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U-Haul Unveils Self-Storage Conversion Plan for Historic Building in New Haven, CT

Update 10/25/16 – U-Haul has unveiled its plan to convert the former C. Cowles & Co. factory to self-storage. U-Haul Moving & Storage of Wooster Square will feature 2,000 units inside the 156,864-square-foot structure. It will also offer U-Box portable-storage containers and a full line of moving supplies.

Update 10/25/16 – U-Haul has unveiled its plan to convert the former C. Cowles & Co. factory to self-storage. U-Haul Moving & Storage of Wooster Square will feature 2,000 units inside the 156,864-square-foot structure. It will also offer U-Box portable-storage containers and a full line of moving supplies.

Built in 1890, the building originally served as a factory for lanterns that hung on horse-drawn carriages. It later became a car-part manufacturing facility until C. Cowles & Co. moved operations in 2015, according to a press release.

"This building is a piece of history," said Pete Sciortino, president of U-Haul Co. of Connecticut. "I am excited to reuse this majestic structure while making sure less carbon emissions are being put into the air. Keeping New Haven's history alive is important to U-Haul."

The conversion fits into U-Haul’s corporate sustainability initiatives, which support infill development to help local communities lower their carbon footprint, the release said. U-Haul’s adaptive reuse of existing structures eliminates the amount of energy and resources required for new-construction materials and helps local cities diminish their unwanted inventory of unused buildings, U-Haul officials said.

5/26/16 – U-Haul has delayed the review of its self-storage site plan for the Cowles & Co. factory property at 83 Water St. for about a month while New Haven officials continue to pursue residential-development options for the site. The city may decide to subsidize a residential project based on higher expected financial returns to the municipality vs. self-storage, according to the source.

Nemerson believes building 150 residences on the property is the best use. He estimates 1.5 tenants per apartment would generate $2.5 million in local spending power per year. In addition, an apartment project of this scale would bring in about $1 million in building fees for the city vs. $150,000 for the U-Haul facility.

If the city were to invest $1 million in a residential project, it could recoup the investment through the building fees, Nemerson told the source. New Haven would also make about $550,000 in tax revenue from the apartment complex vs. $150,000 from the self-storage project, he said.

U-Haul bid around $6 million for the property, which was more than the residential-development bid of about $5.5 million. The U-Haul bid caught the city and property owner by surprise, Nemerson told the source.

Developers interested in converting the factory site to housing are expected to speak this week with property owner Larry Moon, the source reported. City contribution toward a residential project would require a land agreement, a memorandum of understanding, and a zoning review more complicated than that for the self-storage project.

Moon and U-Haul submitted a site plan last week for review by the planning commission. City alders aren’t expected to vote on a proposed zoning change to light-industrial use until August, according to the source. The change in zoning would allow self-storage as long as a special permit is granted.

If a residential project doesn’t emerge, the U-Haul plan would likely be approved before a zoning change would take effect, the source reported.

4/12/16 – Phoenix-based U-Haul International Inc. is reportedly looking at three potential properties in New Haven, Conn., on which to develop self-storage, but the city doesn’t appear to be supportive of any of the locations. Instead, city officials would rather see other uses that create more jobs or affordable housing, according to the source.

“We have nothing personal against U-Haul, but to turn buildings into big white boxes with orange stripes and rent trucks out of them instead of having 300 families living there or having high-tech companies working there, we would have to be insane not to fight this,” Matthew Nemerson, the city’s economic-development administrator, told the source.

One property on Water Street is a 178-year-old manufacturing site that has housed factories making carriage lamps and automobile components. U-Haul’s plan would require a conversion of the C. Cowles & Co. building. The city is supportive of a previous plan to convert the structure to housing, but disagreement over who would be responsible for environmental cleanup at the site has apparently stalled that project, according to the source.

A second location at 1175 State St. was a former trolley barn, while the third property at Whalley Avenue and Fitch Street in the historic neighborhood of Westville is currently used for offices. The city doesn’t like the idea of self-storage being built at the latter property because it’s at the gateway to the community, Nemerson said.

“The ultimate revenge of the suburban Baby Boomers, who have moved out of the city, would then be to stuff their belongings into storage buildings in the city of New Haven, instead of having young families living here or instead of having their own kids have high-tech companies in those buildings,” Nemerson told the source. “It’s simply not something that we can have.”

Nemerson also indicated the city has other developers that can match any offers presented by U-Haul, and he’s willing to help the self-storage operator find comparable sites in surrounding communities.

The State and Water Street properties are in light-industrial zones, but the city planning department recently expanded the acceptable uses under the designation and is looking to add multi-story residences as an approved use as well, the source reported.

Established in 1945, U-Haul has more than 44 million square feet of storage space at more than 1,200 owned facilities throughout North America.


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