Alumni assemble to assess New Haven renaissance

Photos: New Haven's renaissance

Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ’65 with Toni Harp ’78 M.Env.D., who will become New Haven's new mayor in January 2014, and Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. Both Harp and Salovey came to New Haven for their graduate education at Yale.
The Apple store opened on Broadway two years ago. New Haven was one of just five new retail locations for Apple in the quarter the store opened here.
The popular Claire's Corner Copia has been in the city for nearly 40 years, and is now flanked by newer businesses.
Also near the corner of College and Chapel streets is Shake Shack, which opened last year. Its founder, New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, described New Haven at its opening as a "food-loving, bustling city."
Higher One, started by three Yale College graduates, is among the newer companies making New Haven their headquarters. Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Molloy (second from left) and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. (far right) are pictured here with two of the company's founders.
Yale and the New Haven Public Schools collaborate on numerous ventures for city schoolchildren, including an annual science fair held on the campus.
More than 1,000 Yale employees have purchased homes in New Haven since 1994 via the Yale Homebuyer Program.
A farm market on Wooster Street — a neighborhood in which many Yale staff and students live — is one of the city's many amenities.
The newly renovated Yale University Art Gallery is a popular destination for many of the city's residents and visitors, and hosts an array of school and community programs.
With views out to the sea, East Rock is another popular visiting place for New Haven area residents and guests.
The towering 360 State Street — a 500-unit apartment building with a full-service grocery story on ground level — is among the development projects that have taken place in the city in the past several years. New Haven was recently cited by Reuters as having the highest apartment occupancy rate in any city in the nation.
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“Beyond our beautiful courtyards is another part of what makes Yale a special place … the city of New Haven,” said Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. in his Inaugural Address on Oct. 13. Yale’s hometown will be the focus of the annual assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) Nov. 21-23.

Titled “New Haven at 375, Celebrating a Remarkable City,” the AYA Assembly LXXIII will bring together more than 500 alumni delegates and guests for a program of lectures, tours, and conversations with campus and civic leaders.  

The assembly comes amidst New Haven’s ongoing renaissance and at a time of robust connections among “town and gown.” It also occurs as the university and city both mark leadership transitions: Salovey took office on July 1 and New Haven’s newly elected mayor, Toni N. Harp ’78 M.Env.D., will take office on Jan. 1, 2014.

Both Salovey and Harp came to New Haven for graduate education at Yale, met their spouses on campus, and decided to stay in the city to build their lives and careers after graduation. Both have also stated often that they intend to continue — and build on — the legacy of New Haven-Yale cooperation that has been a hallmark of the last two decades under the leadership of Yale President Emeritus Richard C. Levin ’74 Ph.D. and current New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

Returning alumni will have the opportunity to experience again the city that has been the subject of recent positive notice in the press. In a Sept. 15 story headlined “New Haven Is Happening,” the New York Daily News noted, “Fall festivals, art museums, theaters, and lots of fabulous food options make the town a must-visit.” A story in the Wall Street Journal on March 4, 2011 commented that New Haven “is undergoing a renaissance … bringing people back to the city for jobs, restaurants, and new housing options.” The year before, on Aug. 29, 2010, The Daily Beast listed New Haven among “20 Recession-Proof Cities” that are doing well during tough national economic times.

Recent statistics demonstrate that New Haven had the largest population growth of any city in New England from 2000 to 2010, and has the most densely populated downtown in the region. Its growth included a 9% increase in husband-wife families with children, measured in the last decennial census. New Haven also has the highest apartment occupancy rate of any market in the country according to third-quarter 2013 data recently reported by Reuters.

While touring the city on Nov. 21, alumni will see examples of New Haven’s strengths in economic development, neighborhood renewal, arts and culture, public school reform, and a vibrant downtown. Near the corner of College and Chapel Streets, for example, sit both the longstanding local favorite Claire’s Corner Copia, which opened in 1975, and the newer Shake Shack, established by noted New York restaurateur Danny Meyer. On opening his New Haven branch last year, Meyer said, “We are incredibly excited to establish roots in this food-loving, bustling city. New Haven is staging a thrilling urban renaissance.” New Haven’s reputation as a culinary capital was also heralded in a June 11, 2013 feature in the New York Post, “Yale and Hearty,” that noted how a tradition of excellent pizza has been joined by an array of “hip restaurants.” According to the Post, “New Haven has arrived.”

