How An Old Structure Brings New Life To A Downtown New Haven Site
With the flurry of construction going on in downtown New Haven, few streets are as busy as the blocks between Crown and George. The $50 million College and Crown development has recently been completed. A dilapidated parking garage on the corner of Crown and High streets is currently being renovated into new residential living space as is another former garage next to BAR restaurant. The former Regency Hotel on George Street is also in the process of rehabilitation into upscale apartments. A curious outlier on the block, however, are the multi-chromatic, Venetian Gothic structures in the middle of it all.
Dating to the late 19th century, the buildings were designed by notable New Haven architect Henry Austin whose other other prominent commissions include Town Hall and many residences along Hillhouse Avenue and Wooster Square. The Salvation Army used the site to house its Adult Rehabilitation Center program in conjunction with the adjacent Salvation Army store on Crown Street. But in June 2014, both the center and the store were shuttered as part of cost-saving reorganization plan.
New development plans for the site by architect Gregg Wies & Gardner emphasize the historic facade of the chapel building and its unusual setback from the street. A sleek, modern addition adjoins the structure to replace the other original building which could not be saved.
A new apartment building on one side, combined with the new Metro 297 development next door, frames the view and defines a new green space. Original granite plinths and wrought-iron fencing is being rehabilitated to define the edge of the new drop-off area. With surface space at a premium, all parking is located beneath the adjacent buildings. A distinct ramped driveway connects the structures below grade, thereby eliminating any conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular circulation.
Occupying the location of the former Salvation Army store, a new residential building will create a "mews" style alley connection between Crown and George Streets. Private gates at either end of the site will limit access to unauthorized individuals. Raised planters with shade-tolerant material will invite landscape elements into a space otherwise defined by tall, brick walls.
Throughout the rest of the site, an urban-tolerant and native landscape occupies the leftover nooks and crannies, evoking the persistent Sumacs and Virginia Creeper that once provided seasonal shelter and food for indigenous species. Plank-style pavers reinforce the directionality of the mews alley and complement the subtle greys of the building facades. Site demolition is currently ongoing with construction anticipated to wrap up in early 2017.