A sketch of the proposed new Long Wharf Drive park. City of New Haven rendering

New Haven has landed $12.1 million in state aid to help transform Long Wharf Park into an amenity-rich destination, as part of a broader rebuild of the city’s industrial waterfront district.

That flood of state dollars was announced in an email press release issued by Gov. Ned Lamont, New Haven State Sen. and President Pro Term Martin Looney, and state House of Representatives Speaker Matt Ritter.

The press release states that the State Bond Commission approved the release of $99 million as part of the second round of grants under the Community Investment Fund 2030 (CIF).

Included among those awards is $12.1 million for expanding and enhancing Long Wharf Park in line with the city’s Long Wharf Responsible Growth Plan. 

“CIF will assist with the City of New Haven’s Long Wharf Responsible Growth Plan to revitalize the waterfront district,” the email press release states. ​“Grant activity will focus on the revitalization of Long Wharf Park. Features in the park include public site furniture, lighting, playground, bike paths, outdoor fitness, upgraded walkways and Food Truck pavilion.”

The $12.1 million Long Wharf-focused award came several days after the Board of Alders voted unanimously on April 3 to apply for $32.1 million in state funding for Downtown and Long Wharf infrastructure.

Included in that application was a $25 million proposal to demolish the crumbling Gateway Community College on Long Wharf; create a ​“community marina” by the shore; and implement flood resiliency initiatives in the Long Wharf district. That funding would contribute to the city’s long-term plans for a revamped park and commercial district at Long Wharf.

The other $7.1 million included in the application was for proposed Downtown improvements, including public art, a cafe kiosk and public restroom on the Green, and a playground. Read more about the funding application, and alders’ questions, here.

“It’s a win-win for community,” said Hill Alder Carmen Rodriguez, whose ward includes Long Wharf, after the alders’ April 3 meeting. She praised the Long Wharf infrastructure plan as beneficial for neighbors, visitors, and the area’s famous food truck vendors. The new infrastructure will ​“make the connection from the Hill to Downtown,” she said.

The award also comes roughly two months after top city officials unveiled a detailed Long Wharf redevelopment plan to over 100 Hill community members and other interested residents. Read here for more about that plan, which would see a park and pedestrian-friendly walkway where cars now travel on Long Wharf Drive, an automotive trade school where the former Gateway building is on Sargent, and a new home base for all of the APT Foundation’s New Haven substance-use treatment programs.

On Monday, Mayor Justin Elicker praised the state’s $12.1 million award to the city as representing a ​“significant step in the envisioning of the entire Long Wharf area. This project has been worked on for many years,” under both his administration and that of his predecessor, Toni Harp. ​“It’s hugely helpful for working towards a very significant redesign.”

As noted in the governor’s press release and the bond commission agenda, Elicker said, this $12.1 million is ​“specific for Long Wharf park,” as opposed to for some of the other infrastructure upgrade projects included in the city’s $25 million bid for Long Wharf aid.

He noted that important features of the park redesign include closing much of Long Wharf Drive, increasing the amount of public greenspaces, adding on-site parking, and ​“dramatically improving the beauty and public resources to allow more enjoyment” of the waterfront space.

Now that the city has this $12.1 million in state aid secured, he said, the next step is to put together a more detailed design for the changes to the park and the road.

This story was first published April 11, 2023 by New Haven Independent.