Downtown Gateways addresses the need to create welcoming, dynamic and aesthetically-pleasing “gateways” into the heart of downtown with public art, lighting installations, creative sculptures and plantings.
INTERSECTION TO CONNECTion
chapel x state
At the intersection of Chapel and State Streets, train riders step off the platform of State Street Station and into New Haven. At this same intersection, the edge of Wooster Square meets Ninth Square. And yet, this important transition point offers an unremarkable welcome to newcomers, and acts more as a divider than a connector between two downtown neighborhoods. An intersection that’s daunting to cross, overgrown bushes, a bridge with austere, enfolding railings, and vacant lots create an overall uncomfortable, unpleasant experience, especially for pedestrians at this spot. The need for beautiful interventions is evident.
“Intersection to Connection” is a placemaking improvement project presented by Town Green District, which aims to increase the walkability, appearance, neighborhood connection, and hospitality of an important entry point into Downtown New Haven. This spot should be a place that encourages people to want to walk from Downtown to Wooster Square and vice versa. The corner of Chapel and State should be marked with public art, landscaping, and welcoming signage for visitors entering the city. The vision behind the project stems from local residents’ and business owners’ input, design expertise from Atelier Cue, and crucial insight from the City’s transit-oriented development (TOD) plans.
Renderings of the forthcoming improvements will be revealed at the New Haven Night Market hosted in Ninth Square on October 4, 2019.
Five blocks stand between the New Haven Green and the Wooster Square Green, yet the seemingly “no man’s land” of vacant storefronts, parking lots, busy intersections, bridge, and railroad tracks makes the 10 min walk feels deceptively longer.
“The intersection itself seems standard, but as a transition between Wooster Square and Downtown –the connection is non-existent. When I think about accessing the train station from downtown, the path to State Street station seems longer than it actually is, and hostile.”
-Eoin Burke, Professor of Art at Gateway Community College
“There is not enough space for people to walk around when they come out of the train station and they are unsure where to go. People come in the lobby to ask me for directions multiple times a day.
-Rhea Gorhum, 360 State Street Apartment Building Concierge
DESIGN PROCESS TIMELINE
Conversations with long-time residents, old photos and city maps revealed the fact that State Street was not always covered with parking lots or simply the area bordering the tracks. Before urban renewal in the 1960s, bustling businesses and residences lined both sides of the street. It was a continuation of the downtown urban fabric rather than an empty borderland isolating Wooster Square from the rest of the city. Since 2016, city plans have been in the works to correct the mistakes. The hope is to develop the adjacent lots for business and housing once again and to narrow the street width to reduce crosswalk distance. The “Intersection to Connection” improvement project is bearing in mind this history as well as city’s planned evolutions for the area. On top of properly developed parcels and a well-planned street grid, it takes the community embracing the space as their own. Public art, signage, décor, landscaping, and other elements help a community turn a space into a place to belong.
Because good community design doesn’t happen merely at a drafting table or screen but with the people who know the area and experience it daily, Town Green District and Atelier Cue reached out to individuals who live or work in downtown New Haven including residents, local merchants, building owners, parking lot attendants, artists, architects, developers, traffic engineers, police officers, and local government officials. The community engagement process consisted of interviews, surveys, pop-outs at public events, and workshops.
Based on community input, city plans, and site history, Atelier Cue created four schematic concepts whose primary elements can be mixed and matched in order to arrive at the best solution for the area. The four preliminary concepts included possibly adding an archway, street corner screens, sculptural bridge pillars, and/or a kiosk surrounded by a seating area. All the concepts incorporated planters, enhanced lighting, and crosswalk murals of some kind.
Atelier Cue will consider which conceptual aspects are most favorable to the community and will refine and develop the concepts into a primary, proposed design solution for the area. Renderings of the primary design concept will be presented to the public in October at Night Market hosted in Ninth Square. Then construction drawings and the fun part begins!
All that stands between here and the finish line is 3-D design development, prototyping, fabrication, and installation. Then celebration!