|Transit Village Update|
Volume 6, Number 2
In July the NJ Department of Transportation designated Montclair and Somerville as the state’s latest Transit Villages. Each city has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to TOD.
The first TOD project around the station was completed in late 2009—the Montclair Residences at Bay Street Station. See the September 2009 issue of the newsletter for more information. Station area plans call for the redevelopment of a total of nine acres and will eventually include seven residential projects as well as a commuter parking deck.
As part of its Transit Village designation, Montclair became eligible for $100,000 in state funds to support its TOD efforts. Montclair has proposed to continue its efforts to improve its pedestrian facilities and has requested funding for streetscape improvements, including developing a wayfinding system as well as upgrades to sidewalks and crosswalks. In 2009 Montclair was the first municipality in the state to adopt a complete streets policy which confirms its commitment to the design and operation of roadways for all users.
In 2005 the borough took its first steps toward rehabilitating the area by evaluating environmental conditions and initiating a public visioning process that led to the adoption of the award-winning Station Area and Landfill Redevelopment Plan in 2007.
The redevelopment plan specifies three distinct zones:
Last year, the landfill site was designated as a Brownfield Development Area by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and received funding for testing and the eventual cleanup of the site. See the April 2010 issue of the newsletter for more information.
As part of its Transit Village designation, Somerville became eligible for and was awarded a $100,000 state grant that the city will use to promote pedestrian access and circulation by widening sidewalks on Division Street.
Updates to the Somerville Rail Station will be completed by mid-2011. Started in 2009, the $16 million renovation will upgrade platforms, the waiting room, and ticket vending. Additionally, the station will be accessible to passengers with disabilities when work is completed.
Despite current economic doldrums, projects have moved forward in NJ Transit Villages. In May 2010, The Avenue at South Orange officially opened to the public. Located just two blocks from the South Orange Station, the three-story mixed use project offers 79 condominium units as well as 4,200 square feet of ground floor retail. New residents will join the nearly 3,400 daily passengers who take advantage of South Orange’s enviable transit service—a 33 minute one-seat ride to New York Penn Station via the MidTOWN DIRECT—as well as access to Hoboken and lower Manhattan (with a PATH transfer). Additionally, two bus routes connect passengers to the Newark Light Rail at the Branch Brook Park Station for access to downtown Newark and to midtown Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal via Maplewood and Irvington.
In May 2003 Sterling Properties, the developer, saw the opportunity to build concurrently the transit-oriented residential building and a gourmet grocery in a former supermarket located adjacent to the train station on adjacent sites. Sterling Properties gained approval for the two projects and began construction in 2007 on both. The supermarket building now houses the highly successful Eden Marketplace gourmet grocery and the Above Restaurant & Bar. In 2009 New Jersey Future awarded The Avenue at South Orange and The Marketplace at Eden its annual Smart Growth Award in recognition of how these projects have helped revitalize South Orange’s downtown.
"Showcase Homes” at The Avenue start at $299,000 and other units start from the $400,000’s. Units are also available for lease with rents starting at $1,800 for one-bedroom and $2,375 for two-bedroom units. Interest in the project has been high. During a preview weekend of the development held in mid-April, Sterling Properties’ director of sales and marketing, Rosanne Brooks, stated that “People traveled from all over the region to visit The Avenue, which is further proof that many prospective buyers want to live in a lively downtown location that is just steps from mass transportation, as well as excellent shopping, dining and entertainment.” It has been reported the project is 35 percent leased as of mid-August.
The activity from the new residents is expected to increase the economic sustainability of the Township’s downtown businesses. A number of businesses have expressed interest in renting one of the two retail spaces available at The Avenue at South Orange. Rental rates for the spaces are $26/sf per year. The project is anticipated to provide significant ratable revenues in the form of a PILOT agreement (payment in lieu of taxes) with the municipality. According to Village President, Doug Newman, “As South Orange's newest development, [The Avenue] is an integral part of a well-planned, well-managed, smart-growth strategy that adds new residences, new businesses and new jobs, all in close proximity to public transportation, while preserving the character and sense of community integral to South Orange.”
According to Joe Forgione of Sterling Properties, “If there is a story to be written about a transit-oriented development project, this is it.”
The Gateway is quickly rising in New Brunswick adjacent to the city's rail station. When completed in mid-2012, this project of the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) will be a 624,000 square foot building that will combine residential, commercial and educational uses, and provide additional parking in the downtown. The project will also create a direct connection between the west-bound platform of the New Brunswick Station and the principal thoroughfare through Rutgers University’s main campus, College Avenue.
Work on the lower portion of the building, a seven-story podium, is nearly completed and should be operational by the end of 2011. The podium will house a 10-level parking structure wrapped by commercial and office uses including the Rutgers University Bookstore (operated by Barnes & Noble), additional street level retail and five levels of Class A office space. The steel frame for the 14-story residential tower that will sit atop the podium is being erected and is expected to be topped off in Spring 2011. The 192 residential units in the tower include 42 market rate condominiums situated on the top three levels, and 150 apartments with 20 percent set aside as affordable housing. Construction of the wide span pedestrian bridge linking College Avenue directly to the westbound train platform has also begun. Upon completion, the 270-ft. long bridge will include LED directional and decorative lighting, trees and seating areas along with real time train information. The New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO) is developing the property.
The Gateway may have a new neighbor in the not too distant future. In April 2010 Mayor Jim Cahill announced plans for Wellness Plaza—a 12-story, 585,000 square foot mixed-use project located on a 1.6-acre site adjacent to the Ferren Mall, about a block from the New Brunswick Station. DEVCO is leading the development of this project. Wellness Plaza would bring to the city a full-service grocery store as well as the RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center and other offices for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, a partner in the project. The project will promote wellness, broadly defined, by providing access to high quality, affordable and nutritious food that is often lacking in urban neighborhoods as well as to a fitness and aquatic center serving the city’s residents and visitors. Through a partnership with New Brunswick Public Schools, the pools in the privately managed RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center will be used for swimming instruction for all 6th grade students as part of the Physical Education curriculum.
Redevelopment efforts in the City of Elizabeth have been given a boost this past year with the completion of the $47 million Elizabeth I. Kellogg building on the Union County College’s (UCC) Elizabeth campus. The five-story, 132,000 square-foot facility, which opened in September, joins the Sidney F. Lessner Building, built in 1992. The UCC Elizabeth campus is located in Elizabeth to take advantage of its dense, urban location, and excellent transit facilities. The Kellogg and Lessner buildings are located within a block of the Elizabeth rail station, providing easy access to Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line trains as well as eight different bus lines. As advertised on the college’s website, students can take advantage of a 25 percent discount on monthly transit passes.
The Kellogg building accommodates 8,300 students in a variety of programs. It is the new home for the Trinitas School of Nursing, as well as the College’s Industry-Business Institute (IBI) and the Dr. Thomas H. Brown Center for Business and Educational Advancement. The facility houses the state-of-the-art Kellogg library and information commons, as well as a 150-seat lecture hall, a food court, and multimedia equipped classrooms.
On the occasion of the building’s dedication, Mayor Chris Bollwage said, “We are empowering our residents with new educational opportunities and adding to the institutions that occupy the hub of Elizabeth.”
The Union County Improvement Authority developed and financed the project.
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