NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The developer of an incoming apartment building hopes to pull some Rutgers University students out of the sprawling city and into a nine-story, 181-unit apartment building in a highly-trafficked area.
The building at 78 Easton Ave. will replace an existing three-story medical building at the road’s intersection with Hamilton Street. The new structure will house roughly 575 bedrooms, two underground levels of parking and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, according to Collegiate Development Group, the Missouri-based firm behind the project.
After about 90 minutes and over several objections from nearby residents, the New Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment voted last night, June 26, to grant preliminary and final site plan approvals and several variances for the project.
Representatives of the developer said this is the first large-scale, private apartment building geared toward Rutgers students in the Hub City. (At least one other developer hopes to construct a similarly-marketed structure on New Street.)
“Here, we’re seeing really strong enrollment growth, but there hasn’t been a larger, purposeful project that provides the amenities, safety and the experience that most markets have seen,” Brandt Stiles, a co-founder of the development company, said.
An architect for the developer said at 115 feet tall, the building will be smaller than others—like the nearby Yard, Vue and Aspire—and will serve as a sort of transition between the denser downtown and college neighborhoods and the residential area down Hamilton.
The apartment building will sit on less than 1 acre of land, across the street from other private student housing, a Rutgers building, off-campus apartments and the law office of Thomas Kelso, who represents the developer.
The building will have one garage accessible from Easton Avenue and one on Guilden Street, according to the developer. Just 32 cars will use the Easton entrance, and they will not be permitted to make left turns outside there. More than 100 vehicles will use the Guilden Street garage.
But the total number of on-site parking spaces—134 where 360 are required—worried several people who live or own rental properties nearby. They said they were concerned about an influx of cars from the 181 apartments, many of which stand to house groups of renters.
“I don’t think it’s going to be fair for my tenants,” said Cord Brody, who owns the adjacent rental home at 1 Guilden St. “I’m going to be losing some of the spots that they were parking on.”
The developer agreed to surrender its right to any on-street parking permits, Kelso said. Further, he added, the New Brunswick Parking Authority said it’s willing to provide 50 monthly spaces in the Gateway garage.
But the developer’s representatives argued that most of their tenants will use public transit, including the Rutgers bus system, and bicycles. To that end, the developer plans to install 160 bike parking spots, a section for the university’s pending bike-share program, maintenance of an on-street car-share space and, after a request from a resident, a bus shelter for the NJ Transit stop on the corner.
“You’re not going to be able to discern any changes in traffic operations in the surrounding areas,” said the applicant’s traffic engineer, Dan Disario, who acknowledged that adjacent streets function poorly during peak travel hours.
Even so, some residents questioned the building’s possible traffic, parking and safety effects on an already dicey area.
“It seems like a really attractive project,” Steve Schilling, who owns a rental on Hamilton, said. “My primary concern is parking.”
But its future tenants will likely be pleased with the building’s amenities. It will feature fitness areas, outdoor courtyards, lounges and game rooms. Residents will enter with a key card, and the property will be overseen by a management company, the developer said.
Rents will likely be in line with market rates, representatives said.
Renderings of the building showed a mixed-use structure with a glass bottom and windows placed sporadically above. It includes an overhang and various cuts into the structure, strategies that the developer hopes will make it blend into an area rife with multi-family homes.