Living the Platinum Dream: 360 State Street

What could Bruce Becker, Jennifer Gangi, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., Lise Dondy, Suffolk Construction, the USGBC, the city of New Haven and the Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT) have in common these days? One giant collective smile and the shared credit for a dazzling mixed-use 700,000 square foot development that will be the envy of the multifamily world. This team’s combined vision, talents, hard work and persistence have resulted in a one-of-a-kind, utterly phenomenal mixed-use, transit-oriented, infill development known simply as 360 State Street.

360 State Street Photo Courtesy: City of New Haven

Anyone familiar with the New Haven project will confirm it is more like a prototype for 21st century living than a building.  360 State is such a perfect embodiment of the ultimate dream design that it even attracted the attention of Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). He made a site visit in March 2010 while promoting S.1619 (the Livable Communities Act of 2009), a measure he introduced to the Senate in August of 2009. This bill, currently curdling in the 23-member Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, would provide a variety of grants totalling $400 million to assist in the development of sustainable communities. Dodd’s photo op at the project helped burnish 360’s new brand as a deep green example of the types of innovative and sustainable projects S.1619 could support.

Step Aside Energizer Bunny

360’s stunning collaboration of government, labor, non-profit and the private sector is full of visionaries, but they also put their money on the line. The former 1.61 acre parking lot and brownfield will produce the majority of its own power through a 400 kW fuel cell and its thermal energy by-products.

Project developer, Bruce Becker (pictured at right), likes to point out that in addition to the fuel cell, the building uses 34 energy saving technologies. For example, the Climate Master TS-series heat pumps used in the building are the highest efficiency pumps on the market today. The result speaks for itself. When benchmarked against a comparable, code-compliant building of similar proportions, 360 State will have half the carbon footprint.

Whether you are a prospective tenant or the merely curious, try to schedule a site ”hard hat” tour for a true educational experience. Lauren Lenox, 360’s charming General Manager, promises everyone  at least a walk-by of the fuel cell. During your tour she will also joyfully point out all the “hot buttons” which include amenities like dual flush toilets and computerized unit thermostats that can be remotely controlled by the resident.

Clubhouse Photo Courtesy: Bozzuto

Butlers might as well queue up now in the unemployment line, as the complex will also provide a concierge service along with cookies and coffee in the lobby.  The developer will also support the arts through exhibits in the lobby of original artwork by both local and national artists. The building facade, by the way, has been embellished by renowned Yale School of Architecture ornament professor, Kent Bloomer.  The complex is stunning and glamorous, but it is its sustainability features that really dazzle. Once in a while in life, residents really can have it all.

Mixed-Use Design

On more mundane matters, the 360 State Street planners recognized families busy creating the American Dream don’t have time to waste and certainly don’t want to emit greenhouse gases unnecessarily. Sustainable thinkers also value leisure as much as anyone else, so the planners sited the building with the understanding that the convenience of services would increase resident satisfaction and future retention.

Density Supports Smart Transit

Although 360 State Street’s location gives it the greatest number of transit options possible, commuters may see some lines as having inadequate frequency. Once the building is fully leased it is anticipated that train and bus schedules will be increased, which will also benefit the surrounding community. Transit will be complemented by alternative transportation as well. There is parking and storage for bicycles, Zipcars will be on site and charging stations for Electric Vehicles (EV) will be available.  The latter makes it feasible for tenants to charge their EVs overnight when power demand is lowest. These additional features make it not only possible but convenient to give up that second car and maybe even the first.

Green Roof

Rooftop Garden Photo Courtesy: Bozzutto

Green Landlady asked Lenox if there is a plan to include urban agriculture in the mix - the green roof is already part of the design - and Lenox’s answer was pretty upbeat.

“That’s an interesting question,” she said. “We only have five terraces, so maybe a community garden would be a great addition. I’ll ask Bruce [Becker, the developer] about that.  Residents have already asked if we can add a taxi stand [bubbling laughter] and he’s considering it!”

Truthfully, Lenox sounds positively delighted with her job.

