Boston Globe features ICON’s Ribicoff Cottages

10.29.2014

Read The Boston Globe’s “Breaking barriers in New Haven.”
Post by Steve Heikin FAIA, Senior Principal at ICON

On Tuesday, October 21, the Boston Globe’s Farah Stockman published an op-ed piece, “Breaking Barriers in New Haven,” that tells the story of a fence that stood for over fifty years on the New Haven-Hamden town line, separating the Ribicoff Cottages senior public housing development in New Haven from the adjacent neighborhood in Hamden just across the street. This fence – with no openings — also separated several other public housing developments in New Haven’s West Rock area from the adjacent Hamden community, blocking several streets that used to connect the two communities.

ICON is the architect for the redevelopment of the Ribicoff Cottages, which will be replaced by 56 units of senior housing and 50 units of family housing, with 8 homeownership units in a future phase. Perhaps not coincidentally, the article appeared on the same day that the financial closing for the Ribicoff Cottages redevelopment took place, with groundbreaking scheduled for October 30th.

I was surprised but pleased, and moved, to see that this issue was picked up on here in Boston.

It certainly is a story worth telling, and I’m reminded that early on in the project, I said that the most important thing we could do on this site was to take down the fence AND reconnect the streets between New Haven and Hamden – something that Stockman doesn’t mention.

As usual, when the redevelopment of public housing is in the news, many of the comments on the Globe’s website reflect ongoing animosity, fear, and disdain for public housing residents. One commenter accurately notes that back in the 40s, when many of these public housing projects were built (including most of the West Rock developments, though Ribicoff was later), poorly located, out of the way sites were often chosen for development. Many of these were waterfront sites, when these areas were considered derelict and undesirable. Of course, things change, as a comparison of Quinnipiac Terrace, also in New Haven, then and now attests. The same can be said of ICON’s redevelopment of Maverick Landing on the East Boston Harborfront, and, soon Washington Village, along the Norwalk River in Connecticut. I hope the same sort of transformation at Ribicoff and the West Rock area generally can also transform people’s thinking about the issues raised by Stockman’s article and the various responders.

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