The top floor of Sky View at Carriage City Plaza will be renovated into 20 mostly one-bedroom apartments this year after the Planning Board granted a parking variance last week.
Under the revised redevelopment plan, approved by City Council last month, residential units within the downtown redevelopment area are required to provide 1.25 parking spaces while the previous plan required one per unit. The project already had been approved for an additional seven units units on the 17th floor — for a total 232 units in the building — but a parking variance was needed since seven units now would require nine parking spaces.
The 17th floor has been unoccupied and used as a staging area for materials that were supposed to be built as part of what was planned to be a penthouse level of two- and three-bedroom units, according to architect Greg Waga of Rahway-based Waga Enterprises. Instead, 20 rental units will be built (18 one-bedrooms and two two-bedrooms), along with amenities for residents only: a fitness center, WiFi library, and club room. Waga anticipates construction will begin around Memorial Day and continue into the fall.
Sky View’s owner has found that one- and two-bedroom units, ranging room 800 to 1,100 square feet, are very marketable in this area, Waga said, and the new design is more functional and a better use of the space. About 60 units of Sky View are owner occupied and the remaining 152 are rental units, which range in occupancy from 75 percent (114 units) to 85 percent (174), he said, adding that the leasing agent has a goal of reaching 85 percent this spring.
Waga presented a plan last October to the Redevelopment Agency to convert the 17th floor into apartments. He deferred questions about any possible uses for the rooftop to building manager Joe LoMonaco. There was talk that the original developer, who went into foreclosure after selling barely a third of the units, planned to use the rooftop for some type of bar or restaurant for use by residents and/or hotel guests.
Given the location and transit-oriented development, a mitigating factor is that the plan offers fewer but larger units, said Paul Phillips, planner to the Planning Board, adding that nearly all of the 20 additional units being one-bedrooms lowers the parking demand.
Attorney Christopher Armstrong presented a letter from the Parking Authority indicating they were satisfied with seven spaces. A daily count in the Lewis Street parking deck by the Parking Authority reveals an average of 246 vehicles, less than half of the 524-space capacity, he said, with uncovered portions of the deck sometimes being closed. There are a fair number of Sky View residents that do not have cars, which is part of the reason why the building was built where it was built, Armstrong told the Planning Board.