New life for Long Wharf?

Plaza to replace Veterans Memorial Coliseum

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Although a new Long Wharf Theater in the heart of downtown New Haven is years away, another small step toward that goal has been taken via conceptual plans the city has drawn up for a European-style downtown plaza surrounded by new buildings.

The project would replace New Haven’s dark, decaying Veterans Memorial Coliseum and make use of other surrounding city-owned land to house, among other amenities, a new Long Wharf.

The theater’s current venue, near the harbor, dates back to 1965 and is showing its age. The nonprofit’s board has been mulling the possibility of a new theater on another site for some time. The projected cost is roughly $30 million. The hope is that Connecticut would come up with half the coin. But given the current downturn in the economy and the state’s ever-growing deficit, it may not be that easy.

Blocking out

The city’s conceptual plans, budgeted at $400 million, include a two-block plaza with a park and a skating rink. New buildings around it would house, in addition to the theater, a consolidated campus for Gateway Community College (which has campuses at Long Wharf and North Haven), a hotel, conference center, apartments, shops and parking.

The concept has been drawn up in response to Gov. John G. Rowland’s request that plans be submitted to the state for the reuse of the Coliseum site before it decides whether to grant New Haven $10 million in funding to cover the cost of the demolition.

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