NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The city’s zoning board approved a variance for a mixed-use development on Livingston Avenue, at a site left barren by a fire in July 2015.

Residents can expect a three-story mixed use building at 251 Livingston Ave, at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Stratford Place.

It will feature 1,800 square feet of office space at the first floor and residential units on the second and third floor.

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The two upper floors will each have a one-bedroom unit of 800 square feet and two​,​ two-bedroom units with 1,000 square feet, according to the application.  

Before 2015, the owners, the law firm Shamy Shipers & Lonski Realty, LLC., used the space and brought in an average of 20 people a day to the building. 

That same night at the December 18 zoning board meeting, another redevelopment project was approved for a Seaman Street property left abandoned ​after a fire.

The site​ was home to a Victorian-style house​, like many others that hug the New Brunswick side of Livingston Avenue.

Yet after a fire broke out at the property, the building was left boarded up, with a badly charred backside. Some time later, it was knocked down, leaving an empty lot.

The new building’s design is meant to fit in with the other residential buildings, according to Allison Coffin, one of the site planners.

One of the variances sought by the developer, which the zoning board approved, was to allow a portion of the building to come within the 15 feet buffer zone between the building and the edge of the property.

That would allow the developers to put up a Victorian-style tower, consistent with the style and architecture of the neighborhood.

“They give it a more residential appearance than a flat wall that 15 feet would provide,” Coffin said.

The property will have 10 parking spaces, according Brent Papi, the site engineer, while other tenants would be able to u​se​ adjacent off-street parking.

But the parking aspect didn’t sit well with area residents, some of whom attended the zoning board meeting.

“While in theory there are on-street parking spaces available, I think even if you went by right now, you would find that they are occupied, and there is nothing on that property right now,” said Betsy Garlatti, a longtime resident and former councilwoman.

Garlatti said she’s lives within 100 feet of the site, along with her husband, Louis Garlatti, Jr., who also attended.

“The businesses along Livingston Avenue are very popular and active, which is great,” Betsy said. “So there’s a great deal of pressure on parking in that area, even though it’s primarily residential.”

One solution would be to reduce the mass of the building, eliminating the one-bedroom apartment and reducing the parking demand, according to Louis, who sits on the board of commissioners for the city parking authority.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Louis said. “I don’t think intent of the zoning in town is to create these massive structures that don’t fit in with the nature of the neighborhood.”

Louis concluded: “So a lot of good comes of reducing the size and footprint of this.”

David Lonski, an attorney from Shamy Shipers & Lonski Realty, suggested in his closing statements that the project would provide many more parking spaces than any other nearby business.

“Other than I think the funeral homes, as you go down the lawyer’s offices, they have a driveway where they stack two or three cars, sometimes four cars,” Lonski said. “That’s about the extent of the parking that’s there now.”

Editor Daniel J. Munoz,