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July 2007
Volume 3, Number 2

NJ Transit mourns the loss of Richard Mariani

The Transit-Friendly Development e-newsletter notes the recent passing of L. Richard “Rick” Mariani, NJ TRANSIT’s first customer advocate and an early proponent of transit-friendly planning. Mr. Mariani was instrumental in seeking and winning federal funds for NJ TRANSIT’s Transit Friendly Communities for New Jersey pilot community planning assistance program. The work under this grant elevated the awareness and interest in transit-friendly planning in New Jersey. He also pursued his interest in community development and transit stations through his role on the Downtown New Jersey board and through his involvement in the Newark Downtown District–Newark’s Special Improvement District.

Rick served at NJ TRANSIT for 26 years. During his career he worked as Senior Director of New Services, where he was responsible for coordinating NJ TRANSIT’s launch of new services, including the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system, MidTown Direct service, the Newark Airport rail station and the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction.

His commitment to transit’s role in community development and his infectious enthusiasm and energy will be missed by all who have known him.



Somerville Plans for the Future

New Jersey Future on June 7 presented its Smart Growth Award for Community Participation to the Somerville Station Area and Landfill Vision Plan. This plan was created through a partnership between NJ TRANSIT, NJDOT, the Borough of Somerville, Somerset County and the state Office of Smart Growth. The project, also known as the “Hub,” includes NJ TRANSIT’s parking lot and adjacent parcels at the Raritan Valley rail station.

Somerville is currently revising its Landfill Redevelopment Plan to incorporate the adopted consensus vision plan (see map at right) which was designed to encourage pedestrian and transit usage and reduce auto dependence. Calling for compact and mixed-use development, the plan will reconnect Somerville’s Main Street to the site with a proposed vehicular and pedestrian tunnel. The Borough devised the overall vision through extensive public outreach that established an acceptable land-use mix and site plan. The mayor, planning board and council said the key to success was an inclusive, transparent and open planning process. Development will focus initially on unencumbered parcels, while environmental review and remediation continue elsewhere on the site. The community anticipates issuing an RFQ/P by the end of the year for the first phase of the project.

Several communities highlighted in previous issues of this newsletter have also received 2007 New Jersey Future Smart Growth Awards. Cited as a Creative Downtown Development Strategy, Epstein’s Rehabilitation Plan and Implementation in Morristown aims to revitalize a three-block area in the city’s central business district (walking distance from the train station) and features a pedestrian-friendly environment designed to promote transit use. The plan is the work of the Town of Morristown, the Morristown Parking Authority, Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates, Inc. and Morristown Epstein’s, LLC. In the area of Main Street Redevelopment, the Borough of Belmar, the Gale Company, Newwork, and Rotwein & Blake Associated Architects were recognized for their work on the 800 Main Street project. The mixed-use development will combine retail, residential, parking and public space on a former brownfield site, a defunct car dealership. The town of Dover and Heyer Gruel & Associates received an award for Transit-Friendly Town Center for their work on Dover’s Transit-Oriented Development Plan, which features Traditional Neighborhood Design techniques and is now a central part of the town’s new and updated Master Plan. These projects demonstrate the strength of TOD in New Jersey and how planning and community participation are vital to development near the state’s transit stations.

 

Somerville_Plan
Source: Somerville Landfill and Station Area
Redevelopment Plan Process

click image to enlarge

Redevelopment at Raritan's Woolen Mills

River Park at Raritan, a luxury rental unit property, recently opened on the site of the former Woolen Mills plant, a 16-acre site less than ½-mile from NJ TRANSIT’s Raritan train station, served by the Raritan Valley Line.  Developed by Silbert Realty & Management Company of Millington and JMP Holdings of Clifton, the project is located between Elizabeth Street and Orlando Drive in Raritan, close to the borough’s downtown and offering views of the Raritan River. The property features a four-story, W-shaped building housing 224 one- and two-bedroom units, 12 of which are income restricted. On-site amenities include concierge service with continental breakfast weekdays for tenants and a full-service business center with conference facilities. There is underground parking on the site.

Raritan
River Park at Raritan
Courtesy of JMP Holdings

The project is the culmination of a seven-year effort involving clean up of the former Raritan Woolen Mills factory, later known as Somerset Manufacturing. The factory dated from the 1800s and produced uniforms for Civil War soldiers and blankets for the military in World Wars I and II. The site was the area’s largest employer in the 1930s and 1940s, drawing immigrant labor and gave rise to the Borough of Raritan, incorporated in 1948.

Though the site was believed to contain moderate levels of contamination, only minimal cleanup was ultimately required. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection approved most of the site for mixed-use residential development. The two-year remediation process, handled by the Whitman Companies, Inc. of East Brunswick, entailed the removal of a hot spot and some soil, as well as the use of an impervious cap topped with 18 inches of clean fill and 6 inches of top soil. No groundwater contamination was found on the site. Five-and-a-half acres of the site, located to the south of Orlando Drive and adjacent to the Raritan River, were approved for passive recreation and have been ceded to the Borough for a park. Redevelopment of the Woolen Mills property benefited from work done as part of a model pilot site selection process funded by NJTPA and US EPA and included conceptual transportation improvement plans and NJTPA Project Pipeline documentation.

 

New Housing Near Union Township Station

Since the spring 2003 opening of its NJ TRANSIT rail station, Union Township has worked steadily toward developing the area around the station for residential and other uses. Well situated for commuters traveling to Newark or New York as well as those coming to nearby Kean University and a plant of the health products company Schering-Plough, the station now averages more than 900 riders per weekday. The Union station, built at a cost of $33 million, most of which was secured by former Congressman Bob Franks from federal funding, is now the fourth busiest on the Raritan Valley Line after Westfield, Cranford and Plainfield, accounting for nine percent of all Raritan Valley ridership.

