New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Brewery plan approved despite opposition

- By Mary E. O’Leary

NEW HAVEN — Armada Brewing has won a pivotal approval to manufactur­e beer and open a taproom in Fair Haven, despite a hard push to delay the matter.

John Kraszewski, the owner of Armada, was granted the special exception by the Board of Zoning Appeals for the business at 190 River St. as close to 60 people watched the proceeding­s ths week, with many testifying on the

Zoom platform.

River Street, a one-time industrial center for New Haven, but underdevel­oped for de

cades, has new suitors with actor Michael Jai White of Jaigantic Studios declaring an interest in much of the street after others had already stepped forward.

He is proposing to construct 25 sound studios with an apprentice­ship training program that the company’s officers estimate would bring 1,000 jobs.

New England Brewing Company is seeking a separate parcel and Armada, the smallest business, was the farthest project along, having signed a lease and gotten site approval.

Lee Cruz, co-chairman of the Fair Haven Community Management Team, submitted a petition with 367 signatures asking that the BZA delay a decision on Armada so the city could mediate among all proposals to advance a plan that will bring the most jobs and find a solution that benefits all of them.

“We do not want to see plans for one company advance in ways that force another to move their project elsewhere and lose out on jobs, an increased tax base, and other potential benefits for our community,” he read.

Armada submitted 38 letters in its favor, while the direct comments were split with slightly more in favor of the Armada.

ZBA Chairwoman Mildred Melendez allowed much of the testimony on the proposed mediation and Jaigantic to proceed before making clear it was not the subject of the vote.

She said it was an unusual situation in that the opposition was asking for a continuati­on to resolve a conflict, something that ordinarily would come from the applicant.

Commission­er Alexandria Daum said much of the testimony could not be considered by the board as it was beyond its scope.

At the end of the meeting however, she recused herself given how much state money had gone into remediatin­g River Street and her position as deputy commission­er of the state Department of Economic and Community Developmen­t.

This made for a closer vote with three in favor of the special exception and one opposed.

Several officers with Jaigantic weighed in.

“We want to find a place that we can work together ...we have tried to reach out on all of these positions on our projects. I think we can work something out,” Donovan DeBoer, CEO of Jaigantic said, while also alluding to concerns about the brewery and the “at risk” minors they will be working with.

Jacqueline Buster, chief impact officer, said they would bring union jobs, “a mini-city within a city,” with a cross-section of profession­s. She also put an emphasis on security.

“We want to be assured that the developmen­t we are proposing can be secure because of the amount of equipment, the expense of the equipment and also the celebrity talent that will not come here, if they can’t get from one end of the street to the other without being impeded or approached. That is a serious thing here,” she said.

The properties on River Street covered in a memorandum of understand­ing between Jaigantic and the city are at one end, while Armada is close to the other end.

“We think there are some options that we can offer that would far exceed any expectatio­n that he may have right now,” Buster said of Kraszewski.

COO Mayne Berke said they need contiguous properties “unimpeded . ... The brewery where it is is going ... is going to create a security risk.”


Drew Goldsman of Lewis Street spoke in favor of the brewery as an appropriat­e light industrial use and questioned the Jaigantic plan.

“You don’t get to claim dibs over a huge swath of our city and neighborho­od with some kind of out-of-town investor idea ...” he said.

Davante Mallard of Front Street was in favor of Jaigantic and was impressed that White toured the businesses along Grand Avenue. “It will have a huge impact,” Mallard said of the proposed jobs. He said it should be a team effort to make the city a better place at that site.

Kraszewski said he did not understand how “a mediation with Jaigantic has any relevance to this special exemption at all. They are trying to have an extreme overreach. They don’t have any legal documents on their property other than an MOU. I have a lease ... Their request seems so absurd to me. I have waited for them to contact me. I never got an email. I never got a phone call.”

Ryan Voytek, owner of Front Porch Brewing in Wallingfor­d supported the proposal as did Phil Pappas of the Connecticu­t Brewer’s Guild.

Pappas said craft beer represents 18,000 jobs and pumps $3 billion into the Connecticu­t economy.

Chris Ozyck said the issue is about the highest and best use of the land and the BZA should tell the city “do their job, get these two entities together and come up with contingenc­y plans.”

Enrique Rosado, who is a nearby property owner, opposed the Armada.

“This is a really low-lying fruit that (economic officials) have delivered to us,” Rosado said. He said the city also has to consider the traffic.

“It is a bad precedent,” he said. Ian Dunn, who heads the Wooster Square Community Management Team, supports the plan. “This is a really clear applicatio­n for a site that makes total sense,” Dunn said.

Kerry Triffin, owner of the nearby Fair Haven Furniture property, said it was hard for him to imagine that Armada, at 1,500 square feet, would put Jaigantic Studios in jeopardy.

“It just seems prepostero­us,” Triffin said.

Carmine Capasso, who will soon own the building at 190 River St., said in the last 15 years “many people have come before the city offering these grand plans and nothing ever happens.”

He said it is difficult given the flood zone, the pilings and the contaminat­ion.

Capasso said he has no plans to leave and has not been approached tby Jaigantic. He told the BZA to approve Kraszewski’s plan as a “bird in the hand. Take it.”

Maryann Moran opposed Armada and would rather see something more creative than a brewery in the neighborho­od, while her neighbor Tony Pellegrino supported it.

Sarah Miller, who is running for the 14h Ward alder, said she was happy to see the interest in River Street redevelopm­ent, but disappoint­ed with another trend: “disjointed and uncoordina­ted developmen­t planning.”

She feels the Armada developmen­t is in direct conflict with Jaigantic’s. Miller said the conflict was not irreconcil­able, but should have been addressed before this and now needs mediation.

“There should have been many conversati­ons prior to coming here. Obviously there are some unaddresse­d issues and we are not the board to hear it,” Melendez said.

“It saddens me that we have two working groups and two businesses trying to come to New Haven that can’t work together and be good neighbors,” she said.

The Armada, which will seat some 68 customers at its 2-story historic building, hopes to open in January. The beer manufactur­ed there, will be either consumed on the premises or sold as retail. The main production area will remain in East Haven.

 ?? Arnold Gold / Hearst Conn. Media ?? Part of the former Bigelow Boiler Company. John Kraszewski, the owner of Armada, plans to open a brewery there.
Arnold Gold / Hearst Conn. Media Part of the former Bigelow Boiler Company. John Kraszewski, the owner of Armada, plans to open a brewery there.

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