SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In an effort decades in the making, groundbreaking finally moved forward at the site of the former Saks Fifth Avenue store Tuesday afternoon, as township officials were on hand to commemorate the occasion with a brief ceremony.
A small crowd, consisting of township officials, business leaders and officials from Garden Homes, the builder of the incoming complex, were also on hand in socially distanced fashion to watch as a specially equipped excavator tore into the brick and cinder block walls of the building.
The demolition process brings a conclusion to years of halting, stop-and-start plans for development on the stretch of upper Millburn Avenue, along with the start of a new chapter of redevelopment for the site.
Springfield Mayor Chris Weber, who spoke at and participated in the groundbreaking ceremony, said that the eventual completion of the project will be a major boon to Springfield and the surrounding area.
“[I'm] beyond excited,” Weber said. “This is going to completely revitalize this entire area. It is going to be a beautiful project. Everyone has taken their time on it and made sure that it was going to fit the landscape of the area. It's exactly what this needs after 30 years.”
When The Metropolitan [The name for the new complex] is completed, it will consist of 270 residential units, including 223 multi-family rental units and 47 townhouses, and will also include 5,800 square feet of retail and commercial space, which will front upper Millburn Avenue, and connect to the existing businesses already in place.
Scott Loventhal, the Director of Development for Garden Homes said that it took time, but reaching consensus on the use of the space was key to finally moving the project forward after so many years.
“I think it took cooperation from the local officials,” Loventhal said. “Obviously this site, after 25 years, there was never consensus among local officials even within Springfield, but certainly with their adjoining neighbors in Millburn there was never consensus as to what was the best fit for this site. I think that Springfield did a wonderful job in creating a redevelopment plan that was embraced by the adjoining communities [...] and the state DOT with Morris Avenue/Route 24.”
Loventhal added, “I do think that it finally was a collaborative effort, led by Springfield and their redevelopment plan. And with us being a local development company who understood this market, understood both communities, having built in both communities, it made it easy, and it was a natural fit for us to feel comfortable to acquire the site and [...] move forward with what we think will be a dynamite development.”
Zygi Wilf, one of the co-owners of Garden Homes was on hand for the ceremony as well, and spoke about what it means for his company to have taken a concrete step forward with the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It's really a team effort,” Wilf said. “We have a lot of people involved here. Scott [Loventhal] and Jonathan [Wilf] and the whole development team were very excited. We know the site very well because we're in town in many ways. We're excited to have a ratable finally come back to Springfield [...] It will be a very vibrant community here. It's going to be a very great boost to the economy and to this whole area.”
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