Concept proposes 174 units at Essex, Clarkson

A concept plan presented to the Redevelopment Agency last week proposed a two-building, 174-unit rental complex that would reconfigure on-street parking across the river from downtown.

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The Redevelopment Agency granted Tesla Redevelopment, LLC, a conditional designation as redeveloper for six months (Res. 10-17). Developers will pursue a critical permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is contingent on the project even being able to move forward since it’s located in a flood zone. Attorney Robert Goldsmith of Woodbridge-based Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis told commissioners that residential development cannot happen without the DEP permit or waiver.

In a brief interview after the May 3 meeting, Executive Director Leonard Bier explained that the DEP could agree to a waiver for construction in the flood zone or determine certain conditions, such as requiring that the ground floor be built higher. The state has become much more stringent since flood maps were revised after Hurricane Sandy, he added.

Bridgeview - Block 322The two-building project, tentatively named Bridgeview, would encompass five existing lots occupying about half of the block surrounded by Clarkson Place, Essex, Monroe and Bridge streets on the east side of the Rahway River, adjacent to a PSE&G substation. The entire block is still situated within the Central Business District Redevelopment Plan (CBD-3 Subdistrict), which will make it eligible to apply to City Council for a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT).

In 2014, redevelopment officials met with Mark Fauci, formerly of Iselin-based American Properties about potential redevelopment in the area of the Monroe Street substation, which had been talked about as far back as 2008.

Bridgeview.PerspectiveFromMainSt.jpg-page-001Joel Schwartz of Landmark Companies, who made the presentation to the Redevelopment Agency, said he has been working for the past year with American Properties Fauci, who began planning the project almost two years ago. Schwartz helped design the Main & Monroe project and also serves as president of the board of the Rahway Arts & Business Partnership.

Fauci clarified that American Properties was never involved in this project and he’s not with the firm anymore; he was with American Properties when the company was bidding on the Wheatena property.

Executive Director Leonard Bier told commissioners that a lesser developer would have walked away from the project a long time ago, complementing Landmark’s construction of Park Square on Main and Irving streets as the best project in town.

Bridgeview.ResidentialConcept.croppedThe two buildings would be comparable to other recent developments, featuring four floors of residential above a ground level that includes a parking garage, lobbies, fitness center and building services. There would be about 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Building one, which would have 110 units, would front Bridge Street and Clarkson Place and featured a recessed top floor to accommodate outdoor space for those units. Building two would have 64 units and front Essex Street, essentially replacing the Rahway Electric Supply building. The units would have a mix of approximately 60 percent one-bedrooms (about 104) and 40 percent two-bedrooms (about 70), with some studio versions of both.

Bridgeview.GroundFloor.croppedGround-floor parking would total 140 spaces, including 77 spaces in Building 1 and 34 in Building 2, along with 29 surface spaces between the two buildings. Vehicle entrances would be mid-block along Essex Street and Clarkson Place.

Improvements to Clarkson Place and Bridge Street will create 65 new on-street parallel parking spaces. There currently is no on-street parking on Clarkson because it’s only 20 feet wide, enough for one-way travel with no parking, according to Schwartz, so Clarkson would be widened to 32 feet. Bridge Street is 26 feet wide — only enough for two-way travel but no parking, or one-way travel with parking on one side.

Bridgeview would encompass the following tax lots of Block 322:

The lots were most recently assessed for a cumulative $882,200, with total property taxes of about $64,145 on the roughly 1.8 acres.

The property at 1684 Essex St. (Block 322, Lot 8) won a tax appeal in 2014 and 2015 and has since seen its assessment reduced from $371,800 to $250,000. The single-story commercial property formerly housed Rahway Electric Supply and also is the most recent of the lots to change hands, sold in May 2013, according to property records. The other lots currently house a paving contractor, scrap yard and auto body shop.