The Earth Moves On Winchester

by Paul Bass | August 11, 2009 12:37 PM | | Comments (7)

DSCN4581.JPGwinstancart.pngNew Haven’s last Winchester gun factory has lost its face — and the ground around it is being dug up and transported — to make way for the newest project in fast-changing Science Park.

Work crews from Testa Construction have been excavating the grounds around the former United States Repeating Arms plant at 344 Winchester Ave. as part of an environmental clean-up expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Meanwhile workers have removed the facade of the modern factory building, which USRAC built with taxpayer help only 15 years ago in a desperate final bid to keep some gun-making jobs in New Haven. USRAC inherited the old Winchester rifle brand that not only “won the West” but also kept up to 19,000 New Haveners working in an array of factory buildings at the crossroads of New Haven’s Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods in the mid-20th century. The Belgian-based company closed the plant in 2006 and laid off the last 186 workers.

As the former Winchester complex gradually closed up over past decades, a tech-oriented complex called Science Park gradually took its place with the hope of creating jobs of the future. That effort has recently taken off with new investments by Massachusetts developer Carter Winstanley (pictured). Winstanley bought and improved the 25 Science Park building, which has been filling up fast. The company is far along in construction of a new garage, and now is renovating the abandoned 230,000-square foot USRAC factory at 344 Winchester for office space for, among others, Yale University. Winstanley’s building a chiller facility for Yale, too.

(Meanwhile, another developer, New York-based Forest City, has putative plans for a mixed-use development at the old main Winchester building at Henry and Winchester.)

The factory at 344 Winchester Ave. occupies the corner of Winchester and Division. It opened onto Munson. Winstanley is moving the entrance to Winchester Avenue.

More dramatically, the company has torn down the outside walls to replace them with a 95 percent glass facade, according to Ted DeSantos, vice-president of Fuss & O’Neill, the engineering firm overseeing the project for Winstanley.

“The building was pretty ugly before,” DeSantos said this week. “It was one solid wall with no window in.” He said the project’s move-in date is this coming Jan. 1.

First there’s clean-up to do. A lot of clean-up. DeSantos said he expects crews to remove “hundreds of thousands of cubic yards” of contaminated soil. (Click on the play arrow to watch.)

The work is being undertaken under the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Property Transfer Program. Thomas RisCassi, a supervising environmental analyst in DEP’s remediation division, said it’s common to find a host of contaminants on old factory land. “I would expect to find everything there,” he said.

“They don’t even have to have originated there; if they’re traveling with ground water they might have migrated there.” DeSantos said the pollutants include “petroleum type products” and asphalt mixed into the dirt. Neither he nor DeSantos had a dollar estimate for the cost of the clean-up.

DeSantos said the company is working with DEP to identify in-state relocation facilities and landfills where the dirt can be transported.

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Posted by: Norton Street | August 11, 2009 1:34 PM

Now we need to figure out a way to populate Dixwell and Newhallville with these workers. It is unacceptable to allow people from outside New Haven to come in to get a pay check then have them turn around and spend all their money in the burbs. Offer them incentives to buy a house or a lot in Newhallville to fix up or to build upon; doesn't Yale do something like that?

Posted by: Jason | August 11, 2009 2:11 PM

Norton Street you seem to have no idea who actually lives down there. Winchester Ave is populated with drug dealers, prostitues, and gang bangers. Why would any rational human being choose to live in that area? If anything we should be rasing those areas to keep the locals from scaring off any future tax paying development. Lord knows the people who live there now aren't paying any taxes. They are much more likely sucking up resources.

