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Old school’s the new cool in New Haven

Yale University, by Michael Marsland

It’s not easy to get your arms around New Haven, Conn. For a small, walkable city, it covers a lot of ground.

It’s historic, dating back to 1638, when it became the nation’s first planned city. It’s compact and tree-lined, with 16-acre New Haven Green at its core. It’s also pizza-crazy and restaurant-rich, with world-class museums and edgy theater. And, of course, it’s home to Yale, one of the nation’s most prestigious and wide-ranging universities.

Reinventing itself
Once a manufacturing center where Eli Whitney built the cotton gin, Samuel Colt invented the automatic revolver and Charles Goodyear vulcanized rubber, New Haven is casting its future in education, medicine and biotechnology.

In addition to Yale University, there are six colleges and universities.

What was once the site of shuttered downtown department stores will by August be home to Gateway Community College, a $198 million Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified facility.

“The new building, with its 90 classrooms and 22 computer labs, will give us the opportunity to expand our professional development offerings for meeting groups,” said Evelyn Gard, marketing director.

The city’s largest employers, Yale University and the Yale-New Haven Hospital, are at work on a medical/biotechnology research park at the site where, for 140 years, Winchester factories manufactured guns.

Omni anchors downtown

You can see it all from two meeting rooms and a restaurant on the 19th floor of the Omni New Haven Hotel. The city’s largest conference hotel, the Comni was built on the site of the old Temple Bar, predecessor of Yale’s fabled private club Mory’s. (See sidebar, page 17.)

Today, with 306 guest rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a ballroom and 19 meeting rooms, it is New Haven’s meeting anchor.

The 9,200-square-foot ballroom can be divided into four parts, one of which creates an L-shaped walkway.

“Planners like it because they can direct guests through vendor booths as they move into their general sessions,” said Jill Flynn, director of sales and marketing.

Teresa Fripp has held large events there for her employer, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and small events for her church. “The customer service is unbelievable,” she said. “I get such personal attention, and they cater to my price point. Everything is done to a ‘T.’ They get it.”

Early this year, the hotel’s guest rooms and corridors were refreshed in tones of the earth and champagne, in keeping with Yale’s traditional milieu. The lobby was also renovated.

“We’ve added a small cafe and gift shop, and casual seating where people can meet and greet each other or feel comfortably alone to work or hang out with others,” said Flynn.

A sleek boutique

New Haven’s newest hotel — the Study at Yale — calls itself the “intelligent choice.” It opened in 2008 with 122 guest rooms, 3,200 square feet of meeting space and a semiprivate dining area for 24 in its restaurant.

Although independent, the hotel maintains close connections with Yale. It displays student art and photographs by Yale photographer Michael Marsland.

Its lobby, called the Living Room, has shelves of books, many signed by authors who have stayed there. Its logo is a pair of reading glasses, and its 1,200-square-foot penthouse, a stunning site for events, overlooks Yale’s rooftops.

“We can arrange for things like tickets to Yale theaters, dinner at Mory’s and passes to Yale’s Gothic Payne Whitney gymnasium,” said sales director Holly Bender.

Although meeting space is limited, the hotel has ways to meet clients’ needs, including scheduling space at private retreats like the New Haven Lawn Club or the Quinnipiac Club.