60 units proposed for Arts District

A collaboration between a Newark-based developer and The Actors Fund would bring 60 units of affordable housing for people in the arts and entertainment industry to the Rahway Arts District (RAD).

The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) and Newark-based Crawford Street Partners presented a concept plan to the Redevelopment Agency at its meeting on April 4 (I could not attend but reviewed a copy of the presentation).

The AFHDC was created in 2009 as a subsidiary of The Actors Fund, to develop affordable, supportive and senior housing for the performing arts community. The organization also is looking to develop sites in Newark and has built a 124-unit facility in Englewood and a 178-unit complex in Manhattan.

The proposal for the Elizabethown Gas property on Central Avenue would be a total of 62,000 square feet, in addition to 15,000 square feet of parking. Of the 60 apartments, 40 would be one-bedroom (700 square feet with median rent of $815); another 14 two-bedrooms of about 875 square feet/$950 and six three-bedrooms of roughly 1,050 square feet/$1,200.

The precise number and design of units will be based on market conditions and requirements, according to the application. The facility also will include areas to be used as rehearsal, gallery and community cultural space. Steven Burns, a partner with Crawford Street Partners, stressed that these are concept drawings and they’re “continuing to work to get to a final design.” The Redevelopment Agency is expected to designate a redeveloper for the site at its meeting next month.

The plan is to obtain the property — currently owned by Elizabethtown Gas, which is owned by AGL Resources — and provide the city “use of the existing structure as community space to enhance arts activities,” according to the application submitted to the Redevelopment Agency. One of the “key points under research” in the presentation, however, is the process to obtain property from Elizabethtown Gas, in addition to the financing and timing of river embankment repairs.

The vacant two-story, 6,500-square-foot Elizabethtown Gas building on the corner of Hamilton Street and Central Avenue would be converted for an arts/community use, while most of the housing would be constructed behind the building, along Central Avenue, with a small component along Hamilton Street.

Developers estimated development costs of $15 million, including subsidized low income housing credit of 4 to 7.5 percent, as well as a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT). The 1-acre site — currently assessed at $496,400 — generated a property tax bill of more than $30,000 last year. The presentation noted the “potential for a market rate component” but also a “finance planning gap” of at least $1 million and identified a number of sources to pursue, including tax credits, housing trusts, Community Development Block Grants and even philanthropic fundraising.

In response to preliminary discussions with the city, the original plan was changed from 32 parking spaces to 60 and townhouses rather than exposed parking along Hamilton, according to the presentation. The goal is for a 1:1 on-site parking ratio, with shared off-site parking on Hamilton Street lot or alternative nearby lot, and discussions are under way with ZipCar.

8 thoughts on “60 units proposed for Arts District”

  1. Mark, do you know what kind of controls the city will have over this project to make sure that the people who rent will be artists? Another way of asking this question is; what is to stop this thing from becoming a Flop House?Peace, Bill

  2. The concept plan that was presented stated that the project will be subsidized by low income housing tax credits…since it is being subsidized, can it someday turn into low income housing?

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