SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset Station, an expansive Transit Village featuring apartments, townhouses, retail stores and a community center alongside the NJ Transit Raritan Valley line - with an interior roadway providing access to Route 206 - was given site plan and subdivision approvals by the Planning Board following a 3 ½-hour meeting Wednesday night.
The final application is based on a “wish list” included in the borough’s Master Plan. That evolved over several years and was approved unanimously. There are contingencies that will require months of additional meetings for the developer to working out details with local, county and state engineers, environmental agencies, traffic engineers, the borough’s fire marshal and other officials.
The developer will need to apply for permits and submit plans for each phase of the construction to the Planning Board.
Ground breaking is not expected until 2019.
Preliminary plans include 14 buildings each, 4- to 6-stories tall with 371 apartments in two of those buildings; 156 attached town houses and two parking garages on the 40.7-acre site, all within walking distance of New York City trains.
The conceptual architectural plans for the buildings embody a modernized Victorian-era design, reflective of the building facades in downtown Somerville, according to Brian E. O’Looney, architect for the project.
Somerset Station will be built in phases, beginning with a 4-story parking deck adjacent to the rail line in close proximity to South Bridge Street. It will accommodate 415 vehicles, according to preliminary plans. That structure will then be surrounded and “wrapped” by a 4-story building that will include rental apartments, retail space on the first floor, and the community civic center, which will feature a 4-5,000 square-foot meeting room.
A brick-paved plaza with water fountain and retail space will be the focal point of Somerset Station, a four-story apartment building with a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Somerset Station is a dream come true for borough officials as it provides a beneficial remedy to what had been a gnawing problem for several years – what to do with the borough’s former landfill, an 80-acre tract bounded by the railroad, South Bridge Street and Route 206.
The other half of the former landfill is being remediated by the borough for passive recreation, with bikeways, jogging paths and other outdoor amenities that will tie into the new rail side community.
Station Road will be built along an abandoned railroad spur on the southern border of the borough’s Green Seam passive recreational park, exiting on to Route 206 North between the existing South Bridge Street intersection with Route 206 and the Orlando Drive jug handle that allows traffic to cross Route 206 into Raritan.
“We really want to get going,” said Michael A. Bruno, attorney for Somerset Development, a Monmouth County developer that bought the property adjacent to the landfill site from NJ Transit for $10 million in 2016.
Raphael Zucker, president of Somerset Development, said he hopes to complete the project within 5 years.
The 156 townhomes will be built in a neighborhood west of the plaza along Station Road and another planned roadway, Wetlands Highway. More than 300 trees will be planted along the residential streets within the new community.
The civic center meeting room will eventually replace the cramped space now used for borough council meetings and other municipal boards at Police headquarters at 24 So. Bridge St.
Somerset Station is the largest multi-use development ever approved by borough, according to Colin Driver, the borough’s Director of Economic Development. Driver has worked closely with the owners of the property helping to fine tune the development proposal to reflect the desires of local officials.
The parking deck, which will be the first structure to be built, will replace the existing commuter parking lot adjacent to the train station. The driveway into the parking lot will be eliminated, and a new access road to Somerset Station will be constructed further south on South Bridge Street. A traffic light will be installed at the new intersection.
The new access road will also be designed to permit access for residents of the SOMA luxury apartment complex now under construction on the site of the former Richards Fuel Oil company, adjacent to the Somerset Station property.
Somerset Development has been in business for 60 years and specializes in transit-oriented projects.