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YLS students secure $11.5 Million Refinancing for Shaw’s Supermarket Plaza

For the second time in ten years, Yale Law School clinic students have played a major role in the revitalization of New Haven's Greater Dwight neighborhood—this time, by overseeing the $11.5 million refinancing of the Shaw’s Shopping Center on Whalley Avenue.

Yale Law students Annita Zhong ’09, Scott Grinsell ’09, and Will Bornstein ’11, along with School of Management student Nar Dao, have provided legal counsel to the Greater Dwight Development Corporation in the GDDC’s ongoing efforts to envigorate the Greater Dwight area and maintain the Shaw’s Shopping Center. The students are part of the Community and Economic Development Clinic at Yale Law School, which assists local small businesses and nonprofit organizations dealing with community development issues. A number of students have participated in this project over the past sixteen months. They were rewarded for their hard work on March 31 when, led by Zhong, they closed the $11,545,000 deal ensuring that Shaw’s and the other tenants of the plaza would continue to operate.

“The students took on an enormous task with this project,” said YLS research scholar Robin Golden ’98, the clinic supervisor. “Their work required that they spend almost a semester putting together a refinancing proposal to various investors that was both attractive to banks and reasonable for the non-profit groups involved. “

To complete the proposal, they had to dig through 10 years of records to figure out the corporate structure of Coral New Haven Associates II, LLC, the company that owns the Shaw’s plaza, the relationship between the GDDC and its equity partner, and the restrictions placed on the development by Coral II’s operating agreement. They also had to deal with lease and mortgage negotiations and finding tenants for spaces that became vacant during the course of the project. Over the fall and winter terms, with the help of pro bono attorneys at Paul Weiss and Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, the students negotiated the terms of the loan documents with the bank. With Golden’s blessing, Zhong handled the closing herself.

“I’m really grateful for the confidence GDDC had in the clinic,” said Zhong. “It entrusted the entire refinance project and hence the survival of the Shaw’s Plaza in our hands.”

Clinic involvement in the Greater Dwight area extends back to 1998, when law school students and faculty helped the GDDC secure the financing that brought Shaw’s Supermarket to New Haven. Before the efforts of the Law School, New Haven had no major supermarket. For decades, community groups have recognized the importance of supermarkets in cities and urban areas; without them, local communities are forced to rely on higher cost, lower quality stores. A large supermarket like Shaw’s also provides great employment opportunities and essential services for the community. The Board Members of GDDC have spoken at length about how supermarkets like Shaw’s act as community centers and provide a focal point for the neighborhood.

“Refinancing the Shaw’s Supermarket Plaza was a complicated and complex task,” said Linda Townsend of the GDDC. “The economy was in recession, the financial system was unraveling…there were some who thought we would not succeed. Working with Robin Golden and an unbelievably talented and smart group of law school students, we were able to close the deal.”