The City Council passed a series of measures on Monday night aimed at bringing affordable housing targeted for people in the arts and entertainment industry to the Arts District, including a financial agreement that will provide a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT).
Developers hope to break ground on Rahway Residence for the Arts by the end of the year, with occupancy slated for early 2015, allowing about 14 months for construction. The plan had grown to 69 units, after an original concept of 60 units last spring, but developers told the council Monday night that the plan now is for 61 units.
An ordinance setting a PILOT passed 8-0-1, with City Council President Samson Steinman abstaining (which he typically does on votes related to the Arts District because he is executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center).
Redevelopment Agency attorney Frank Regan said this PILOT differs from other recent PILOTs, which the city granted to market-rate developments. Affordable housing, meanwhile, will have broader goals and benefits, he said, though the PILOT is projected to be $38,000 to $39,000 annually, which likely would increase each year along with annual gross revenues.
Bruce Morgan of the Ingerman Group and Steven Burns of Crawford Street Partners were on hand to answer questions. Preference for the housing units will be given to people who work in the arts and arts community, which is allowed by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code, Morgan said. “It’s how we’ll market the property,” he said, but will follow a process used by the Actors Fund. Ingerman Management Company manages 6,000 units in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The plan will be to do local marketing efforts, soliciting applications in advance of the project’s completion, said Morgan, with an aim of several hundred names on a waiting list. Those people then will be contacted to file an application, he said. The selection process also will examine the incomes of potential tenants while also finding which apartments they might fit.
The foremost qualifications will be based on income since it will be affordable housing, he said: 50 to 60 percent of the county’s median household income. The estimated median household income in Union County (2007-11) was $68,688, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — 50 percent would be $34,344; 40 percent would equal $27,475.
What little comment there was from the public focused on parking. The Rev. Erika Crawford, pastor at the adjacent Ebenezer A.M.E. Church on Central Avenue, raised concerns about parking in the area especially when events are held at the Arts Center or during football games at nearby Veterans Field, as well as traffic flow, particularly since left turns currently are restricted from Central Avenue onto Hamilton Street.
There will be 30 on-site parking spaces but developers also are working with Parking Authority to get additional spaces. Steinman suggested a preference for Rahway residents after artists and also added that the nearby Hamilton Street parking area, owned by the Redevelopment Agency, could serve some parking needs. Developers also have been in contact with ZipCar.