Planning Board OK’s 219 units for Center Circle

The Planning Board gave the green light for a five-story, 219-unit rental apartment complex to be constructed on Main Street adjacent to City Hall Plaza, SDI Technologies and Rahway Plaza Apartments.

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An application for a preliminary and final site plan was approved on Tuesday night by a unanimous 8-0 vote.

After about 70 minutes of testimony, there was little discussion or comments from Planning Board members before the project was approved. There were a few members of the public in attendance at some point during the meeting but none spoke. Only one question was raised, from an attorney representing neighboring property owner, SDI Technologies.

Main Street1255.Elevation.View from Main StThe 3.5-acre property at 1255 Main St. (Block 305, Lot 5.02) currently houses two indoor athletic facilities called Center Circle. It’s unclear when construction would begin but two required permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are still pending. There also was no mention of a specific name for the development.

The 219 units would be spread across four floors that top a ground floor comprised of 196 parking spaces. Another 78 surface parking spaces would be available along an access drive on the building’s southern side. It would be the largest new development within the immediate downtown, slightly larger than the 208-unit Main & Monroe, which hasn’t yet broken ground. The only project larger in the redevelopment area is the 487-unit Brownstones, a couple of east of downtown.

Main St1255.ExistingConditionsAerialWayne Corsey, an engineer with Bowman Consulting, testified that the application will improve the circulation of the existing parking lot, between City Hall, Recreation Center and library building. The lot, which has 183 spaces, would be expanded to 206 by relocating the Wall of Honor located in front of the library.

An initial concept plan in 2013 also proposed relocating the Wall of Honor as well as creating an access road from East Milton Avenue to Main Street. It was unclear where the Wall of Honor would be relocated or what entity would be responsible for moving it or determining where to relocate it.

Main St1255.Rendered Units PlanThe size of units would vary but Bruce Englebaugh of Minno and Wasko provided averages: about 560 square feet for studios, 815 feet for one-bedrooms and 1,130 feet for two-bedrooms. Parking would be assigned for residents and all surfacing parking would be for residents, including two for the leasing office and three for maintenance employees.

About half of the units, 111, would be one-bedrooms, 78 would be two-bedrooms, 25 studios, and 5 one-bedrooms with a den.

The building would feature two raised courtyards, one enclosed on all sides and another on the southern side of the building open on one side with views of the Rahway River. The project will require two permits from the DEP which are pending: a flood hazard permit and a waterfront development permit because it’s within 500 feet of the Rahway River.

Main St1255.ConceptSitePlan-pageAn entrance on Main Street near the driveway to SDI, currently accessing a small parking lot, would be eliminated. That would leave one entrance on the western end of the property, adjacent to Rahway Plaza Apartments. An existing one-way entrance on East Milton Avenue, between the Police Department and Recreation Center, would become two-way.

The property is located in a flood plain, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), requiring an elevation score of 12, up from its existing at 9-10, said Corsey. The building has to be one foot above flood elevation, he said, and parking will be elevated to 13.

Paul Ricci of Ricci Planning said the commercial recreation facility is an underused property to date. It’s clear, he testified, that this project will continue the city’s renaissance in redevelopment. Situated within a quarter-mile of the train station and a 7-minute walk to the station makes the site particularly well suited for residential use, he said, and would improve ridership for the train and consumers for local business.

The only comments or questions from the Planning Board came from member Alex Shipley. He asked whether occupancy rates of new developments are available to the Planning Board because he gets questions all the time about whether new buildings are occupied. “You must feel it’s viable to fill the apartments and I hope they do. The project will be more beneficial than what’s there now, for sure,” Shipley said.

Since the library and recreation center were built there were few problems with parking but with Meridia Water’s Edge opening and the library building now with office tenants, it can be difficult, he said. “Parking is always an issue but this at least provides more spaces,” he said.

Site: 1255 Main St., (Block 305, Lot 5.02), 3.5 acres

Developer: AST Development

Architect: Minno and Wasko

Units: 219 rentals — 116 one-bedroom, 78 two-bedroom, 25 studio

Stories: 5

Parking: 274 spaces (196 ground-floor and 78 surface).

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