A new report by the Brookings Institution names New Haven as one of the 20 healthiest metropolitan economies in the nation. Though the picture’s not all rosy, New Haven’s been weathering the financial storm better than much of the state and the country.
Drive around downtown New Haven these days, and you see cranes. Lots of them. Tony Recigno is president of New Haven’s Chamber of Commerce. "I had a developer here from New York. And he’s lookin’ out and he says “What the heck is going on here?” And I said “ Well what do you mean?” And he said “Well, you know, I’m all over the country. There’s no cranes anywhere. So what’s goin’ on here that I don’t know?”"
Recigno’s answer sounded something like this. "Obviously we are experiencing the downturn like everybody else, especially as it relates to retail, some manufacturing. But overall the healthcare and education sectors are very strong for us. We call it eds and meds."
Eds and meds; Education and health care have helped to stabilize New Haven’s economy during the recession. They’re also driving unprecedented development in the city. Gateway Community College breaks ground soon on its new
200-million-dollar downtown facility. Yale University has spent more than 2-billion over the past decade on its historic campus. Some university projects are temporarily on hold due to financial belt-tightening, but the school continues to spend enormous sums on construction and renovation. Michael Morand is Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and State Affairs. "Just brought a new building for the Environmental School online; finishing a new building for Political Science; in the midst of building a new home for University Health Services, finishing renovation of one residential college and beginning renovation of two others. "
Then there’s the new Yale-New Haven Hospital Smilow Cancer Center expected to open later this year. That’s generating investment in lab and medical research space. Morand describes the partnership between the university and the city as the strongest it’s been in generations, "..and every reason to believe it’ll continue because we have consistently and persistently shown that we get lots of mutual benefits – town and gown alike- by working together."
Downtown business owners say eds and meds have provided stability during the recession. Claire Criscuolo owns Claire’s Corner Copia, a vegetarian restaurant in downtown New Haven. "Its gonna sound crazy, but Yale University is like the family member..if we’re having trouble financially …when you’re starting to think..uh oh..I’m digging into my reserves a little more deeply than I hoped,…we get a bunch of catering orders from the university."
And it’s not just Yale that’s investing downtown. Private and state dollars are coming in for a new hotel at the old Coliseum site…and a new downtown home for the Long Wharf Theater. A 180-million dollar construction project is already underway at the corner of Chapel and State Streets – the largest private investment in New Haven in decades.
The recession’s hit hardest outside downtown. The city’s been slammed by residential foreclosures. 2 years ago there were 57. Last year, there were nearly 400. Mayor John DeStefano agrees that eds and meds have been the key to downtown’s stability. "I just think that we exist in a place where the quality of the intellectual property being produced in New Haven has real value, not only in a regional economy, but indeed in a national and worldwide economy.."
New Haven’s hotels are seeing an uptick in reservations. City officials say that’s great, Visitors will just have to watch out for the cranes.