A proposal to put 58 new apartments on Plainfield’s old Elmwood Gardens site won unanimous Planning Board approval Thursday.

PLAINFIELD, NJ - Attorney Brian Schwartz called on architect Stephen Schoch and engineer Greg Domalewski to describe the $17.5 million project and answer board questions, which ranged from traffic patterns to what countertops will be made of. The 2- and 3-bedroom affordable housing units will occupy a site bordered by Plainfield Avenue, West Second Street and Elmwood Place. Each apartment will have its own front door, in contrast to the former buildings with common hallways that sometimes fostered crime.

Amenities will include a community room, fitness stations, bike racks and much landscaping. Ground floor apartments will be accessible, with no steps, and three of the apartments will have a full complement of accessibility features. Seniors and persons with special needs will be among the tenants.

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Schoch called the new development “a community where people actually live,” noting porches and bike paths along with all other features. With preliminary site plan approval Thursday, the developers now have three years to seek final approval.

A tentative timeline calls for construction to begin in April 2019, with full occupancy expected by January 2021.

The Planning Board’s discussion of Elmwood Square Urban Renewal LP came just days after the City Council gave initial approval to a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement for the project.  The Housing Authority of Plainfield is the owner and proposes to lease it to the developers. The agreement, which will be up for second reading and final passage on July 9, includes a provision for local hiring and patronage of city businesses.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Valerie Jackson spoke highly of The Alpert Group, which is partnering with HAP’s Premier Community Development Corporation on the project. The Alpert Group is described in background documents as having developed over 3,000 units of housing with “a long and successful track record of redeveloping sites in urban areas and creating high-quality affordable and mixed-income rental housing for families, seniors and persons with special needs.”