NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Union Station turns 100 years old next year, and the city of New Haven wants to give it a face lift for its birthday.
Around two and a half million people travel through Union Station every year, but they don’t stay long.
“We have a once in a generation opportunity here to renovate the station and really make it a destination for folks to come,” said New Haven’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Director, Doug Hausladen.
Right now, the shops in Union Station sell things for you to grab go. Hausladen asks, what if the space enticed you to stay, instead? How about a wine bar on the unused mezzanine overlooking the grand concourse? Or what about a boutique hotel on the upper floors? They have the space now.
“As the Connecticut DOT and other government offices have relocated outside of Union Station, including the parking authority, there’s now more space inside of the station to do more and think broadly with,” Hausladen said.
Revamp those offices, or move the rental car and bus counters, and you might have the perfect spot for a local restaurant.
“Oh, absolutely. I’d be delighted to be there,” said Adil Chokairy, the owner of Crepes Choupette.
His restaurant has carved out a niche downtown on Whitney Avenue, but the Chokairy says the train station should showcase all the best New Haven has to offer.
“It should be a cultural destination, it should be a dining destination, and it should be a shopping destination as well,” Chokairy said.
Which will require more parking. For years, the city has been looking to build a new garage on what is currently the station’s surface lot. The problem is money.
“The conversation is ongoing with the state’s debt diet with respect to what we can afford to build on the surface lot,” said Hausladen.
The city did finally tear down the blighted public housing development across the street. It is now empty, waiting for development that could be a boon for Union Station. And a month ago, the city broke ground on a project to make it much easier to walk and bike to downtown. It’s all connected, and most of it centers on the train station.
“You’re actually seeing that these zones around Union Station and Long Wharf can be ripe for investment opportunity,” Hausladen said.
None of this is going to happen next week, but by the beginning of next year, the city hopes to get bids from local businesses interested in developing their own little piece of Union Station.