In an effort to make the most of the new station, work began in 2004 on an initial transit-oriented development project, 49 two-bedroom townhouses known as Liberty Village. This project, located on Green Lane and built by Transit Village Developers, is nearing completion with the last closings scheduled for this summer. More recently, work has begun on an extended stay hotel, Korman Corporate Suites. Construction is proceeding in stages with occupancy scheduled in the first section by this fall. When completed, the facility will house more than 150 corporate suites and furnished apartments in a four-story structure with below-grade parking.

UnionStation
Station at Union Township
Courtesy of Vollmer Associates

Work will soon begin on another town home community, Station Square, located within a half-mile of the station, at the corner of Green Lane and Buell Avenue North. This Matzel and Mumford (M&M) property will rise on the site of a former boiler tube manufacturing plant. The previous owner completed minor environmental clean up of the site, removing oil tanks and soil. M&M are set to start demolition this summer on the 3.27-acre site, removing derelict office and warehouse buildings. Station Square will feature 52 two- and three-bedroom townhouses using the same floor plans as M&M used in its Canal Crossing development in South Bound Brook. That project also reclaimed industrial property for residential use, the former GAF plant, requiring intensive site clean up. See the Transit-Friendly Development November 2006 issue for more information.

 

Port Imperial: a World Class Planned Community Out of Reclaimed Brownfields

For planners, policymakers, environmentalists, smart growth enthusiasts and economists, the emergence of New Jersey's "gold coast" at the end of the 20th Century was sweet music—a much hoped for urban revitalization movement that would change the landscape of the state. These lands along the Hudson River, contaminated by abandoned manufacturing, railroad and port operations, had been lying fallow directly opposite Manhattan for decades. Most of the 1980s and ‘90s, however, brought prosperity and increased housing demand, as well as new brownfields liability laws and technologies in land reclamation. This combination exploded the possibilities for development from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge. Today, this stretch of the waterfront touts stunning new upscale rental and condominium complexes, adding needed ratables and middle class households to distressed old industrial municipalities.

One of the most dramatic of these sites is the 200-acre plus Port Imperial complex that straddles parts of Weehawken, West New York, and Guttenberg, paralleling the area between 33rd and 85th Streets in Manhattan. The impetus for this renaissance has been the arrival of considerable improvements in public transit—both light rail and ferry service—coupled with the possibilities made available through brownfield remediation. The extension of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail system started with weekend service to the new Port Imperial station in October 2005. By February 2006, the station was fully operational and other service improvements allowed passengers to travel the Jersey City waterfront without changing trains at Hoboken Terminal. In May 2006, the construction of the Port Imperial Intermodal Ferry Terminal was completed, providing a picturesque eight minute trip between Weehawken and midtown Manhattan, or 15 minutes to the World Financial Center. The brownfield clean up required a Remedial Action Workplan, engineered by the firm of Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor (PS&S). This plan included capping of the site and the establishment of deed restrictions. Encapsulation includes building slabs, roadways and parking surfaces in developed areas, and an impervious cap in other areas. In landscaped areas, a filter fabric layer covered with 18 inches of clean fill was used.

PortImperialHousing
Port Imperial
Courtesy of Manung Han
http://www.flickr.com/photos/manung/

Now along the Hudson are new residences that not only sport luxury amenities with striking views of Manhattan, but also offer easy access to employment and entertainment in New York City and northern New Jersey. The master plan for Port Imperial calls for nearly 6,000 new housing units, an Urban Center with 500,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel and conference center and 45,000 square feet of retail stores and restaurants. The development of the property is split between Roseland Property Company and K. Hovnanian Companies whose project names conjure up visions of river life: Jacob’s Ferry and Bull’s Ferry, Vista Pointe at Imperial Walk, Riverbend, The Landings, Henley-on-Hudson and so on. Port Imperial rises from what was once derelict and contaminated rail yards. It provides world class living, working and leisure venues in a spectacular setting offered at a considerable discount from Manhattan prices.

 

Gem of New Urbanism Moves Forward in Wood-Ridge

Somerset Development is preparing to build Wesmont Station, a new “Traditional Neighborhood” project in Wood-Ridge, NJ, that will ultimately be anchored by a new rail station on a 100-acre site near NJ TRANSIT’s Pascack Valley Line. Started in 2001, the project encompasses several land parcels, the largest being an 80+ acre former Curtiss-Wright engine plant that was left with substantial contamination when abandoned in the 1980s. Cleanup costs to date total over $27 million. The 36-acre former manufacturing building will remain on the site and function as an active warehouse facility. Other properties that make up the project site include a landfill, a vacant strip mall and a NJ TRANSIT maintenance-of-way (MOW) facility.

While much of this area has been remediated, activity continues in a few spots. Additional areas of contamination were found after much of the cleanup effort had been completed. The remediation of these areas continues under the supervision of the NJ Department of Environment Protection. When deemed safe, the developer will begin work on Wesmont Station, an extensive mixed-use community that will consist of over 700 new housing units, including detached single-family residences, townhomes, live-work units, condominiums and rental apartments featuring a variety of elevations. These new homes will be complemented by a town center with village retail and restaurants, an events plaza and a recreation complex. Finally, with the build-up of housing and formation of the central public and commercial area, Somerset Development will build a new community train station accessible to all borough residents. Walking paths, bikeways and green space will help to meld the new community within the existing town fabric. Municipal officials see potential increases of $350 million in assessed property values and $7.65 million in new property tax revenue once Wesmont Station is completed.

 

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