Developers say New Haven is a hot market

A pair of real estate developers told a Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce audience Wednesday that they regard New Haven as one of the most attractive places in the nation in which to do business.

“Whether its Nashville; Durham, North Carolina; Portland, Maine; or Brooklyn, New Haven can be compared to many of the hip population centers that urban designers are talking about right now,” said Christopher Vigilante, chief operating officer of Northside Development Co., a commercial real estate developer that owns the former New Haven Savings Bank building at 195 Church St. in the city. Vigilante was one of the speakers at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Real Estate Forum at WoodWinds in Branford.

Vigilante said Northside Development is so certain of the strength of New Haven real estate market that it is developing 50 micro- or mini-apartment units at 808 Church St. Construction of the units, which will each be less than 400 square feet, could start later this year and likely will take a year to 18 months to complete, he said.

“These types of apartments are really hot in New York and we think there is a sweet spot for them here,” Vigilante said. The apartments appeal to young professionals and others who can’t afford rents of more than $2,000 per month that larger units fetch, he said.

Vigilante is not alone in being bullish on New Haven.

Andrew Montelli, founder and president of Fairfield-based Post Road Residential, has already developed the 235-unit Corsair apartment complex on State Street. Montelli said he would do another project in New Haven in a heartbeat if he could only find the right property for it.

“There have been properties that we’ve had in our sights that just weren’t zoned for multi-family housing,” Montelli said. “It takes a special kind of (property) seller who is willing to wait for the time it takes for a project like Corsair to work its way through the process.”

Montelli said the combination of colleges and universities located in and around New Haven as well as the heavy concentration of health care-focused businesses in the area give a vibrancy that few other regions in the Northeast can match.

While Post Road Residential tries to find another attractive property to see whether it can duplicate its success with the Corsair complex, the company is working on apartment complexes in Bloomfield and Fairfield.

The forum allows commercial and residential real estates developers, Realtors and public officials to socialize and discuss potential deals.

“The New Haven market is really hot and it has been for a while,” said Tony Rescigno, president of the Chamber. “These people wouldn’t be spending million of dollars in the market if they didn’t believe it.”

While much of the focus at the forum was on New Haven, officials from surrounding communities were there, as well. Tom Banisch and Mike Freda, the first selectmen of Madison and North Haven, respectively, were among the suburban public officials taking part in the event.

“This is the kind of event that says we’re not dead as a region, in spite of what is being done at the state level,” Banisch said. “We’ve got a lot of people doing business in this region.”

Freda said the economic development efforts of area towns benefit cooperative effort of groups such as the South Central Regional Council of Governments.

But Robert Santy, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, said that if the region is to continue to remain an attractive place for businesses to locate, its municipal leaders must do an honest assessment of what they have to offer. The Center is a statewide nonprofit partnership between the public and private sectors that provides economic development services

“Towns need to do a better job with economic development,” Santy said. “Some towns don’t have economic development staff. And some have to a look at how their regulatory process operates: If they can’t get a project approved within 60 days, they are going to lose out on opportunities.”

Much of the business recruitment efforts going on in Connecticut right now are targeting foreign companies from countries such as Israel and Brazil that want to have a presence in the United States, he said. Santy said that while he was speaking at the Chamber event, representatives of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center were busy elsewhere in the state, showing around representatives of an unnamed Brazilian company.

Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.