Poplar Court would be an L-shaped building along Elm Avenue and Irving Street (map), with four stories of apartments on top of ground-floor retail that would provide 4,500 square feet for a smaller, neighborhood bank branch. Two more retail spaces of about 2,400 square feet would occupy space along Irving Street at the corner of Poplar Street (map).
Waldwick-based DMR Construction is behind the project and hopes to be designated redeveloper at the Feb. 4 Redevelopment Agency meeting. DMR also plans to come before the agency soon for an update on a proposed 88-unit complex that would include the Mangos Grill property.
Nicholas Netta, principal of Mountainside-based Netta Architects, presented details of the concept to the Redevelopment Agency. The existing one-story Northfield Savings Bank would be demolished and new retail space would be created, with the bank relocated so it would have a majority of the street frontage along Irving Street. The bank requested a drive-through so they will keep a curb cut on Irving Street for two drive-through lanes.
The residential component would be located along Elm Avenue, with 74 parking spaces on the ground level, for a ratio of 0.87 spaces per unit. The second floor would include community space for residents. Of the 86 rental units, about 15 percent of the units (12) would be studios, 48 percent (42) would be one-bedrooms and 37 percent (32) two-bedrooms.
It’s early in the design process, Netta said, but the plan is to incorporate brick and stucco with some metal panels. There also is a proposed shared parking concept: business use when residents are at work during the day, with residential parking on a first-come, first-served basis in evening. It could be deemed transit-oriented development (TOD) where typically the parking count is not as restrictive because it’s close to mass transit.
Redevelopment Director Leonard Bier said the development overlay doesn’t use Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS), so the required 1.25 spaces per unit doesn’t apply. “The need here is grossly overstated,” he said, and there is no retail requirement because RSIS does not to the central business district.
If the 1.25 spaces per unit did apply, 86 residential units would require some 198 parking spaces. Bier said there’s a 70 percent drive-out ratio of residents at SkyView’s 220 units. This won’t be a condo but first-come, first-served basis, so it shouldn’t be a substantial conflict, he said
Commissioner Anne Marie Williams suggested that visitors would shy away from stores if they wind up circling for parking.
With a population of 27,000, Rahway is trying to create urban density, Bier said, looking to add 2,000 to 3,000 housing units in the downtown core. In towns like Hoboken, retail is service-oriented: people walk home several blocks from the train station and stop at businesses that need. “We’re not trying to become Cranford or Westfield, the demographics and statistics wouldn’t be successful,” he said, adding that it’s not destination retail but service retail.
Commissioner Tim Nash said he’s OK going with it but “I think we really need to add parking.” Commissioner Paul Sefranka said he has no issues with the general philosophy of the concept and other issues like parking and retail specifically can be dealt with during the process.
UPDATED Jan. 31: The project would encompass Block 156, Lots 1,2,3,4 and 7. One commissioner inquired about the Washington Irving House (Lot 2) at 40 Elm Ave. (map) that abuts the bank property. City Planner Cynthia Solomon said the house no longer has any historical significance given the number of bad renovations. She later added that it’s not listed as a historic structure in the city’s master plan.