SOMERSET, NJ - A student-focused development on Hamilton Street could inject as much as $6.2 million in ten years to the area, according to a study by 4Ward Planning. However, the building would need more parking spaces than allotted by the developer and residents are worried about how the influx of cars and people will affect the neighborhood.
A study of similar projects found that the project on Hamilton Street would need at least 45 more parking spaces than originally projected.
The proposed building would have 362 bedrooms spread across 172 units that target Rutgers University students and young professionals. Citing this demographics’ lower likelihood of owning a car, 127 parking spaces were proposed by the developer.
But that isn’t realistic, according to the data.
4Ward Planning put together a team to prepare an economic impact analysis and look at parking for the proposed apartments at 513 Hamilton St.
Todd Poole of 4Ward Planning tapped the expertise of James Zullo of Tim Haahs and Glenn Patterson of GP Planning for the parking survey. Zullo and Patterson are former employees of the New Brunswick Parking Authority and the City of New Brunswick, respectively.
“We examined other similar projects in close proximity to this area to understand how those projects function in terms of parking and number of units,” said Poole.
After surveying properties in Highland Park, New Brunswick and Somerset, Zullo said it would need 215 parking spaces but could reduce that requirement to 172 if the developer took steps to mitigate the need for parking.
The developer could reduce the parking requirement with programs like subsidizing Uber and Lyft services and providing bike-share options for tenants, according to the report.
Councilman Theodore Chase suggested the township meet with Rutgers about expanding its bus service into the area. Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said officials from the university are open to the idea, but in the past, there wasn’t a need for an expanded bus system. With more student-focused housing coming to the area, Vornlocker said the university might see the value of expanding the service.
Poole presented an economic impact analysis that found in its first year, the direct economic impact of the development would be $1.3 million, reaching $6.2 million after ten years.
Poole used data provided by Rutgers to determine average student spending.
Even with the potential economic benefits, many residents are concerned about the effect of the project on an already rapidly changing neighborhood.
“We have to get ahead of the conversation because we’ve been behind for so long,” said Benjamin Guy, a community activist and member of the Hamilton Street Advisory Board. “That area’s been behind for so long, so now that things are happening to improve it, [residents] don’t feel like they’re part of the improvements and we have to take accountability for that problem.”
The development happening on Hamilton Street is a way for the township to generate revenue to provide the infrastructure improvements and expanded services that residents of the area have been asking for, according to Mayor Phillip Kramer.
“We have to do something if we are going to improve this area, and this is one suggestion, to bring in students,” said Kramer. “This projects idea isn’t so we can fit the needs of students; this is to bring student money into town.”
Addressing residents who are worried that much of the improvements to the area will be sequestered to Hamilton Street, Kramer said the money generated from projects like 513 Hamilton St. would be invested into the broader community.
“We don’t want to build this nice wall on one block either side of Hamilton and then ignore everything on the other side of that block,” Kramer said. “But we have to work on that infrastructure and we need the money to do that and these projects can do that.”
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