Posted by: Norton Street | August 11, 2009 3:45 PM

Educate yourself. There have been 6 homicides this year. 6. Gangs haven't been heavily active in New Haven since the mid-90s. The reason parts of Newhallville are still having problems with crime are because people are not investing in the neighborhood. Dixwell has improved drastically because it was invested in; by Yale with the Rose Center and newer developments still under construction, Hope VI grants rebuilt Elm Haven as a walkable neighborhood, and Scantlebury Park is a neighborhood center filled with people all day. Newhallville needs the same type of investment that Dixwell got and it has to start somewhere. Why not with people who take advantage of the neighborhoods by parking their cars there and working there but not paying city taxes or shopping in the city. Crimes are able to occur because there aren't enough eyes on Winchester Avenue. There are boarded up-burnt out houses galore as well as empty lots that are perfect for criminals. If those houses were occupied with caring families, crimes would be reported, their very presence would deter many crimes of opportunity. The schools in the neighborhood would improve because kids from homes that have parents who are active would be attending. The police dont magically make a neighborhood better, regular everyday citizens living their lives do.
Another part of the problem is not enough access to unskilled jobs. The plant that Winchester Avenue is named after used to employ 20,000 people from the city now the new jobs in Biotech are a fraction in number and are only available to highly educated individuals.

Posted by: FACchek | August 11, 2009 7:38 PM

Call it progress, which it is, but for whom?

Certainly not for the 186 last remaining employees from Olin- Winchester, who's taxpayer dollars when into the investment to save the failing factory.
John DeStefano then proposed a tax incentive to save the remaining jobs, but that idea too failed.
So, the city moved on...dropped its effort to revitalize Winchester, sucked up the taxpayer loss in our name... and agreed with Olin to sell out to Yale and its proxy winstanley.
All this, In order to receive the cooperation of Alders Morehead and Katrinia Jones, no difficult task there. JD also had to get the agreement through the full BOA, no difficult task there either. What , with the cooperation of Goldfield, Lemar, Sandman leading the way it was not difficult to get Blango and the other effected black alders to look the other way in exchange for a few curbs and sidewalks, which, by the way they were entitled to anyway.

So that today.... your have continued Yale expansion, at post taxpayer expense, as Yale Continues its conquest through proxies like WinStanley in order to gain more subsidies in the form of city tax breaks and special insurance clauses to cover the Yale chill water chiller plant, which adjoins the parking lot, with underground lines running from this area above to the new dorms, some 1/2 mile up canal street.

Sure, some of you may say fine, Yale expansion is good for New Haven, but how good... is the question.... Yale is a tax free educational institution which mixes it's taxable expansion smoothly into its tax free educational expositions, to the extent it becomes difficult to determine if Yale gives more to the city, or merely gives, to mask all of the tax free take downs $$$.
The morel of this story is defined as the discontinuance of neighborhood jobs, for the emergence of Yale sponsored white reversed flight, while the surrounding community mires in continuing decay.

Yale's past expose is a good predictor of future transformation, without the 186.

Posted by: R. E. Lampago | August 12, 2009 8:45 AM

I can't believe all the misconceptions sprayed around in this article and the comments. Facts are good. But, hey, it's the independent, so let's make stuff up to support our biases or lack of knowledge. First, the building in question is at the corner of Division, not Munson. The building at Winchester and Munson is going to be the Forest City apartment complex. The "chiller plant" is for 25 Science Park, not to chill the new Yale dorms. Also, I don't think Yale or the local politicians had anything to do with the loss of the Winchester jobs. Many good people live in the area (e.g., me), and the pedestrian traffic has increased since the improvements by Winstanley, as well as since those mentioned by Norton St.

It is true the alders are worthless. But that is a city-wide problem.

[Editor's Note: Thanks for the Division St. correction.]

Posted by: Ned | August 12, 2009 10:07 AM

This explains the parade of huge dump trucks on Willow St., starting at 6:00 am...
The price of progress...

When will the city sell Winchester Ave. (between Sachem and Division Sts.) to Yale?

Posted by: winchester ave | October 5, 2009 5:22 PM

I live on Winchester Avenue and will happily inform you that there is a division between upper and lower Winchester. Upper Winchester is populated by mostly Yale employees and students while lower Winchester is a little more urban but either way, the development is good for everyone. The street has potential, it just needs some cleaning up like what was done to Mansfield street.

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