BELLEVILLE, NJ – Mayor Michael Melham dug his golden shovel into the ground and scooped up a pile of mud.

The currently vacant plot of earth on Franklin Avenue left soggy from rain will soon be the location of a modern three-story, red-brick building, as Belleville begins its revitalization.

Melham, several members of the Township Council and other local officials joined with the project developer, Sound Development LLC of Newark, to break ground for the mixed-use building, known as “The Ethos at Franklin Avenue.” It features 18 one-bedroom apartments and 38 two-bedroom apartments. The development will also include three ground-floor commercial spaces – one is about 750 square feet; the other two are about 500 square feet.

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The young professionals and “empty nesters” that will likely inhabit the building will be able to take advantage of the local businesses and enjoy a walkable community with easy access to mass transit, Melham said.

The project is privately financed, meaning no tax abatement was offered to the developer, the mayor said. 

“We are very excited about this project,” Melham said. “We hope it’s the first of many redevelopment projects during my administration to revitalize many of the great neighborhoods of Belleville. We are focused on finding the right development for Belleville, taking advantage of our terrific location and suburban feel.”

Melham took time at the Oct. 29 ceremony to acknowledge the Zoning and Planning Boards, as well as he fellow Council members, for their vision and ability to secure quality redevelopment. 

Deputy Mayor Vincent Cozzarelli, council members Marie Strumolo-Burke and Thomas Graziano, Business Administrator Anthony Iacono and Chief of Police Mark Minichini were in attendance with hardhats.

Melham thanked Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (28th Dist.) for attending. In brief remarks, Caputo thanked the mayor for his vision and noted that the building will be highly visible for motorists, even in Nutley.

Michael Pacillo, Director of Acquisitions at Sound Development, said construction should begin in about three to five weeks, with a grand opening targeted for early 2021.

Pacillo said the building will feature covered parking, a residential rooftop lounge with a fire pit and a barbecue, as well as a fitness center. It will also have electric car chargers and an on-site timeshare Zipcar that can be accessed by residents.

Pacillo, a Belleville native, said he was inspired to work in the town after seeing Melham deliver his State of the Township speech.

“We had a lot of the same old, same old in Belleville,” Pacillo said. “It is time for a change. When I heard Michael’s vision, I was like, ‘This is what Belleville needs. Belleville needs someone who is a forward thinker. It needs someone who wants to bring this town to another level’. 

“I was so excited, I said, ‘Come on, guys. We’re going the Belleville. We’re not looking at Newark. We’re not looking at Kearny. We’re not looking at Harrison. We’re not looking at Bloomfield,” Pacillo added. “We’re coming to Belleville and I know we made the right decision.”