Main & Monroe aims to create neighborhood

A two-building, 196-unit project aims to “create a project that is not just a building but a neighborhood,” enhancing walkability downtown and creating “a sense of there in the middle of Rahway.”

Joel Schwartz of Landmark Companies made a presentation before the Redevelopment Agency at its meeting Wednesday night to update the body — which has four new commissioners — on the project. He’s been working with Slokker Real Estate Group for more than two years

The property is just over two acres and plans envision a 196-unit project called Main & Monroe, with four stories of rental apartments over one story of ground-level parking, in addition to another level of below-grade parking in the north building.

27ba0-viewfrommonroestreetThe Slokker project has a comparable amount of frontage to Park Square, according to Schwartz..

Parking within the facility will total about 207 spaces. The north building, at the corner of Poplar Street, would have 84 units and the south building would have 112 units. Retail and commercial space would be about 5,200  square feet. About half of the units (~100) would be a range of different one-bedroom designs, about 20 percent (~40) would be studios and 30 percent (~60)  would be two-bedroom units.

2633b-viewfrommainstreetUsing the unique shape of the south building, Schwartz said they created a courtyard facing south with a terrace, pool and other community facilities. Each developer in Rahway has been stepping it up the past 15 years, Schwartz said. “The level of amenities to this building has not been seen previously,” he said, adding that no developer has created this in Rahway.

“Really great cities have really great architecture,” Schwartz said, adding that it will not create a sense that there are 200 spaces, with two entrances on Monroe Street, one on Main and one on Poplar, with retail in front of parking so as not to make it prominent.

With studio apartments, Schwartz said they’re trying something that has not been done in Rahway. Studios could offer a great apartment for younger people who may not be earning as much early in their career but are the kind of people that the city wants to attract and keep.

The Parking Authority’s Lot B has about 55 spaces and Slokker will redevelop the existing lot, building a new lot on parts of the site that they’re not constructed and eventually given over to the Parking Authority. With about 18 metered spots on the new Monroe Street extension stretching to East Cherry Street, about 12 spaces along the redesign Main Street and 27 spaces in the new RPA lot, it would create almost as many spaces as the existing RPA lot. Slokker also will make a contribution to RPA, Schwartz said.

Monroe StreetWith the various uses of the Main Street property over the years, there is some need for environmental cleanup, Schwartz said, likening it to the degree of remediation at the Park Square site. The investigation is just about done, Schwartz said, with cleanup expected in the first half of 2015 and then construction.

Schwartz said they anticipate applying to the Planning Board in the next month or so, at which time they also expect an agreement on how to address the temporary parking for Luciano’s Ristorante parking at the corner of Poplar Street. He expects environmental cleanup completed during the first half of 2015, then break ground in the second half of the year, if all goes to plan.

Commissioner Tim Nash asked whether talk of a pedestrian mall along East Cherry Street would affect the proposal at all.

The new incarnation of closing off East Cherry Street from time to time, Schwartz said, creates the “best of both worlds.” Successful retail is the result of having cars on the street but there are times when you do not not want cars. The intent of Main & Monroe is to facilitate traffic flow.

For pedestrians and cars, East Cherry is a block that’s two to three times the size of a typical Rahway block , which is not good, Schwartz said, adding that smaller blocks promote walkability. Retail along East Cherry Street is challenged because there are not enough people and cars, he said, adding that more people and more traffic will create more visibility, eventually energizing East Cherry Street.

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