New Haven Taps Northland as Developer of Downtown Mixed-Use Project

The city of New Haven, Conn., has picked Northland Investment Corp. to redevelop the 4.5-acre site of the former Veterans Memorial Coliseum into a mixed-use project that will include office, residential and retail space along with a new Long Wharf Theatre.One of six submissions, Northland’s proposal included more than 1 million square feet of development and parking. Tom Iskra, development manager for Northland, has told CPN the firm’s proposal called for 550 units of residences, most of which would be in a 29-story tower at George and State streets and others in seven-story buildings along Frontage and Orange streets that would have ground-floor retail. Iskra said city guidelines for the project call for at least 20 percent of the housing to be affordably priced. The plan proposed 40,000 square feet of retail; 80,000 square feet of office space in a seven-story building at Frontage and State streets; and just less than 1,000 parking spaces, much of it built underground, Iskra said. The company would also build a 70,000-square-foot theater along George Street for Long Wharf.Iskra declined to put a dollar figure on the project, but CPN reported Dec. 1, 2007, that the city was projecting such a development would cost about $230 million. Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, told CPN it would now probably be at least $200 million. She said construction of a new Gateway Community College in the same area was getting under way soon and is projected to cost about $170 million. Iskra said Northland is not involved in any plans to build the community college. Over the next four months, city officials will work with Northland to fine tune the project components. Once there is agreement on the components, those will become part of the land transfer and development agreements that will then have go to through standard city approval processes. “I’m assuming we’re two years away from seeing development there,” Murphy said today. “We’re just excited to start moving on it.”Archstone was the other final contender for the project. Without specifically citing the problems surrounding Archstone’s co-owner, Lehman Brothers, city officials did note that the number one criterion in choosing Northland was its financial stability. “Northland’s financial position is more secure particularly in the current financial market and thus provides confidence of the firm’s ability to complete the project in its entirety,” the city’s press released noted.The city also noted that Northland has worked in secondary and tertiary markets in similar cities, has a track record of keeping those investments in the markets, and has experience in Connecticut, which should help moved the project forward. Making the Long Wharf Theatre, now located at the waterfront, an integral part of the proposed plan was also important in the selection process, officials said. “Being able to successfully complete a challenging mixed-use project in an urban environment was critical to our success in this RFP process,” Iskra said. He added that Northland would be focusing much of its attention on following the New Haven project through what will be a multi-year build out. “I think (the city) has a really great base there with the Yale University campus and also the political atmosphere. They are really working to promote smart growth development there in New Haven,” Iskra said.The city imploded the 35-year-old Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the former home to minor-league hockey and arena football teams, in January. The project, which will be located on the southern end of the city’s Ninth Square neighborhood, will be bounded by North Frontage, State, George and South Orange streets. A review committee considered six proposals submitted earlier this year. In addition to Northland and Archstone, other companies vying for the project were Heyman Properties L.L.C., The Related Companies, the Richman Group Development Corp. and Avalon Bay Communities. Like Northland, several of the developers proposed including “green roofs” in their plans. Kelly Murphy, the city’s Economic Development Administrator, cited Northland’s “skill in green building design,” as one of the considerations in picking them as well. Murphy also noted Northlan d has a track record of working closely with the community and has experience in affordable housing.The city also noted that Northland has worked in secondary and tertiary markets in similar cities, has a track record of keeping those investments in the markets, and has experience in Connecticut, which should help moved the project forward. Making the Long Wharf Theatre, now located at the waterfront, an integral part of the proposed plan was also important in the selection process, officials said. “We looked at a lot of variables,” Murphy said. Calling Archstone, “a great company,” Murphy said in the end Northland’s experience and relationships in the state of Connecticut was one of the most important factors in the city’s choice.Northland was selected in July by voters of Preston, Conn., to build a $1 billion resort along the Thames River near the Mohegan Sun Casino. That project, to be built on the 419-acre former Norwich Hospital property, would feature a luxury resort with two five-star hotels, a golf course and spa along with 1,500 units of condos, senior housing and luxury homes. Northland, which is Hartford, Conn.’s largest landlord, built The Residences at Hartford 21, the tallest apartment building between Boston and New York City that is part of a $165 million redevelopment of the former Hartford Civic Center Mall. Iskra said today the New Haven project is similar in size and scope to the Hartford redevelopment. He said construction is completed in Hartford, where the apartment building is 80 percent leased up and leasing is ongoing for the retail space.A privately held company, Northland owns a $2.5 billion portfolio of 22 million square feet in 14 states and has a development pipeline of more than $1 billion. On Aug. 25, CPN reported that Northland had completed the largest apartment deal in Austin, Texas, by acquiri ng a portfolio of nine Class A communities with nearly 3,000 units for $270 million through its Northland Fund III. Northland acquired The Royal St. George, a 224-unit apartment community in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to a July 1 CPN story.