Green Leasing Premium

Studio Living Room Photo Courtesy: Bozzuto

When GreenLandlady pointedly asked about leasing results, there was no pushback. Lenox remained enthusiastic and forthcoming about their progress, obviously an easier posture when the results are all great. Like most leasing agents – green building represents only about 3% of the entire U.S. building stock nationwide - Lenox had no previous experience leasing sustainable units. However, she spoke with the zeal of an evangelist when she offered her views:

“There’s just no one out there… this building will be the live example. It’s really been exciting and the community buzz is growing as people seem pretty thrilled with the development.  By this time next year we will have everything leased and running and the buzz then will be about how well the community works. As I said, there’s absolutely nothing in New Haven like it. People are so curious and with less than a one percent vacancy factor locally for years, there is a real need for it.”

Street View Photo Courtesy: City of New Haven

There is no reason to doubt Lenox, as the low vacancy factor is the result of a long-standing inadequate supply and lack of new apartment building in New Haven. Certainly people are interested in 360 State Street, so we asked the big question. Are they willing to pay for it? Lenox answered in the affirmative.

“People are willing to pay a little more for a green building for philosophical reasons, but also because the reduction in utility expenses makes it practical.  And then there are the cumulative benefits of changing your lifestyle a little bit.  For instance, if you live here you may not need your car… particularly when 40 Zagat-rated restaurants are within walking distance and theaters are right here!”

Lenox’s remarks about access within walking distance are backed up by the development’s Walkscore rating.  At 94 out of a possible 100 points it received a straightforward ”A”, a rare rating which should thrill old and young residents alike. CEO for Cities and ZipRealty also just released a study that one point in a walk score adds $3,000 in value to the average metropolitan home. The study further stated that,  ”the resurgent interest in downtowns and in promoting mixed-use developments through metropolitan areas is, in part, driven by a recognition of the value of walkability.”  The perceived value of walkability may support a green premium in lease amounts as well.

In spite of all the attractions, I am not sure how much walking 360 State’s resident population will end up doing. The tower has everything from lounge rooms for socializing to rentable guest suites that cost much less than a quality hotel. When fully completed, the development will have an indoor and outdoor fitness center, a yoga studio and a children’s playroom area.  The community-building aspects of these social amenities are well-documented, but cultural stimulation and access were also considered. The tower will further indulge its residents with a movie theater and a library.

Lenox stated Bozzutto Management initiated a ’soft’ leasing office opening in January as the building took shape. In recent weeks the leasing office has dramatically geared up to meet the current demand. As of June 8th, 2010, 27 percent of the building had already been reserved with move-ins scheduled for August and September. Based on current interest, Lenox expects another 50 reservations by opening day.

Retail Space

Once fully leased, the 30,000 square feet of retail space at 360 State will include a grocery store, a daycare, retail shops, offices and other services.  As full service markets are largely suburban in Connecticut, this new supermarket will be the first operated downtown in decades. The developer committed to the City that he would provide a grocery store at least equivalent to the quality of  Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

Last year when queried  by reporters about the then mysterious supermarket tenant, Becker exhibited an entrepreneurial understanding of urban dwellers with his response. He anticipated that the volume of grocery purchases he could attract would be more than sufficient to fully support the facility.  (Note: The minimum trade population for a neighborhood supermarket ranges between 25,000 to 40,000.)

“Most people in New Haven are not going to move to live in 360 State Street, but most of them will use the grocery store,” he said. “It’s more relevant to the general population.” 

Lenox indicated a full-service grocery store is in development under the direction of the developer.  It will supply the upscale supermarket envisioned, possibly as a food coop. Although the focus has been on the residential portion of the tower, Devil’s Gear Bike Shop (the oldest and largest bike shop in New Haven) has also leased a building location.

