Yale eyes big builds for science, drama in New Haven

NEW HAVEN — A new lab and classroom building that will be nearly as large as Yale’s football stadium — at least in terms of square footage — is in the works for East Rock’s ​“Science Hill,” while a new hub for Yale’s performing arts is planned for a university-owned downtown corner.

Those are two of Yale’s largest new development projects slated for the years ahead, as announced in a recent building update sent out by one of the local Ivy Leaguer’s top officials.

Yale University Provost Scott Strobel detailed those projects, and many more, in an email sent out to Yale employees and students on Oct. 26. The university posted Strobel’s announcement online on that same day under the header: ​“Building for Yale’s Future.”

The email/online update describes some of the biggest in-the-works and soon-to-come changes to Yale’s built environment. 

Those include projects at university-owned properties like the ongoing renovations to the Peabody Museum, as well as at non-Yale-owned properties where the university has an outsized footprint, such as the 100 and (now being built) 101 College St. biotowers.

One of the largest and yet-to-be publicly discussed projects detailed in Strobel’s email is a new Physical Sciences and Engineering Building (PSEB) to be built on Yale’s ​“Science Hill,” which is roughly bounded by Sachem Street to the south, Whitney Avenue to the east, Edwards Street to the north, and Prospect Street to the west. 

Another is a new performing arts venue for the David Geffen School of Drama (née Yale School of Drama) and the Yale Repertory Theatre planned for the corner of Crown and York Streets.

Since so much of the university’s campus overlaps with downtown and Prospect Hill and other parts of the city, these Yale-proposed developments will almost assuredly affect New Haven’s cityscape outside of the Ivy Tower for years to come.

“As you explore, or reexplore, our campus this year, you will find some prominent academic buildings obscured by blue construction fencing,” Strobel wrote in the introduction to his Oct. 26 update. ​“I write today to tell you what is underway behind these curtains and to outline current and future building projects that will help us advance Yale’s academic missions of research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice. Each of these projects is the result of many hours of planning by Yale faculty and staff who have dedicated their time and effort to defining the programmatic needs for these spaces.”

Strobel’s building plan announcement comes roughly 10 months after the Board of Alders granted final approval to a new city-Yale deal that increased the university’s voluntary payments to the city by $52 million over six years, ceded control of a downtown stretch of High Street to Yale to convert into a city-owned pedestrian plaza, dedicated $5 million of Yale money towards the creation of a new Yale School of Management-based Center for Inclusive Growth, and established a new 12-year sliding scale for local property taxes on properties newly acquired and converted to tax-exempt status by the university.

It also comes as Yale’s endowment has reached an eye-popping $41.4 billion.

‘Several phases’

Strobel described the coming new lab and classroom building known as PSEB. He wrote that it will be on the ​“northeastern end of Science Hill,” which is a part of Yale’s campus that is bounded by Sachem Street to the South, Edwards Street to the north, Prospect Street to the west, and Whitney Avenue to the east. That area already is home to the Peabody Museum, the Bass Center for Molecular and Structural Biology, and the Write Laboratory.

“At the northeastern end of Science Hill, we will soon break ground on one of the largest facilities projects in university history,” Strobel wrote. The Physical Sciences and Engineering Building (PSEB) will serve as a hub for Yale’s work in both traditional and emerging fields identified in our academic priorities: quantum computing, engineering, materials science, and advanced instrumentation development. These areas represent enormous opportunity for discovery and innovation.”

He wrote that this building will be constructed in ​“several phases.” The ​“initial enabling work” will begin in the summer of 2023. The development is scheduled to be finished by 2029. 

Strobel wrote that the final building will consist of more than 600,000 gross square feet. ​“For comparison, this is only slightly less square footage than the Yale Bowl. In addition to laboratories, classrooms, and a state-of-the-art clean room, the building will house the Advanced Instrumentation Development Center, a core resource to support instrumentation development across the university.”

Talent & storytelling

Further down in Strobel’s update, the provost described the university’s plans to dramatically expand the drama school’s footprint on a predominantly Yale-owned stretch of downtown.

Here’s what Strobel wrote on that matter: ​“We are looking to invest still further in the future of the arts, specifically the dramatic arts. The physical infrastructure supporting Yale’s theater and performance spaces is aging and spread thin. Fortunately, we are nearing the fundraising goal needed to begin constructing a new state-of-the-art theater, performance, and education facility at the corner of Crown and York Streets.”

He said that this facility ​“will be the new home to the David Geffen School of Drama, the Yale Repertory Theatre (YRT), and the FAS Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies Program. It will also provide rehearsal space for the Yale Dramatic Association (Dramat), the second oldest extracurricular theater group in the country. We expect the new facility will include a proscenium theater with a fly tower and orchestra pit, a studio theater, green rooms, rehearsal studios, and production shops. It will usher in a new era of talent and storytelling in New Haven, while growing Yale’s tradition of artistic accomplishment.”

According to the city assessor’s database, Yale already owns most of the properties on the block bounded by Crown Street to the south, York Street to the east, and Chapel Street to the north. 

Strobel’s announcement does not indicate where exactly at Crown and York the new building will be constructed, nor does it say whether or not any existing buildings will be torn down to make way for the new theater. 

A Yale spokesperson told the Independent that the university is in an early stage for this project and has not yet determined the specific footprint or location.

Anchor tenant

Strobel’s update also highlighted a downtown-restitching development project that is not owned by the university, but that is driven in large part by Yale researchers and by Yale graduate- and teacher-spawned bioscience companies.

That’s the existing 11-story Alexion building at 100 College St. as well as a new 10-story biotower currently being built right across the street at 101 College.

Both of those properties were (and are being) developed by the lab and office building company Winstanley Enterprises. Nevertheless, as evidenced by Strobel’s update, these projects are intimately connected to the university.

“We are also making significant investments to advance our academic mission at the southern end of campus,” Strobel wrote. ​“A major renovation across seven floors of the 100 College Street building will bring together members of both the FAS and Yale School of Medicine (YSM) to explore the frontiers of the mind. We expect the collocation of the FAS Department of Psychology and the YSM Department of Neuroscience will be catalytic, enabling new ways of thinking about the brain and human cognition.”

Peabody Museum

Strobel also included in his Yale building message an update about the latest with the currently shuttered Peabody natural history museum.

“The Peabody Museum is also approaching the completion of its own comprehensive renovation. The infrastructural work will be completed in December,” he wrote. ​“Next year, Peabody staff will reinstall displays and exhibitions ahead of the museum’s grand reopening in 2024, when admission will be free to the community. The combination of new classrooms and newly-envisioned galleries will make for enhanced interactivity for research and teaching with Yale’s vast collections.”

He wrote that the entire building has been ​“reimagined, including a new glass-ceilinged central gallery, more room for exhibitions, and a new education center. We are grateful to researchers, curators, and staff who have kept Peabody’s priceless collections safe throughout this complicated renovation. This included temporarily relocating ten fossil skeletons to Canada for remounting (including the famous Brontosaurus) and preserving in-place the renowned, 110-foot mural, The Age of Reptiles, in the middle of a construction site.


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