Village Suites Owner Pitches Hotel-To-Apts…

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Markeshia Ricks file photo

Juan Salas-Romer (center) at 2016 ribbon cutting: Now looking to convert Village Suites hotel into apartments.

Thomas Breen file photo

The Village Suites hotel at 3 Long Wharf Dr.

The local owner of a 112-room extended-stay hotel on Long Wharf is looking for zoning permission to convert the property into 112 new apartments — by changing the legally permitted use of the hotel’s existing buildings and rooms, rather than by constructing anything new.

That hotel-to-apartments proposal is included as a communication on Monday night’s full Board of Alders meeting agenda.

Village Suites LLC — a holding company controlled by NHRGroup’s Juan Salas-Romer — submitted a petition calling on the local legislators to amend Planned Development District (PDD) #65 to allow multi-family dwelling unit use of an existing 112-room all-suite hotel” at 3 Long Wharf Dr. and 175 Hallock Ave.

That 3.1‑acre site is currently home to the the 14-building, 112-room Village Suites hotel, which Salas-Romer’s company has owned and run since 2016. (After operating on a land lease” arrangement for half a decade, Salas-Romer’s company bought the Long Wharf Drive property’s underlying land for over $1.7 million last year.)

We look forward to continuing to provide hotel accommodations for visitors to our region,” Salas-Romer told the Independent in an email comment for this article. The addition to zoning offers added flexibility in allowing us to accommodate long-term stays as multifamily housing units should the need arise.”

Does that mean that Salas-Romer’s company plans on converting all 112 current hotel rooms into apartments, if the re-zoning proposal is approved? Or does his company plan to change only some of those rooms into apartments, and keep others as hotel rooms?

Most likely scenario would be total conversion at the appropriate time,” Salas-Romer responded.

The proposed land-use change now advances to the City Plan Commission and an aldermanic committee for various public hearings and reviews, before returning to the full Board of Alders for a final debate and vote.

According to the PDDamendment proposal, which was submitted by local attorney Chris McKeon and which can be read in full here, the Village Suites owner does not plan to build anything new as part of this hotel-to-apartments conversion.

Each hotel suite contains a kitchen and bathroom as well as one or two bedrooms and can be converted to residential apartment use without any construction or modification to the buildings or site,” McKeon wrote.

Later on in the application, I repeated that point. Importantly, no construction or alteration of the site or buildings thereon are necessary or proposed in connection with this Petition.”

Salas-Romer emphasized that same point in his emailed comment to the Independent. The conversion to the use can occur without any site or building construction,” he wrote.

Both McKeon and Salas-Romer also noted that the city’s recently adopted inclusionary zoning (IZ) ordinance would apply to this new apartment complex, meaning that six of the 112 new apartments would be set aside for renters making no more than 50 percent of the area median income (TO ME). That federally defined income level currently shakes out to around $56,300 per year for a New Haven family of four.

Thomas Breen file photo

The proposed use of the existing hotel site and structures for residential dwelling units is consistent with the recommendations contained in New Haven Vision 2025 in that it will, inter aliaprovide workforce housing opportunities in Long Wharf,” McKeon wrote in the petition.

Moreover, such a conversion will help transform the under-utilized industrial waterfront to a pedestrian friendly, walkable, bikeable, environmentally sustainable mixed-use neighborhood as envisioned by the Long Wharf Responsible Growth Management Plan adopted by the Board of Alders in 2019.”

During an interview with the Independent in June 2021, Salas-Romer said that the Village Suites hotel had partnered during the Covid-19 pandemic with local homelessness service providers like Columbus House, Emergency Shelter Management Services (ESMS ), and the United Way to take in people who needed a safe, socially-distanced place to stay when homeless shelters closed.

When his company first took over the Village Suites in 2016, Salas-Romer explained the extended stay hotel’s business model as appealing to individuals and families in between permanent housing situations. Those include those in need of a place to stay during home renovations, buying or selling a house, or emergency relocation.

The Village Suites proposed PDDamendment comes as the City Plan Department is looking to impose a one-year building moratorium on Long Wharf to give the city time to redo the waterfront district’s zoning in order to promote the development of new places to live and shop, rather than new gas stations and truck repair facilities.

It also comes soon after a Westport developer has finished converting the vacant former Pirelli Building into a new 165-room eco-friendly hotel at 500 Sargent Dr., after the Fusco Corporation won zoning permission from the Board of Alders to build up to 500 new apartments at 501 Long Wharf Dr., and as a cannabis dispensary is eyeing a potential move into the soon-to-be-former home of Long Wharf Theater at 222 Sargent Dr.


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