March 20, 2019

On the waterfront: Long Wharf plan moves forward

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Aerial view of Long Wharf and the New Haven waterfront.

Three years in the works, the city's plans for future economic development of the waterfront and reconnecting Long Wharf to the rest of the city were unveiled Tuesday.

The Long Wharf Responsible Growth plan is a 100-page document developed with consultant Perkins Eastman thanks to a $1 million grant from the state's Office of Policy & Management. It envisions remaking Long Wharf into five new mixed-use districts connected by a walkable linear park.

Officials estimate the plan could cost anywhere from $100 million to $400 million in public spending to realize fully, a process that would take up to two decades. That money would come from federal, state and city funding sources.

For the past half century, the city's connection to New Haven Harbor at Long Wharf has been largely cut off by highway infrastructure and industrial-scale land uses. The area has now been designated as an "Opportunity Zone" in Connecticut, and the new plan envisions leverage private investment to restore that connection, especially to the Hill and Wooster Square neighborhoods.

Some of the improvements have already begun: new bicycle tracks, a visitor's center, walking trails, a "living" shoreline, a restored park and wildlife refuge, the Canal Dock Boathouse, the Long Wharf Visitor's Center and Snack Shack, and improved infrastructure for what the city calls "Food Truck Paradise" have injected new life to the waterfront.

The consultants' idea for what has been dubbed "New Long Wharf" is to make it more walkable by dividing it into five sections, each spanning a distance that can be covered in a comfortable five-minute walk.

Residential development?

The plan would separate the Sargent Drive side of Long Wharf into four discrete districts — the Ikea-to-Water Street area; the Food Terminal/Long Wharf Theater area; the area surrounding lock manufacturer Assa Abloy; and the Jordan's Furniture-to-Hallock Ave. area — each with its own distinctive assets. Perhaps with the exception of Assa Abloy, all areas could incorporate some residential development.

The fifth and key section is the waterfront near the Long Whark Maritime Center and Sports Haven. The architects envision a tourist hub and family destination similar to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, complete with restaurants and commercial docks for tour boats, water taxis and fishing charters. There are even parts of the harbor deep enough for a ferry to Long Island.

"Anyone who has moved to New Haven from elsewhere has always asked why?" said Mayor Toni N. Harp during a Tuesday press conference at the Canal Boat Dockhouse. "Why haven't we developed Long Wharf? Well, now we will."

The plan has been submitted for consideration by the City Plan Commission and Board of Alders as a formal amendment to the city's comprehensive plan of development. On Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. the plan will be discussed and open to public comment followed by Board of Alders consideration in April.

Additional reporting for this story was performed by Natalie Missakian.

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