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CT Constrruction Digest Friday November 1, 2019

Former Higher One headquarters in New Haven undergoes $25 million renovation

NEW HAVEN — The new owners of what once was the headquarters of financial services firm Higher One are looking to boost the occupancy rate of the 145,000-square foot-building by adding much-needed laboratory space for biotechnology companies.Winchester Partners — a joint venture of Twining Properties, L+M Development Partners and the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group — closed on its purchase of the building at 115 Munson St. at the end of August. Winchester Partners purchased the building from Blackboard Inc., which acquired Higher One in 2016 and ultimately moved the company out of the building.Now, the joint venture partners are spending about $25 million on renovations they hope will allow them to take advantage of the high demand for lab space in the New Haven area. They are renaming the building Winchester Works.“We’re making the majority of the building move-in ready for lab tenants,” said Alex Twining, chief executive officer of Twining Properties. “We’re talking with potential tenants who (collectively) have needs for 200,000 square feet of space.”Jake Pine, a director with L+M Development Partners, said the renovations are needed to convert “a single-user building into a multi-user building.”“We feel we’re an ideal solution (for life science tenants) and we can make the changes we need to the building pretty quickly,” Pine said, adding that some of the improvements will take three to six months to complete.When the work is finished, Winchester Works will be one of the few buildings in New Haven that can accommodate life science companies requiring wet lab space.The building is about 40 percent occupied. The two existing tenants are Bank Mobile, which provides college students with digital checking accounts, and Transact Campus, a cashless campus technology company.David Lehman, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a statement that adding lab space “is exactly what the state needs to accelerate economic growth.”Much of the demand for lab space in New Haven and surrounding communities is the result of the success researchers at Yale University have had in monetizing their work.“We have a lot of opportunities with start-ups that spin off from Yale,” said Garrett Sheehan, president and chief executive officer of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.Ginny Kozlowski, excutive director of the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven, said the lack of lab space for small start-up companies isn’t limited to New Haven.“It’s statewide,” Kozlowski said. “You have companies coming out of UConn as well as Yale. And start ups do not have the money to be investing in this kind of space.”A 156-page report released earlier this year identifies a lack of lab space as one of the reasons the biotech industry in Connecticut is not achieving a larger employment and economic impact. If the recommendations contained in the report are followed, biotech could add 6,000 jobs to Connecticut’s economy over the next decade.“Our cost structure (in Connecticut) makes us competitive,” Kozlowski said. “It’s cheaper for a company to be here than it is in Cambridge or New York.”Other states see the value of investing in public-private partnerships as a way to solve a lack of lab space, Kozlowski said.Rhode Island officials invested $26 million in the 62,000-square-foot Cambridge Innovation Center, which opened this summer in Providence. That facility include a biotech component, she said.

GOP holds fast on tolls: ‘No’
Eric Bedner
HARTFORD — House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, has said for months she doesn’t believe there will be a single member of her caucus who would support a transportation plan that includes tolls, and judging by the positions of area House Republicans, she may be correct.
“I think she’s right. I don’t think there’s a single Republican that will support tolls,” Rep. Carol Hall, R-Enfield, said. “I’m 100 percent against.”
“For me, any proposal that includes tolling isn’t something that I’m in favor of,” Rep. Christopher Davis, R-Ellington, said. “I would believe that Themis is correct that most if not all of our members are opposed to any proposal that would include tolling.”
Rep. Timothy Ackert, R-Coventry, said that while it’s not a directive from Klarides, he currently has no appetite for a tolling plan.
“At this point, I’m a pretty solid no,” he said, but added that part of his job as a legislator is to be open-minded. “Everything is always in consideration,” but he said he doubts even a scaled-back tolling plan will sway him from his opposition.
“At this point, no, I can’t support them,” Rep. Thomas Delnicki, R-South Windsor, said.
As part of his opposition, Delnicki noted that contributions to the Special Transportation Fund were cut from the most recent biennial budget, costing the fund $171.6 million over the next two years, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.
“If we weren’t diverting money that’s intended for the Special Transportation Fund we wouldn’t have this problem,” he said.
Hall said the middle class would be hit hardest by tolls, adding that “all tolls are is another tax.”
Davis agreed, saying that if a small number of toll gantries are erected, a tolling expansion would be that much easier for future legislatures to enact.
He also doubted that the Lamont administration and future Democratic leaders could be trusted to spend tolling dollars properly without diverting other funds, such as the gas tax, from transportation projects.
Regardless of a Republican bloc, House Democrats hold the majority and can push through a tolling plan on their own.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, however, has said he does not intend to hold a partisan vote on tolls in the Senate.
Despite speculation by various radio program hosts this week, Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, said Wednesday that he has not changed his position on tolls.
While he remains committed to finding a way to fund the state’s transportation projects without tolls, he feels that as governor, Lamont deserves the respect of listening to his ideas and have them vetted by legislators.
“If that rubs people the wrong way, it rubs people the wrong way,” Fasano said. “It’s easy to be liked. It’s harder to be thoughtful, and I want to be thoughtful. That’s all.”
However, he added: “I think we can do this without tolls.”
WTIC-AM 1080’s Todd Feinburg reported Tuesday afternoon that Fasano had flipped his position and was now supporting tolls, which Fasano denied.
“I have not switched any positions,” Fasano said Wednesday afternoon. “This is a rumor by a very incompetent radio person.”
Lamont said he is meeting with legislative leaders this week to discuss his plan and get their input, and that he hopes the plan can be rolled out publicly by next week.
The plan, he said, is “more modest in terms of our construction goals,” but still aims to fix the most congested points on state highways.
“We have a responsible way to solve the transportation problem,” Lamont said. “I think people are honestly giving it a second look.”
Bond package held hostage?
Lamont has previously said the transportation debate is holding up a comprehensive bonding package, the mathematics of which rely heavily on how much the state wants to borrow for transportation.
This has led to a delay in towns receiving municipal aid for roads and funds for the Local Capital Improvement Program, or LoCIP.
Ackert said he feels the administration is holding municipal aid “hostage,” calling the ongoing bonding negotiations “bad government.”
“He’s not making a lot of friends and he’s not doing his job as far as I’m concerned,” Ackert said of Lamont’s handling of the bond package.
Delnicki said he feels it’s “obvious” Lamont is using municipal aid as a bargaining chip.
Davis, who serves as ranking member of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, said Republicans asked months ago for a scaled-back bond package that would include items that have bipartisan support, including municipal aid and school construction funds.
He blamed Democratic leadership throughout state government for their refusal to act on a smaller, immediate bonding package.
“The people of Connecticut are truly the ones who are suffering from this political game played by the governor’s office and the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly,” Davis said.
Hall said she is giving the governor the benefit of the doubt and believes he is negotiating the bonding package in good faith.
“I don’t believe he’s holding it as hostage,” Fasano said, noting that a comprehensive transportation plan could swing transportation bonding by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Hall noted the grassroots efforts of No Tolls CT, which she said shows that residents are largely opposed to tolls.
“I think you’ve got to listen to the people who elected you, and if you’re willing to discard that in your first year in office, you’re going to have a very short term as governor,” Hall said.

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