|Transit Village Update|
Volume 7, Number 1
In December 2010, the City of Linden was designated the 23rd Transit Village by the state-wide program administered by the NJ Department of Transportation since 1998. Located in Union County, Linden is home to more than 39,000 residents. The city is one of three Transit Villages in the county – Elizabeth is immediately to Linden’s north and Rahway to its south. The designation is for the area around the NJ TRANSIT rail station, which is served by both the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines. Linden passengers can board one of 57 trains traveling to Newark and New York each weekday. Travel from Linden to New York Penn Station takes about 40 minutes, and to Newark about 20 minutes. Last year, more than 2,100 daily commuters boarded at the Linden station, with approximately one-third walking to the station.
In April 2010, Linden adopted TOD zoning ordinance – one of the requirements of Transit Village designation. Linden’s zoning ordinance created two new zones within the Transit Village area adjacent to the City’s historic business and civic district. At its center is the Core Transit Village District (SA-1), encompassing the area between Elizabeth Avenue and the rail right-of-way (purple). Zoning describes this area as a “high density core area of TOD and a mixed-use downtown for commercial and residential uses in the vicinity of Linden Station.” Zoning here permits building up to 6 stories, at a maximum density of 75 dwelling units per acre, with the ground floor reserved for retail uses. Adjacent to the Core Transit Village District is the Transit Village Residential District (SA-2) that is also zoned for residential and mixed use development, albeit at lower densities (blue). The Transit Village Residential District permits buildings up to four stories and residential densities of up to 50 dwelling units per acre (red).
According to the city’s Transit-Oriented Development Plan, improvement to the station area would include better pedestrian connections to the station and the redevelopment of a large surface parking lot to the west of the rail line as well as other underutilized retail and commercial properties (purple). On the surface parking lot, the City envisions a pedestrian plaza and a mixed use building of four to six stories with ground floor retail and/or office and residential units above. To the south of this is the site of the planned West Elizabeth Tower, located at West Elizabeth Avenue and Lumber St (purple). The property’s owners have approvals for a mid-rise residential building with 210 apartments with a gross density of 70 units per acre.
Located a mere 22 minutes from Camden via the RiverLINE, Riverside plans to expand its TOD efforts as New Jersey’s economic fortunes improve. Situated 12 miles north of Camden, the township, home to only 7,700 residents, was designated a Transit Village in 2001 in part for its plans to redevelop a 32-acre former industrial area known as the “Golden Triangle.” On the site is Riverside’s signature historic building, the Keystone Watchcase Tower directly across from the township’s RiverLINE light rail station, which opened in March 2004. Passengers traveling to Camden can transfer at the Walter Rand Transportation Center and continue to Philadelphia via PATCO. Travel to Trenton takes about 40 minutes, where riders can transfer to the Northeast Corridor and travel on to Newark and New York. About 440 passengers board the RiverLINE at the Riverside Station each day, making it the line's third busiest non-terminal station.
Recent projects have resurrected the community’s transit oriented development objectives. In mid-March, The Teicher Organization unveiled plans to build The Villages at Riverside, a 24 home subdivision on an empty parcel bounded by Clay, Kossuth, and Taylor Streets – the first subdivision proposed for Riverside in over a decade. The site is a mere two blocks from the RiverLINE station. The two-family attached homes will feature a three-bedroom owner unit and a two-bedroom rental unit, each with separate entrances and off-street parking. The homes estimated to sell at approximately $295,900, are expected to attract commuters and professionals to the area. Development is set to begin this fall.
The Teicher Organization has also submitted an application for redevelopment of the old Zurbrugg Hospital site for retail and residential redevelopment. The hospital, which was located in the Golden Triangle, was torn down in 2010. Clean up of the site was completed this spring.
One other major project is also underway in Riverside’s Golden Triangle. In 2005, J.S. Hovnanian & Sons purchased two old knitting mills with plans for redevelopment into a residential building, to be called “The Mill at Riverside.” According to the company, the proximity to mass transit was a major factor in its decision to develop in Riverside. The project, which had been delayed for some time due to the economic climate, is once again a priority, according to the developer. Discussions are currently underway about what form the project will take.
Riverside officials and residents hope that investment in the RiverLINE will continue to revive downtown commercial activity and help to sustain the community’s main street character. Today, in Riverside’s Central Business District, upscale restaurants are beginning to return, and redevelopment officials are working to attract a variety of retailers and service providers, transforming the once abandoned downtown area into quality public space. The River Line has proved to be a marketable local asset and has helped to position Riverside as an affordable and livable community within easy reach of the Philadelphia and Camden areas.
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