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Developer Working To Seal Deal With Grocer For New Haven Apartment Tower
Never mind that developer Bruce Becker is erecting a 31-story apartment tower downtown. People here want to know which grocery store he'll find for the ground floor.
Will it be Whole Foods? Will it be Trader Joe's? Will it be a disappointment? Will it happen at all in this economy?
Under his deal with the city, Becker, a Fairfield developer with Yale ties, is obligated to include a food market "of the quality and reputation" of those chains or other named peers.
There are several small groceries downtown, but this would be the first new large-scale supermarket in the city center in decades.
With Becker's 360 State Street project rising past its 21st floor near the New Haven Green, and residential leasing expected to begin in January for August 2010 occupancy, the developer says he expects to name the eagerly awaited grocer by Thanksgiving.
And it will not be Whole Foods (which plans to open its sixth Connecticut store in nearby Milford on Nov. 11) or Trader Joe's, which has a Milford store and wasn't interested, Becker said in an interview Monday.
But there will be a "major" market, he said, for which he is "finalizing a lease" for more than twice the space he expected it to occupy, about 30,000 square feet in all.
"There appears to be a meeting of the minds, but anything could happen," he said.
A Shaw's supermarket is located about 1 mile west of the city green.
In Hartford, Northland Investment Corp. has struggled for years to find an operator for a large food market for a dedicated space at its Hartford 21 apartment tower, so far with no luck. Supermarket development in Connecticut remains largely suburban, despite some developers' belief in a resurgent desire for car-less, urban lifestyles.
"It's a chicken-and-egg problem," said Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League, a nonprofit civic organization with a focus on urban planning. "Until you get the density, you don't get the services that people want. And until you get the services, you don't get the density."
Becker is trying to add both at once.
The identity of his project's grocer might remain a secret, but the $180 million, 500-unit apartment tower is unfolding in plain sight. The structure, which had its official groundbreaking in December, is now adding a new floor every four-and-a-half days, he said. (The biggest residential projects now underway in Hartford each include fewer than 80 units, according to the mayor's office.)
Prices for the units, primarily studios and one-bedrooms but with more than a dozen three-bedroom penthouses, have not been set in stone. Studios will start at about $1,100 a month and one-bedrooms at $1,400 to $1,500, Becker said.
He retreated from a previous statement that the penthouses would cost $6,000 a month. He now says more generally that they are "expected to exceed $4,500."
When Becker delivers a status report at city hall tonight, he expects the grocery store to come up, and said he understands why.
"Most people in New Haven are not going to move to live in 360 State Street, but most of them will use the grocery store," he said. "It's more relevant to the general population."