New uses eyed for Winchester site
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN — Winchester Repeating Arms, the shuttered gun manufacturer that was a long time economic engine for the city, is being imagined as a residential-retail model that will bring together Yale University, downtown and the Dixwell-Newhillville neighborhoods.
Excited professionals from Forest City Enterprises in Cleveland Thursday declared most of the 17 structures on the site bound by Winchester, Munson and Mansfield streets to have “good bones” for conversion to a new use that will complement the university’s expansion and commerical growth at Science Park.
The Science Park Development Corp. picked Forest City as the preferred developer with the necessary “deep pockets,” staying power and expertise to deal with the environmental concerns to bring the 750,000-square-foot site back to life.
Abe Naparstek, director of development for Forest City, whose headquarters is in Cleveland, told residents at the Dixwell Enterprise/Community Management Team meeting, that “these kinds of project are not for the faint of heart,” but his company has successfully converted others in worse condition.
They came to ask for input from the residents and will attend the Newhallville Management Team meeting Feb. 26 to continue the dialogue.
Naparstek said they expect to invest close to $100 million if their market, environmental and community studies show it is a viable project. He said their business model is to stay and manage their projects after they are built.
Lisa Hopkins of the management team told the developers that there is a lot of subsidized housing for the poor in New Haven.
“It’s the middle class that is being priced out and left out in the cold,” Hopkins said, asking that they consider a price range to include this demographic group.
Bryan Oos, development manager, estimated a conversion was possible within 2½ to 3 years if everything falls into place. Literally built to withstand an explosion, the facade, masonry, load bearing floors and mortar were declared by Oos to be “in beautiful shape.”
The site, which is expected to contain PCBs and a laundry list of other contaminents, was not a detriment to the developers, particularly as the previous owners, Olin and U.S. Repeating Arms, are on the hook to clean up the site to a commercial standard. Forest City would invest funds to bring the site to residential use standards.
A member of the development team, Douglas Arsham, said Forest City can handle anything “short of nuclear waste. We like projects with hair on them, and this project has a lot of hair on it.”
They plan to apply for federal historic tax credits, as well as work to incorporate sustainable elements, although this sometimes conflicts with the historic requirements.
Forest City will bring back its project within six months to the Science Park Development Corp., at which point they hope to have a deal for the development.
The conversion to residential use comes at the same time that Carter Winstanley has bought a biotech incubator building across the street at Science Park, where Yale will also locate some administrative offices.
Next up, is a plan for a parking garage by Winstanley on a nearby site, according to Lisa Grossman of Capstan, a consultant to Science Park.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.