so, as higher interest rates and construction costs have made it harder to find project financing.

Balletto, who has the listing with Northeast Senior Associate Jeff Wright, said the planning and zoning process “is long, capital-intensive and can be risky,” so an investor or developer who wins project approvals “has added a lot of value to the site.”

New Haven has several recent examples of approved projects that traded hands before construction began, including: 673 Chapel St., which became The Whit Apartments; 87 Union St., which is now Olive & Wooster Apartments; 842-848 Chapel St., which is under construction and will be The Archive Apartments; and 20 and 36 Fair St., which were recently purchased to be built into 185 units.

‘More vibrant’

The 446A Blake St. property is owned by a limited liability company — 446A BLAKE — that traces back to other LLCs controlled by Tom Gelman, Yael Ilani and Yair Barda, all of Brooklyn, New York, as well as California-based Moonars LLC.

The owners purchased the property in 2018 for $1.55 million, and have since taken out two separate mortgages with a combined value of $1.48 million from the Israel Discount Bank of New York, land records show. The loans had an aggregate outstanding principal balance of $1.28 million as of March 25, land records show.

The city approved the redevelopment plan in January 2023.

The property is listed for an undisclosed amount, but has already garnered interest from potential developers, Balletto said.

“We have heard from several developers that they are only pursuing approved sites in the current market,” Balletto said.

The city of New Haven has approved the conversion of this mill building at 446A Blake St. into apartments.

The Blake Street property is for sale as demand for apartments in New Haven remains strong — the city has a vacancy rate of around 3%, according to Northeast Private Client Group.

Since 2014, New Haven has added at least 3,500 new affordable and market rate apartments. There’s another 3,500 units in the works for the next few years, not including about 1,000 apartments expected to debut in 2024.

New Haven is benefiting from continued investment by Yale, Yale New Haven Hospital and the life sciences sector, Balletto said, adding that recent new apartments are being absorbed quickly.

The Blake Street site is attractive because it’s part of a broader redevelopment area. It sits next to a similar project currently under construction at 500 Blake St., which will include 129 apartments.

Since the pandemic, several new businesses — including the Camacho Garage restaurant, Pistachio Cafe, a planned pickleball facility, vintage clothing stores and artist studios — have added to Westville’s signature village vibe, said Elizabeth Donius, executive director of the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance.

In the next few years, more than 650 apartments are set to come online in the neighborhood, bringing new residents to the area, Donius said.

The city revamped zoning regulations years ago to encourage more mixed-use development in Westville, while putting in place certain building restrictions — like limiting property heights to four stories — to maintain the district’s character, Donius said.

“The growth has really been positive,” she said. “This all just adds to the walkable, bikeable, community feel, it adds more people living here in Westville, which is becoming more diverse, more connected, more vibrant.”

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