NEWARK, NJ - A developer is seeking to build four residential towers - one that has a pool on the roof - on different streets in a ward that is dotted with dilapidated two and three-family homes.
New West 1, based in Ramsey, had four applications seeking variances for the four residential buildings in the West Ward on Thursday night’s zoning board agenda. However, an attorney for the developer at the start of the meeting asked that three of them be adjourned for later months.
The one application that was heard by the board was for a 16-story residential building with 112 units at 364-370 S. Orange Ave. But upon hearing some board members’ concerns, the attorney for the developer asked that the application be adjourned for a later date too.
Should the 16-story tower be approved, it could be the start of a drastic change for the West Ward.
“Tonight's hearing is not merely about erecting a new building in the West Ward,” said New West 1’s attorney, Roosevelt Donat. “Tonight's presentation is really about the possibility of reimagining what the West Ward can be.”
A massive redevelopment plan is underway in the West Ward. The city is selling condemned properties to developers who will build new homes that are similar in style to the existing ones. City officials stressed they want long-time residents to become landlords of these new homes, ensuring that they reap the benefits of the ward’s revitalization.
West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum, Jr. looked on during the meeting last night with a group of about 20 people supportive of the developer. McCallum said he’s looking to build up a newly established business improvement district in his ward and has been talking to the developer for years now.
“These people are voluntarily doing affordable housing, 20 to 25 percent,” McCallum told TAPinto Newark. “That's part of negotiations. When I meet with a developer, there's things that I ask for, whether they take city funds or state funds or not. But if you want to come to this ward and have my support, there's certain things you have to do.”
One person in the chambers who identified himself as a West Ward resident shouted complaints about the project during the meeting. He interrupted the attorney shouting about the lack of parking proposed for the project, and was later told to stop shouting by the board president.
The developer of the South Orange Avenue project was only seeking variances for a conceptual plan, not a preliminary and final site plan. The project proposed commercial space on the first floor and a pool with landscaping for the roof.
Donat, the attorney for New West 1, said the developer is not seeking tax abatements for the project. The developer also proposed to set aside a minimum of 20 percent of units for affordable housing.
West Ward 1 is also having conversations with financial, health and tech professionals to provide services to West Ward residents. The developer will also use the ward's residents for construction, Donat said.
No parking was proposed for the project, but bus lines run through the area.
Zoning board member Terry Pringle-Khalif asked why the building had to be so tall, and the lack of parking caused concern among other board members. The city’s engineer requested a traffic study from the developer for the project about one day before the zoning board meeting, so it couldn’t be prepared in time.
Donat, the developer’s attorney, said the height of the building could be reduced to 14 stories and some of the nearby lots that are owned by the developer could be used for parking.
Still, Donat asked the board to adjourn the project’s application to have more time to conduct a traffic study and create a site plan.
There is currently a three-floor mixed-use building at the site of the proposed project along South Orange Avenue.
The other proposed projects in the West Ward were for a 12-story residential building with 60 units and no parking on 488-490 South 16th St. and another for 186-188 South 12th St. A 14-story residential building with 96 units and no parking was also proposed for 132-134 South 8th St.
The same developer also had an application on the agenda for a residential building in the South Ward. The project proposed a 16-story building with 56 residential units without parking.