CRANFORD – At Tuesday’s Township Committee Meeting, Mayor Hannen announced that the township closed on the Birchwood redevelopment deal.

The developer, Birchwood Developers Associates, LLC, looks to break ground as soon as possible, with the hope of getting footings in the ground before first frost.

TAPinto CRANFORD'S TIMELINE OF THE BIRCHWOOD PROJECT

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In 2008, the S. Hekemian Group sued Cranford, claiming the municipality failed to meet its affordable housing obligation. S. Hekemian Group proposed 360 units for 215 & 235 Birchwood Avenue. Cranford had been fighting the proposal, saying it would add to the flooding, as well as add more students to the town's schools.

In April of 2016, The Township of Cranford’s effort to block the development of the Birchwood area sustained a setback when the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division denied the township’s two appeals on the project.

After years of Affordable Housing litigation that went all the way to the NJ Supreme Court, the Township of Cranford exhausted all of its legal opportunities to oppose the development of the 360 rental units. With essentially no other options, the Cranford Township Committee authorized the negotiation and execution of an agreement to purchase the Birchwood property in December of 2016 for 18 million dollars.

In July of 2017, the Township Committee released a statement announcing they had accepted a bid for the property from Garden Communities/Birchwood Developers Associates, LLC

“The bid we accepted is for $18.5 million for 225 units resulting in no debt to be carried by the taxpayers and a residential project we will all be proud of in Cranford,” a statement released by the township committee reads.

This plan accomplished many conflicting objectives which include:
1. Reducing the overall density of the project,
2. Reducing the impacts on the school system,
3. Reducing the impact on the local infrastructure of the township,
4. Minimizing any financial impact to the township, and
5. Satisfying the requirements of the court for the Township’s Affordable Housing requirements.

In November of 2017, The Cranford Township Committee assured residents that their unanimous approval of the redevelopment plan for 215-235 Birchwood Avenue was the best possible outcome.

In April of 2018, The Cranford Planning Board approved the Birchwood Redevelopment Plan with minor conditions, including a five-year bond to maintain trees in the rear of the building to the engineer’s satisfaction, a design waiver to include stone in the columns of building A and an agreement to implement a six-foot entrance sign.

In May of 2018, The Cranford Township Committee approved an ordinance authorizing a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement with Birchwood Developers Urban Renewal Associates, LLC.