Work to begin on artist housing site

Work could begin as early as next week on the site of the former Elizabethtown Gas building, where an affordable housing development geared toward artists is planned.

Elizabethtown Gas buildingThe sale of the property to Ingerman Group went through on Dec. 20, Redevelopment Agency attorney Louis Karp told commissioners at their monthly Redevelopment Agency meeting tonight. The agency had acquired the 1-acre property on Oct. 31 from Pivotal Utilities Holding for $731,100, according to property records. (More details on the acquisition can be found in this earlier post about the redevelopment agreement.)

City Administrator Cherron Rountree, who was in attendance at tonight’s Redevelopment Agency meeting, told commissioners she met with the developer this week and they plan to begin work on the site on Monday.

Closing and conveyance of the property has been in the works for several years but the acquisition of Elizabethtown’s parent company, AGL Resources, had apparently complicated the process. About $720,000 had been held in escrow by Decotiis Fitzpatrick and Cole, special counsel to the Redevelopment Agency.

Preliminary site plan approval was granted in May 2015 and final site plan approval in March 2016. The four-story Rahway Residence for the Arts would be built along Central Avenue behind the former Elizabethtown Gas Co. building, where Central Avenue and Hamilton Street meet.

At the May 2015 meeting, the Planning Board also approved variances and a subdivision so the building would be on its own lot, with ownership retained by the Redevelopment Agency and the rest of the property sold to the Ingerman Group.

The 6,500-square-foot building at 219 Central Ave. (Block 167, Lot 1) was built in 1933. The building might be used to house administrative offices of the Rahway Arts District and possibly others, such as the Union County Performing Arts Center and Union County College.

Rahway Residences for the ArtsThe 58-unit Rahway Residences for the Arts will be comprised of 24 one-bedroom units (average 675 square feet), 28 two-bedrooms (average 914 feet) and 6 three-bedrooms (average 1,130 feet). There will be 37 parking spaces on site but another 36 spaces off-site through an agreement with the Parking Authority, either at nearby Hamilton Stage or YMCA. Redevelopment Director Leonard Bier, who also serves as Parking Authority director, said tonight that the Parking Authority has received payment as part of the agreement, which was expected to be $90,000.

Eligible residents would be required to submit a cover letter, resume, three references and a portfolio of work, in addition to credit and background checks. Residents would have to earn less than 60 percent of the median income in Union County to qualify.