Energy Production via Fuel Cell

Fuel Cell Photo Courtesy: Bozzutto

The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund provided a grant to fund half the cost of 360 State Street’s 400 Kilowatt fuel cell stack. This grant will make it possible to reach the breakeven point (from energy savings) in about 5.5 years.  The fuel cell will generate most of the building’s power needs in addition to providing space heating, cooling, conditioning and the building’s hot water. The fuel cell system is the largest residential installation of this type of technology anywhere in the world.

Although it has not been used in commercial residential on this scale before, fuel cell technology is a surprisingly natural match given the needs of a multifamily community. The fuel cell’s electrochemical process combines hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity, heat and pure water.

Resident Education Tenants will be able to track the building energy usage and also follow and  benchmark their own unit use as well.  (Of course, privacy issues will be respected with unit numbers deleted from any public access.) Visitors to the building will also be able to see the energy system in action as the monitor will be posted in the lobby.  The building, in keeping with USGBC LEED requirements and philosophy, will provide many educational opportunities.  Once everyone has moved in, on-going monthly meetings will be established.  These will be one of the methods used to get the message out to residents that what they do matters.  Lenox was clear that she understands the key to building energy conservation.

“No matter how great the technology is, residents will need to understand the environment, energy efficiency and how their behavior affects those elements.  We’ll probably focus a lot of education on move-in incentives related to energy savings or showing how they can reduce their carbon footprint by moving in and giving up a car.”

Balcony Photo Courtesy: Bozzuto

As tenants learn to appreciate the benefits of high efficiency lighting, energy star appliances, thermal comfort, occupancy sensors in common areas, excellent environmental air quality and the other benefits of a deep green building, they may also experience better health.  Although this all sounds and is very luxurious, the building guarantees that 10% of the units will be leased to those who qualify for affordable housing.

360 State Street is located within blocks of the New Haven Green and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.  Units range from studio apartments to luxury penthouses with terraces.  Reservations are being solicited for move-ins for August and September. For leasing information please contact General Manager, Lauren Lenox, via email: llenox@bozzuto.com or telephone at 203-865-3600.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted June 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    What a great addition to New Haven’s downtown. A full service grocery store is sorely needed there.

  2. Posted June 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Georgia, thanks for taking the time to comment. I don’t know New Haven very well, but apparently the developer is putting in their own grocery store. You’d think a supermarket chain would understand ho w important it is to have these sorts of services and this seems t be an underserved area. . .

  3. Sue
    Posted July 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Great article on a project that has fascinated everyone in the neighborhood. I don’t live in New Haven, but I work down the block, and take the train. I’ll probably patronize the grocery store several times a week and carry home ingredients for dinner – can’t imagine I’ll be the only one doing this!

  4. Posted July 7, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Sue, thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to comment. Isn’t it funny about the grocery store? The community is so in need, but the developers are having to create their own.

    What other services might be helpful to you in that area?

  5. Posted July 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sue. It’s great to hear you are looking forward to supporting the market. Of course you mention you don’t live in New Haven… but did I imagine there might be a ‘yet’ at the end of that sentence? Imagine how sustainable your lifestyle could be and how many extra hours you’d gain if you lived down the block.

    Just in case you’re interested, we will also be publishing a follow-up article on the Fuel Cell technology in this building. We recently interviewed UTC Power’s Erik Robie, who coordinated the installation and design elements with the developer. Honestly, the power production aspect of this building completely fascinates me. Imagine living in your own private ‘utility district’ and never having to worry if power goes out on the standard grid.

  6. George C Lindsay
    Posted August 1, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    The staff are top shelf. Dragana and Sam help me out a lot. And
    always called me back if they were busy. I was
    so happy when I got a tour. Great job that everyone did
    on this project. All of them put 200% into this. A lot of pride
    went into this. This will be the show case of Connecticut and
    maybe the world. I am going to be very proud to be
    a tenant here. Because the staff is the very best and
    will continue to always be. If your not tenant yet I hope
    you’ll be one soon.

  7. Posted August 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    There are a lot of people out there who are going to envy you, George. The building is so fabulous, and now you tell us the staff is too? As a member of this new community, we’d love to hear more anytime. Your new home certainly is a model for the future.

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