Left on the drawing board

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Colleges in the sky

If not for a dispute between the university and the city of New Haven, Yale’s 13th and 14th residential colleges might have been built 40 years earlier. They would have looked very different from the neo-Gothic style of today’s brand-new Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges. After coeducation in 1969, Yale College classes got bigger, and overcrowding became an issue. When John Hay Whitney ’26 offered $15 million for two new colleges, the university hired Mitchell/Giurgola Architects and secured a site at Whitney Avenue and Grove Street. The site was too small for conventional residential colleges, so the architects designed an eight-story high-rise (above) with large windows overlooking the campus and the city.

The design, unveiled in 1972, included taxable first-floor commercial space on Whitney Avenue. But that gesture was not enough to mollify a mayor and a Board of Aldermen who were exercised about Yale taking property off the tax rolls. The city refused to grant permission, and Yale gave up the plan in 1975; it used Whitney’s money to renovate Old Campus residence halls instead. Private developers ended up putting up condos and an office building called Whitney Grove Square. Ironically, Yale bought Whitney Grove Square in 1997; it now houses university offices, including the Yale Alumni Magazine.