West Haven sells Bayview Park to The Haven developers for $257,500
The city has sold the city-owned Bayview Park to the developers seeking to build The Haven luxury outlet mall for $257,500, moving the mall project one step closer to reality, Mayor Nancy Rossi said Friday, Nov. 9.
But city officials were unable to say when construction might begin on the long-delayed, $200 million, 261,182-square-foot luxury outlet center along the West River, which obtained its final city development approvals over the summer.
A spokesman for the developer did not immediately return a call for comment.
The outlet mall will cover 26 waterfront acres and will feature dozens of luxury retail shops, restaurants, a waterfront promenade and a 200-seat amphitheater. It is expected to generate between 800 and 1,200 jobs and several million dollars in municipal tax revenue and fees.
The project, along New Haven Harbor at the mouth of the West River between Elm and Main streets, began back when John Picard was mayor and was first announced just over four years ago by then-Mayor Ed O’Brien.
Rossi presented a check to Finance Director Ronald Cicatelli during a brief ceremony in City Council chambers Friday afternoon. State Reps. Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, and Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, and city Treasurer Michael Last attended the announcement.
The price the city got is slightly higher than the appraised value, said Rossi. She thanked the developer for agreeing to the terms.
She thanked Commissioner of Planning & Development Fred A. Messore and Corporation Counsel Lee Tiernan for their efforts to “keep pushing” and work with the developer to make it happen.
In order to sell the 0.87-acre parcel at Water and Main streets, which the developer needs for the project, the city needed approval from the National Park Service, which had jurisdiction as a result of federal grants used to develop the park.
A development agreement between West Haven and The Haven Group reached more than three years ago by the O’Brien administration included the sale of the waterfront park. But the city had to resolve several issues related to the property’s title before the sale could take place.
Before it gave the OK, the federal agency needed assurances that the developer will fund improvements at another city park, city officials said.
“One of my first actions as mayor was to demand that the corporation counsel do what was necessary, as quickly as possible, to complete the sale of this park because The Haven Group told me it was a necessary component for the development of the upscale waterfront shopping experience,” Rossi said.
“The Haven Group has made clear that the sale of the park by the city of West Haven was necessary before any development would take place,” she said.
The city will now make improvements to the city-owned park on Contact Drive, off South Street in West Shore, as part of the approval with the federal agency, Rossi said.
That came as bittersweet news to City Councilman Aaron Charney, D-3, in whose district Bayview Park is located.
“It’s great news that this holdup has been solved, but I’m disappointed the Third District is losing a park and the money from this sale is not being used to improve parks in this part of town,” Charney said in an email.
“Third Ave Park, which is the only other park in this district, could desperately use this money,” Charney said. “Morse Park, which is near by, could have used it as well. For $257,500 we could build a splash pad at Morse.”
Rossi and Tiernan, who negotiated along with Messore to have the federal restrictions lifted, said the city was limited in what it could do to satisfy the park service.
“Our park space has to serve a need and there’s a greater need in other parts of the city,” especially considering that there are fewer children in the neighborhood around The Haven as a result of the homes that the developer acquired to assemble the site.
But “the concept that’s approved provides for unlimited access to the water” from what essentially will be “a park-like space” that will be much larger than the current Bayview Park, said Tiernan.
According to Messore, the project still needs approval from the Office of the State Traffic Administration, or OSTA, for improvements to Elm Street, which is a state highway, before it go forward.
The developer currenly has an application pending, which has passed the first step, gaining state Department of Transportation Approval for the traffic volumes it estimates the project would generate, Messore said.
DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick confirmed that information and said the developer’s representatives came in for a “Step 2” meeting two weeks ago and got comments on a preliminary mitigation plan, but still had to submit a formal mitigation plan that the OSTA must consider.
That plan arrived on Friday, Nursick said.
Once a formal mitigation is submitted, “there probably would be approval within 60 days,” he said.
The Haven Group received site plan approval from the city Planning and Zoning Commission in July.
Two months later, the state Bond Commission approved $5 million for the reconstruction of Elm Street — the future entrance of the center.
The National Park Service granted the city relief from its Urban Park and Recreation Recovery grant obligations regarding Bayview Park in August.
The Park Service’s approval process required the city to prepare and file an application package earlier this year with its Philadelphia office. It also required compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and approvals from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Haven Group recently agreed to reimburse West Haven for the cost of city attorney fees for the project as part of the negotiated sale, Rossi said.
After a comprehensive review, Bayview Park was found not to have any significant historic value. Only a half-acre of the parcel is land that can be developed, city officials said.
State and federal funds for the site included a $200,000 environmental cleanup in 2007, a $2 million bulkhead reconstruction in 2012 and a $2 million brownfield cleanup in 2016, as well as the recent state bond money. In addition, a real estate property tax abatement agreement was negotiated in 2015.
“All of our state delegation, the governor, the federal delegation and other public partners have been helpful and essential, and we are grateful,” Rossi said. “For its part, the developer has spent in excess of $32 million on the project since it was first pitched to then-Mayor John M. Picard in 2012 by Sheldon M. Gordon, who is now deceased.”
The Haven had been in the property acquisition stage for four years as the developers negotiated with 57 property owners. The developers submitted the application for site plan approval to the city in May, nearly four years after first announcing plans to build it.
Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group has joined The Haven Group as a partner in the project. The change was announced several months after the death of The Haven partner Sheldon Gordon in late September 2017.
Simon, owner of the Clinton Crossing outlets in Clinton and the Crystal Mall in Waterford, is one of the largest shopping center developers in the world.
The Haven Group, originally a partnership led by Ty Miller, the Dallas-based president of the Haven Group LLC, and Gordon, is affiliated with the family that owns Highland Park Village in Dallas.