Unanimous approval for Meridia Lafayette Village

The Planning Board last night unanimously approved a preliminary and final site plan for Meridia Lafayette Village, a 115-unit rental project at the former site of the stalled Savoy development.

The 115 units would be spread among four floors, which would be on top of two levels of parking, creating a six-story structure but considered a five-story building because the rear on Dock Street is lower than Main Street, accommodating the second level of parking. (Yesterday we reported the board would hear an application for minor site plan approval, however, it was corrected to preliminary and final site plan during the review by city officials.)

Experts for the applicant, Meridia Lafayette Village Urban Renewal, Rahway, LLC, estimated that construction could take 12 months but not begin until permits are obtained from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which could be six months. Once completed, the project would make Capodagli Property Company responsible for at at least 311 rental units built in Rahway in the last few years. The Pompton Plains-based developer erected Meridia Grand (88 units) in 2010 and is constructing Meridia Water’s Edge (108 units). One of the experts said the investment in Lafayette Village, including acquisition and construction, could easily top $10 million.

The breakdown of units is 60 two-bedrooms, 30 one-bedrooms with an office and 25 one-bedrooms; the original concept presented in February was 60/30/30. Three floors would feature amenities including a fitness center, laundry room and toddler room. The market rate units would range from about 500 square feet to more than 900 square feet.

Each level of parking would have about 60 spaces, with one level accessed from Main Street and the other via Dock Street — but the two would not be connected. Some revisions will be made to parking based on the board’s suggestions and total parking is anticipated at 115 spaces, along with two for retail tenants. Visitors to the building would rely on public parking, of which there are eight metered spaces adjacent to the site on Main Street. At last three spaces will be lost to make way for the facility’s Main Street entrance.

Based on his experience with Rahway’s other transit-oriented projects, Planning Board member William Hering said that as many as 20 parking spaces, maybe even 30, won’t be used because some tenants may not have a vehicle.

The view from behind on Dock Street

About 1,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space would feature two “supportive” tenants located at the corner of Monroe and Main streets: pet grooming and pet boarding because of the popularity of pets in other buildings, which also would be available to the public. An analysis by the city suggested retail space that was asbent from the original concept plan, as well as a lower density of 92 units on the 0.6-acre parcel. The city’s report was not mentioned during Tuesday night’s testimony.

In addition to five fewer units than was presented in the concept plan and some retail presence, other differences from the concept plan presented in February include not changing Dock Street into a two-way street and not removing the sidewalk on the west side of Dock Street. City Engineer James Housten said the city may move the curb out deeper since it’s a one-way street, to afford some landscaping in addition to the sidewalk on the west side of Dock Street.

Planning Board members had a few questions for the applicant’s experts during two hours of testimony but had no comments or discussion before voting 7-0 in favor. About four residents were in attendance, expressing concerns about parking on Main Street, particularly losing three metered parking spaces, as well as having a car entrance on Main near a dangerous curve for motorists traveling north. Housten said the curve will be addressed with this development, as well as when the opposite side of the street is developed.

File photo: July 2008

John McDonough, the applicant’s planner, described the site as “a void in an otherwise vibrant downtown; a visual and functional void on the landscape,” in summarizing the variances needed, among them a story variance, (five instead of four), and relief for signage, parking and parking space dimensions. The smaller units cater to market-rate housing, he said, for example for police, firefighters or teachers.

Capodagli/Meridia Lafayette Village has been conditionally named redeveloper of the site and the Redevelopment Agency is expected to approved a redevelopment agreement at its Aug. 15 meeting.

The Savoy originally was planned as a condominium by Dornoch Holdings, featuring 36 two-bedroom units in addition to 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The four-story project at Main and Monroe streets broke ground in the summer of 2008 but ran into financial difficulties, leaving a steel skeleton that remained until last year.

4 thoughts on “Unanimous approval for Meridia Lafayette Village”

  1. Laundry rooms in 2012 is a laughable concept.Why can't one have in unit washer dryers for new any constructions.Find it strange that such points weren't raised by anyone.-Chetan

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