Transit Village Update


December 2008
Volume 4, Number 3
Mixed-Use Projects Continue in Rahway

Despite the real estate market downturn, Rahway’s redevelopment efforts continue apace. Over the past several years, the city has undertaken an intensive effort to attract new residential and commercial development to its downtown. This is a result of years of work on the part of local government, the Rahway Redevelopment Agency, NJ TRANSIT and other state agencies. (For more information about Rahway’s past redevelopment activities, please see articles in our May 2005, May 2006, and July 2007 issues.)

Rendering of the Indigo Hotel and
Plaza at Rahway Station


The catalyst for development in the station area was NJ TRANSIT’s 2006 renovation to the station and to the plaza located to the southeast. The plaza, besides being a welcoming entrance to the station, serves as the city’s center—a place to gather, enlivened by the weekly farmers market, as well as fairs and musical events. Situated where the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and North Jersey Coast Line meet, the station at Rahway allows residents to reach midtown Manhattan in about a half hour or the Jersey Shore in an hour. More than 3,200 passengers boarded trains at the station each weekday (FY08).

The most striking new development, just to the east of the station plaza, is Silcon Group’s project, Carriage City Plaza, which opened its doors this August. Since its start in 2005, the 16-story, 385,000-square foot tower makes good use of its site and the opportunities afforded by intensive mixed-use development. In this case, mixed-use combines hotel, retail, and residential uses. The Indigo Hotel at Skyview is a 102-room hotel that is part of the Indigo boutique hotel chain. The hotel was the first of the brand to open in New Jersey—a second Indigo hotel opened in Basking Ridge one week later. The hotel is marketed to business travelers as well as families, and focuses upon what might be called a “hip urban” customer base. The location of this facility is a selling point—easy access to Manhattan, Newark Liberty International Airport and the Jersey Shore. The NEC linkage to the airport enabled the hotel to sign an agreement recently with Northwest Airlines to house its flight personnel. The hotel offers business clients the use of two conference rooms. There are also plans for a day spa, leasing for which has yet to be finalized. As part of an ongoing effort to support TOD near stations, NJ TRANSIT and the Indigo Hotel are also providing promotional packages to guests of the hotel. See for details.

The building's first and second floors will eventually house 21,000 square feet of retail space, a third of which is reserved for an upscale restaurant. The building’s first retail tenant, Cuppy's Coffee, Smoothies & More, will open its doors this fall. Cuppy’s signed a lease for 1,400 square feet in June and is currently outfitting the space. Another tenant, a dry cleaner, has also leased space and is preparing to open. Ongoing negotiations for a restaurant are underway, but an announcement has not yet been made. The building’s owners are looking for a tenant for one additional retailer.

The remainder of the building is devoted to 209 condominiums—88 one-bedroom units and 121 two-bedroom units ranging in size from 800 to 1,200 square feet, as well as 13 penthouses. A majority of the units (130) in the property have already sold, with many of the commitments made shortly after the units were released for sale in January 2007.  The one-bedrooms are priced from $285,000 to $315,000, depending on floor; the two-bedrooms range from $336,000 to $470,000. The penthouses have not yet been released for sale.  Although the pace of sales has noticeably slowed with the downturn in the market, prices have remained unchanged and there are no plans to convert the unsold units to rentals.

Condo buyers started moving in mid-August. About ¾ of the residents are young professionals, the rest “empty-nesters.” An informal tally of residents indicates that more than half use rail to travel to work. When purchasing the units, each buyer had the option to rent one parking space in the adjacent Rahway Transit Center parking garage, an option that most have chosen to use. While many of the current owners do not use the spots, they feel the need to maintain the spot for a future owner.

Two blocks to the west of the station, the Park Square project is also under construction. This mixed-use residential and retail project is in the city’s newly formed arts district, midway between the station and the recently renovated Union County Performing Arts Center (see below or sidebar). Landmark Properties is responsible for the project, which will feature 159 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments in a pair of four-story buildings. A unique feature to the project’s design is the introduction of a new street through the center of the site which enables each of the project’s units to have street frontage. The design of this new internal street will feature a landscaped roundabout that will ease traffic flow within the site.

Covered ground-level parking for apartment tenants is located behind the retail spaces. These luxury rentals feature many amenities including nine-foot ceilings and unique layouts, ranging in size from 800 to 1,480 square feet. Occupancy is scheduled for early 2009. Landmark undertook cleanup of the site, which once housed a gas station, as well as a bank, hardware store, boarding house and thrift shop. This cleanup was completed in late 2007. The Park Square Project will benefit from a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement between Landmark and Rahway which allows for a 20 percent abatement for five years.