On Broadway, the clothing store Gant, founded in New Haven in 1949, re-established its local presence in 2010 with a store at the corner of York Street, while in September 2011, Apple opened a retail store on Broadway, one of just five new retail locations it opened that quarter two years ago. Claire’s, Shake Shack, Gant, and Apple are among the portfolio of more than 90 retail and restaurant tenants of University Properties, part of Yale’s community investment program and the manager of the university’s commercial properties. Mostly independent shops and eateries, the businesses serve the local community and attract visitors from beyond. The University Properties’ tenants together employ more than 700 people. Yale pays full property taxes on all non-academic properties, with a yearly tax payment of nearly $4 million, making the university one of the largest taxpayers in the city. Yale also makes a voluntary payment of over $8 million to the city, the largest such payment by any university in the nation to its host city.

The renaissance extends beyond downtown, in neighborhoods such as Dixwell, where the former Elm Haven housing project has been renewed as Homes at Monterey, a mixed-income development with low-income housing, market-rate rentals, and first-time homeownership. Increased homeownership has itself been a hallmark of Yale’s community investment program through the Yale Homebuyer Program, which since 1994 has provided cash grants to more than 1,000 full-time Yale employees to purchase homes in New Haven. It is the country’s biggest employer-assisted homeownership program by an institution of higher education.

Dixwell’s revival includes an expanded community park, built with university support, adjacent to the Rose Center, home of both the Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center and the Yale Police, and near the new home of Yale Health. Both the university police and health plan partner with neighborhood groups, while the Rose Center hosts programs by the public schools and local nonprofits such as New Haven Reads, a literacy group.

New Haven’s renaissance and economic growth is also visible in Newhallville at Science Park, former site of the Winchester gun factory that was a major 19th- and 20th-century local employer. It is now home to science-based start-up companies as well as some Yale administrative units, such as Information Technology Services, finance, and printing. Science Park is also the headquarters for HigherOne, a leader in the city’s new technology and information economy.

Founded in 2000 by three Yale College students — Mark Volchek ’00, Miles Lasater ’01, and Sean Glass ’02 — HigherOne is now a publicly traded company with more than 500 employees, half in New Haven. Lasater noted New Haven’s advantages as a place to work and live in a YaleNews interview last year: “We have many of the pieces necessary to have an explosion in high-growth startups,” Lasater said, “a top-tier university with lots of research dollars near a major city with a high quality of life.”

President Salovey has emphasized the importance of Yale’s entrepreneurial energies for the local economy. He said in his inaugural address, “we will also do more to nurture student entrepreneurs from every school and department and encourage them to contribute to the local idea economy.” Such efforts can boost the tradition — exemplified by Lasater, Volchek, Harp, Salovey, and many others — of alumni making their careers and lives in the Elm City.  “After graduation, they can remain in New Haven and play active roles as civic, arts, and business leaders,” Salovey said on Oct. 13.

Some of the next set of young Yale alumni who choose New Haven as their home after graduation may not only work in Science Park — they may live there, given its latest groundbreaking on Sept. 10, when Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy joined officials of Forest City Residential Development to launch work on 158-units of loft-style housing. Yale Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ‘65, who leads the university’s initiatives with the city, told the Yale Daily News about this latest development: “With apartments in Science Park, entrepreneurs who typically work all hours of the day and night will be able to live and work within a five-minute walking radius.”

Yale’s long-term commitment to its hometown has been a catalyst for developers like Forest City and Winstanley Enterprises in Science Park and elsewhere in the city. Winstanley has another project under construction now at 100 College St. that will knit together downtown and the medical center area. The new building, built over the Route 34 highway, will be headquarters for Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a global company started in Science Park in 1992 by Leonard Bell ’84 M.D., then an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine. It had moved to the suburbs in 2000 when it outgrew its space in Science Park.

