Blaze rips through apartments under construction

A four-alarm blaze that drew firefighters from many neighboring towns this morning tore through a three-story apartment building that was under construction since early last year.

At least three helicopters hovered overhead this morning, capturing video of the roof fire and some reports indicated reached as far as Manhattan’s West Side Highway. St. Georges Avenue was closed for most of the day from West Hazelwood Avenue and/or West Milton Avenue to West Grand Avenue, with traffic jamming side streets during the morning rush.

This story from Patch.com quotes the fire chief as calling the building “finished” after Tuesday’s fire. Mayor Rick Proctor, who was sworn in Monday night, told MyCentralJersey.com: “I’ve got to figure it’s a total loss.”

We posted an update about the project in October and in August, when Jim Sisto, president of Fanwood-based Sisto Realty, said he expected it would be mostly done by October and completed by the new year. In recent weeks, the building took on a new look, with the dark-colored mansard-type roof. Many of the initial reports called the building a condo complex but it was actually planned as rental apartments. Of the 5o units, 37 were planned as two-bedrooms, with 13 one-bedrooms.

The 5-acre site was a wooded area for years before trees were cleared in summer 2009 to make way for construction. Plans to build there go back even farther though, when the Zoning Board rejected a 60-unit application for the site in March 2003 (.pdf). The builder appealed before 50 units were approved in 2004. The Zoning Board granted extensions each year through September 2009 as the developer awaited approvals from the state departments of environmental protection and transportation (St. Georges/Route 27 being a state highway).

For more photos or video of the blaze, keep an eye on Facebook or our Twitter updates (top of the page on the right).