SOMERVILLE, NJ – The borough’s inventory of apartment buildings in close proximity to NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line is expanding as developers begin to cash in on the demand for affordable rental properties with easy access to trains to and from New York City and points in between.

Demolition work has begun on the dilapidated Richards Fuel Oil Service building at 110 South Bridge Street to make room for the four-story SOMA Apartments, a 69-unit building that will be built adjacent to the commuter parking lot at the NJ Transit rail station by Sterling Somerville Urban Renewal of Livingston.

As heavy construction equipment tears into the Richards building, rental agents are signing leases around the corner at 70 Memorial Drive East for the Cobalt Apartments, the 117-unit, 4-story complex alongside the westbound tracks of the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line.

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The distinctive blue, white and orange façade of The Cobalt symbolizes a shift in the New Jersey housing market, one that focuses on lifestyles and a younger demographic not interested in, or unable to purchase their own home, preferring affordability, mobility, a short walk to the train, and a vibrant downtown offering ethnic restaurants and unique retail shops.

The Cobalt emphasizes a two-minute walk to the train and Main Street restaurants on its website. The property was built and is managed by Weiss Properties of New Brunswick.

Next up for Weiss Is construction of The Davenport, a five-story, 60 unit apartment building on Davenport Street, to be built on the current site of the Social Security Administration building which is slated for demolition sometime in the spring.

There are several other multi-family developments in various stages of planning and approvals throughout the borough, including a second apartment development on Veterans Memorial Drive East adjacent to the Cobalt Apartments, and further west alongside the NJ Transit rail line on the borough’s former landfill, an 80-acre property that will also include a park.

Once the Richards property is cleared of the main structure and a barn to the rear of the property, remedial environmental work will need to be completed, according to Colin Driver, the borough’s director of Economic Development.

Richards Fuel Oil Service ran a second business from the same building, Richards Swimming Pool Service and Supplies.

A workman on the site said several 55-gallon drums containing liquids had been removed from inside the barn.

Once the site is cleaned up, construction can begin, Driver said, probably within 3-4 months.

Driver describes the SOMA building as “contemporary but it will reflect the historical architecture of Someville.”

The building should be completed within 12-15 months after construction begins, assuming there are no weather-related or other delays, according to Driver.

SOMA will be built on a 1.82-acre tract of property that will front on South Bridge Street, with 109 parking spaces.