Another developer drawn to invest in the Elm City is Bruce Becker ’85 M.Arch./M.B.A., whose company completed a new 500-unit, 31-story apartment tower at 360 State Street in 2010, with a full-service grocery store on the ground floor that opened in 2011.  Becker told the Wall Street Journal in 2011, “I wouldn’t have done this 15 years ago but today, there’s demand from people coming in from the suburbs to live in what’s becoming a very vibrant city.” The demand in New Haven continues strong, leading the Toronto-based firm, Live Work Learn Play, to pursue redevelopment of the 4.5 acre downtown site of the former New Haven coliseum as a mixed-use urban village of housing, retail, restaurants, office space, a hotel, and civic space for events. The project, designed by the local firm of Herbert Newman ’59 M.Arch., is in the process of local review now, with plans for its first phase to be completed in 2017.

The gateway to downtown, near the old coliseum site and across the street from the world headquarters of the Knights of Columbus, was revitalized in August 2012 with the opening of the new campus for Gateway Community College. Gateway, which serves more than 14,000 individuals annually in degree and certificate programs, had been on the outskirts of town. Its modern campus makes it the fastest growing of the state’s community colleges while adding to downtown’s vitality.

The renovation of educational facilities extends beyond Gateway, or Yale’s own campus renewal. The New Haven Public Schools has had the largest public school construction program in Connecticut, and the largest per capita in the country. Since 1995, nearly 40 schools have been completely rebuilt or built anew, across every neighborhood in the city. One of the most dramatic examples close to campus is the Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School facing College Street, which was designed by the firm of Cesar Pelli, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, and opened in 2009.

The magnet school program serves both young people in the immediate city limits and draws students from area towns. More than 3,000 suburban students choose to come to the city of New Haven for their public school education every year, joining 18,000 students from the city proper at 18 of the district’s schools. Co-op High School is one of the many public schools where Yale partners intensively. Each year, more than 300 Co-op students work with dozens of Yale faculty, students, and staff in after-school programs at the high school, and they also work on campus, drawing on the university’s array of programs, venues, and resources in music, art, dance, and other disciplines.

Programs for public schools and youth are central components of Yale’s engagement with its hometown. Each year, more than 10,000 New Haven young people, and thousands more from area towns, participate in on-campus academic programs hosted by the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Peabody Museum, Yale School of Music, the Astronomy Department, the School of Medicine, and many others. Science programs for young people have grown dramatically over the last decades, as have initiatives in the arts and programs in athletics.

Yale and the City of New Haven have also united to support the educational success and aspirations of New Haven students through New Haven Promise, a scholarship and support program working to make the promise of college a reality for city youth. Funded by Yale and other partners, the program offers full-tuition scholarships to Connecticut public colleges and universities for New Haven students who meet residency, civic, and academic performance criteria. It is part of the city’s ambitious school change effort, now led by Garth Harries ’95, who became the superintendent of the New Haven Public Schools on July 1. Harries works among numerous alumni in public education locally, including the executive director of New Haven Promise, Patricia Melton ’83, and the commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut, Stefan Pryor ’93, ’06 J.D.

Alumni returning for the AYA assembly will hear from some of their fellow alumni who live in New Haven and work to keep it strong and growing — including Harries, Melton, Becker, Alexander, Volchek, and Salovey. The assembly’s tours and talks will demonstrate what Salovey described in his inaugural address: “Our city and university are forever coupled; our destiny is shared.”

This year’s alumni assembly marks the 375th anniversary of the original establishment in 1638 of the New Haven colony by a group led by the Rev. John Davenport. Davenport was the earliest author of the idea that would become Yale. He recognized the value of a school to train youth to “be fitted for publique service hereafter, in church or commonweale.” From the beginning, New Haven recognized the importance and value of higher education for the community’s ongoing vitality.

Organizers of this year’s assembly noted that in this year of New Haven’s 375th anniversary, it is fitting for Yale alumni to celebrate the university’s home.

A social media note: Those alumni delegates to the assembly, and alumni returning to campus for The Game and other events, who use Twitter and Instagram are encouraged to use the hashtag #YaleAlumni for this and all alumni events. For posts related to New Haven and its anniversary, the hashtag is #NHV375. All alumni and friends are encouraged to stay connected with Yale via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.