Residents Question Another Large Route 34 Garage but like Other Aspects of New Haven Project

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New Haven » The city's proposed Route 34 West Project Sunday drew citizens' questions about an 800-vehicle parking garage but otherwise generally won support from those who attended a public forum.

A full range of city economic officials, developers and Mayor Toni Harp came to Hill Regional Career High School to answer questions from the public on the large development plan. But only about 60-70 residents came out to hear about it and ask for details.The central component of the $50 million development would be a new home for Continuum of Care Inc., a not-for-profit provider of housing, residential support and home health care services for persons with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. It has outgrown its New Haven building.Continuum has partnered with Centerplan Development Co., based in Middletown, to create a mixed- use development project. It would occupy the 5.5-acre block bounded by North Frontage Road, Legion Avenue, Orchard Street and Dwight Street.As the officials gathered on the stage, there was an opposition leaflet in the crowd with the message: "Say no to an 800- car garage." Frank Panzarella, who has a house on Judson Street near the project area, said he had signed up to speak because, "We don't want to feel we're living among urban skyscrapers. We want to keep it on a human scale."

Panzarella also wants development that will slow down the traffic on Frontage Road/Route 34. As for the proposed parking garage, he said, "We've had so many giant parking lots already. We don't want any more."

In her opening remarks, Harp said the project "will knit together neighboroods of the city separated by Route 34 long ago."

Although Harp supports the project, she said it remains "a work in progress" and still subject to public input. She noted the Board of Alders has it on its agenda for Thursday night.

Deputy Economic Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli said the project would cover a total of 16.2 acres and require zoning changes. Some of that would be dense and mixed-use, the rest residential combined with retail.

Piscitelli asserted the area would be "walkable and bikable."

Erik Johnson, executive director of the Livable City Initiative, noted Continuum of Care officials had been looking outside New Haven for a new headquarters before the city's officials pulled together a package to keep the company here. …