Concept for artist housing grows to 69 units

Developers of an affordable housing concept for artists hope to present their project to the Planning Board later this year as they tweak the original plan, increasing the number of units from 60 to 69 in the latest version.

The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation (AFHDC) hopes to appear before the Planning Board in November, with construction anticipated next year on the project slated at the site of a former Elizabethtown Gas building.

The concept plan presented to the Redevelopment Agency in April detailed 60 apartments (40 one-bedroom, 14 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom). AFHDC President Scott Weiner said they think they can provide 69 units, which he stressed would be subject to review by the Redevelopment Agency and Planning Board. The vacant two-story, 6,500-square-foot office building on the corner of Hamilton Street and Central Avenue would be donated to the city for use as an arts education facility. The AFHDC was designated as redeveloper in June.

“It’s important to keep in mind we are working from the concept plan and are evaluating options,” Weiner said through a spokesperson. “We want to maximize the number of affordable units that are available hence the anticipated increase to 69,” he said. “One of the reasons we are doing the artist survey is to help determine the mix of bedrooms and types of arts-related uses in the building.”

Launched this week, the artist survey can be found at RahwayArtistHousingSurvey.org. It’s expected to close the week of Sept. 10, with a second outreach effort in about three weeks, when a closing date will be set, according to Weiner.

When the building is finalized, Weiner it will be related to the earlier presentations: low rise, architecturally consistent with Central Avenue, and providing a transition along Hamilton Street from the traditional Elizabethtown Gas building to the modern Hamilton Stage for the Arts. Some local residents and members of neighboring Ebenezer A.M.E. Church have raised concerns that the project would worsen traffic and parking in the neighborhood, which is already bad given the three churches and Veterans Memorial Field in the area. City officials have a goal to reach a 1:1 parking ratio, with 60 spaces presented in the original concept plan that featured 60 units.

The AFHDC, which also is looking at possible developments in Newark and New York City, anticipates a balanced funding mix for development of the properties, with support from public and private sources, including tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and philanthropic dollars.