The Haven upscale outlet mall is alive and moving forward in West Haven, developer says
The Haven upscale outlet mall project is alive and moving forward, although an executive for the developer acknowledged it is taking longer than expected to complete the site acquisition.
“I think you can say we’re still very committed to the project,” said Matt Armstrong, executive vice president of The Haven Group LLC.
“A lot of the leasing challenges are behind us,” he said. “It’s been a long process but it’s been a fair process. I think we’ve been very fair to the city and all the property owners.
“As you know, it took us longer than expected to get the real estate locked up,” Armstrong said. “We’re just finishing that up. We have two tenants who are vacating next month.”
He was referring to holdouts Nick’s Luncheonette at 423 First Ave. and members of the McGinnity family, both of which ultimately settled with the developer but are still occupying property on First Avenue.
Nick’s owner Nick Milas has said that his final move-out date is now April 10. He has said that he was looking at the former Pizza Hut on Sawmill Road as one possible new location, but has yet to confirm that or any other location.
The owners of a third holdout property, S & S Mini Mart Citgo at Elm Street and First Avenue, now may or may not have to move, depending on the final plan, Armstrong said.
“We don’t know yet,” Armstrong said.
In addition, “As with every project, we are working on leasing, and leasing is going well — and we have to hit a threshold,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know where we are exactly on that, but we’re getting very close. When we hit that threshold, you’re going to start seeing some site work.”
Armstrong agreed to discuss the status of the project amid widespread local speculation that it was either stalled or dead. Mayor Nancy Rossi, who took office in December, is among those who have suggested that it was stalled.
“I wouldn’t say it’s stalled,” said Armstrong, who is based in Greenwich, with another partner, Ty Miller, based in Dallas. “I would say it’s in pre-leasing.
“This one clearly has taken a long time, but it’s been the result of the real estate,” Armstrong said. “It’s taken a long time for us to reach agreement with 56 property owners.”
He also acknowledged that the transfer of the city-owned Bayview Park — which was developed in part with federal funds and consequently needed federal approval to be sold for development — was an issue “only in that it has taken a little bit longer” than expected.
“But I do believe that we’ll have that parcel resolved in the next 60 days,” he said.
The speculation has been fueled both by the length of time that has passed and the fact that “Coming Soon — The Haven” banners on temporary fencing around part of the site along Main Street and First Avenue recently were removed.
That’s where demolition of four vacant houses took place just before last September’s Democratic primary, in which current Mayor Nancy Rossi defeated former Mayor Ed O’Brien.
“I had some temporary fencing removed last week and people saw that as us just packing up and leaving. But it wasn’t,” Armstrong said.
“We had some issues where the temporary fencing kept falling down,” and in addition, the demolition behind it was complete “and it was just a flat, empty lot,” he said.
Rossisaid she does not consider it stalled now.
“I consider it was a stalled project until I got in and we got involved,” Rossi said.
One problem her administration has been involved in resolving is the status of Bayview Park, where “restrictions had to be lifted,” she said.
“If you weren’t working on it, it couldn’t move forward,” Rossi said.
O’Brien said his administration worked hard to try to resolve the situation.
“Nobody dropped the ball. ... It takes time,” O’Brien said. “It wasn’t stalled. We were working. ... For two years, every week we had conversations with the National Park Service on this. I made two trips to D.C.” to try to work it out.
Rossi said that now, “I don’t think it’s dead. In all my conversations with Matt Armstrong ... he’s never said that he’s changed or that he’s moving out of the project.
Corporation Counsel Lee Tiernan and Commissioner of Development Fred A. Messore “have worked many hours to get this where it’s supposed to be,” Rossi said, and “so far, nobody has alerted my office ... that anything was going to stop.
“I do have a lot of confidence that it’s going to go forward,” she said. “I just don’t have a date.”
Messore also said “Bayview Park was stalled” when he was hired. The city submitted an application to get the National Park Office in Philadelphia to sign off on the transfer the week before last, he said.
“But I’ve been told that this project is on track and moving forward,” he said.
Since taking over for former Commissioner of Development Joseph Riccio Jr., “I’ve had constant conversations and meetings with Matt,” Messore said.
“This is a priority project with my office, and every day I try to make some type of inroads to try to move this project forward,” he said.
“I feel that the city’s going to get an update from the developer” soon, “with some timelines and a schedule that I will share with the public and the media once that’s given to us,” Messore said.