Station Place rentals approved

The Planning Board unanimously approved an amended preliminary and final major site plan for Station Place on Tuesday night, paving the way for 116 rental units instead of the 80 condos that gained approval 18 months ago.

Clay Bonny, managing member of East Hanover-based Heartstone Development, said the tenant in the existing building — A&M Industrial Supply — has up to 12 months to relocate once the developer closes on the property at 1414 Campbell St. He expects demolition could take three months or so, with another 18 months for construction. It’s conceivable then that the project would not be completed for at least three years, perhaps sometime in mid to late 2011.

Bonny envisions Station Place to be very similar to River Place, the 5-year-old, 136-unit Lewis Street complex, in both design and size. He also expects a similar ratio of about 50 to 55 percent of residents commuting to New York City. Apartments would be slightly bigger (830-860 square feet in a one-bedroom versus 800 at River Place), and newer, so rents would be a little higher, starting at about $1,600. Two-bedroom units would start at about $1,800 and be between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet, Bonny said.

Shaped like a T fronting Campbell Street, Station Place will have a mix of approximately 55 percent two-bedroom units (~64) and 45 percent one-bedroom units (~52), according to Bonny, with 29 units on each floor. The original concept some years ago was to develop the entire block from Campbell to Esterbook.

No variance was necessary for increasing the density as the redevelopment plan for the property allows 116 rental units. The A&M Industrial Supply property is about 1.8 acres but several adjoining lots that Heartstone has acquired over the years, including the home on the corner of Elm and Campbell, pushes the total size of the Station Place property to just over 2 acres.

The original concept some years ago was to develop the entire block from Campbell to Esterbook. The project as it’s currently proposed encompasses Block 149 Lot 1 (A&M, 1414 Campbell), Lot 5 (A&M’s sliver of property on West Cherry), Lot 23 (small, vacant lot listed as 118 Elm), Lot 24 (small, vacant lot listed at 116 Elm) and Lot 25 (1442 Campbell).

The project will remain five stories, with a 90-space garage and 17 parking spaces on the ground floor. The entrance to the lot and garage will be on West Cherry Street. While 83 units were required by city ordinance, developers also can count 18 on-street parking spaces as being on-site, and have discussed plans with the Parking Authority for 65 overflow spots at Lot F along Broad Street. Bonny, who said each unit would be guaranteed one parking space, anticipates an average of 1.3 or 1.4 cars per unit, similar to the ratio at River Place.

After about an hour of testimony, the Planning Board heard from several residents of West Cherry Street and Elm Avenue who expressed concerns about the parking in the neighborhood, as well as trash pickup and snow removal. (FULL DISCLOSURE: As a board member of the homeowners association for the building across the street from the proposed project, I was among those who spoke about potential parking problems on Campbell Street.) Another resident alerted the board to a continuing drainage problem along West Cherry and Esterbrook Avenue.

The long-term goal of the city is to build at least two more parking decks downtown, city planner Lenore Slothower said, that should help with commuter traffic.

When asked by a Planning Board member, Bonny said the idea of converting the rentals into condos in the future should the market rebound is not being ruled out, but also not “contemplated today.”