Development Through the Arts:
Union County Performing Arts Center Gets Update

Union County Performing Arts Center
Theatre Marquee

Theater-goers are enjoying the recently completed renovations to the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC). The UCPAC offers a wide variety of dramatic and musical theater, concerts, dance and children’s performances. Located about a third of a mile from the station, the Art Deco building has received a complete restoration of as well as a new 7,500-square foot, two-story brick addition that provided room for a rehearsal hall, dressing rooms, administrative services, and additional stage space. The $5.9 million renovation project also included the installation of central air conditioning in the 80-year old facility—allowing year-round use for the first time this summer—enhancements to other mechanical systems and an enlarged, enclosed loading dock. For more than a decade, the UCPAC has partnered with Union County. This partnership was advanced when the county purchased the building for $1.3 million in June 2006. Union County will maintain ownership of the building and provide financial support to the center, while UCPAC operates the facility. The City of Rahway has made a commitment to the center’s operating budget, contributing about $300,000 annually. This fall, the UCPAC will begin its first full schedule utilizing its newly outfitted quarters. The UCPAC draws nearly 40,000 patrons each year.

Morristown Projects Move Forward

Downtown Morristown will soon see the completion of two mixed-use projects. The Highlands at Morristown is a redevelopment project at a former NJ TRANSIT parking lot, opposite the station on Lafayette Street. The redevelopment of the Epstein’s Department Store site on the Morristown Green, is about a half-mile from the station. Each development should attract new residents to Morristown’s center, within easy walking distance of shops and the train station. The Morristown station area was designated a New Jersey Transit Village in 1999, one of the first station areas named as part of the NJ Department of Transportation program. Morristown is served by NJ TRANSIT’s Morris & Essex Line with 24 direct trains daily to Penn Station New York and 15 departures to Hoboken Terminal for connecting PATH service to lower Manhattan. More than 2,200 people board at the Morristown station each weekday, many of whom travel to Manhattan in a little over one hour.

Rosewood Lafayette Commons LLC broke ground on the Highlands at Morristown in mid-January. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the project will replace the parking lot with a five-story, mixed-use building containing 228 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments as well as 8,000 square feet of service-oriented, ground-floor retail and 6,000 square feet of amenity space (clubhouse, fitness center and swimming pool.) The Highlands at Morristown will feature shared parking—a five-story parking garage providing 722 parking spaces for commuters, tenants, and shoppers. When completed in summer 2009, the parking garage will provide 40 percent more parking for commuters than was available in the surface lot that it will replace. During the construction, displaced commuters have traveled by complimentary shuttle from a nearby parking garage. Those parking in the garage will have weather-protected access to the new building as well as the train platform. The garage will be screened from the street, except for a glass elevator and stairs that connect to the train platform.

In 1999, the Morristown Town Council amended its zoning ordinance to allow mixed-use transit-oriented development on this site. The final plan for the site was approved in January 2005. In March 2006, the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors approved an agreement with Rosewood for developing the site, which is also known as the Highlands Transit Village. The developer agreed to buy the NJ TRANSIT property and NJ TRANSIT agreed to contribute $1.75 million to the projected $8.75 million cost of the parking garage. In addition, NJ TRANSIT is to own and operate 415 commuter spaces, retaining necessary easements and rights-of-way. The agency will also collect six percent of the gross proceeds from any future sale or refinancing of the residential and retail portions of the project.

Rendering of 14 Maple Avenue, Morristown
(Click to enlarge)
Source: Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Another project of note is the redevelopment of the Epstein's Department Store site. Located on the Morristown green and less than a half-mile from the Morristown train station, the Epstein’s project will feature an 800-space parking garage, three mixed-use residential buildings and an office building when completed in 2010. The first part of the project, the DeHart Street Garage, opened in October 2008. The parking structure has been designed to be screened from the street by the other buildings on the site.

The 40 Park building is planned to be the first of the mixed-use residential buildings to be completed. It will contain 80 two- and three-bedroom luxury condominiums ranging in size from 1,200 to 3,000 square feet. Half of the units have already been sold and will be available in the first quarter of 2010. The Metropolitan, a second mixed-use building, will be available shortly after 40 Park. This building will feature 130 one- and two-bedroom high-end rental apartments ranging in size from 750 to 1,750 square feet. The third building will contain 36 industrial-style lofts. All three buildings will incorporate retail uses on the ground and lower levels. Also part of this effort, 18 townhouses will be developed on Maple Street across from the Epstein’s site.

The office building, will contain 20,000 square feet of general office space and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2010. The space will be occupied by offices of the Morristown Parking Authority, the Morristown Partnership, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, the Arts Council of the Morris Area and The Seeing Eye, which will use the basement as a training area for its dogs and to house 18 of its vans. The building will be “Platinum” certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), featuring geothermal wells, a green roof, and the nations’ largest living wall, a system of vegetated panels integrated into the building’s structure. The building will draw a portion of its energy from solar panels on the garage roof. For more information on this building see the Dodge Foundation's Green Building website.

The redevelopment of the 3.5-acre Epstein’s site is the work of Morristown Epsteins, LLC, a joint venture of Woodmont Properties, Roseland Property Company and Epstein Land Company. In 2004, Morristown Epsteins was named redeveloper of the site. Demolition of nine derelict structures on the site began in November of that year. In 2005, Morristown adopted a redevelopment plan authorizing mixed-use development. Environmental remediation was required to address several underground storage tanks that were found. For more information about this project, see the November 2006 issue of the newsletter.

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