SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - During the monthly meeting of the South Orange Development Committee on June 8 several development projects were discussed. In addition, a presentation was made by Stolar Capital and Vertical Realty Capital, the partners who are proposing to build Seton Hall student housing on Valley Street on the current site of All Star Motors (164-168 Valley Street), as well as the committee discussing several development projects in South Orange.
SETON HALL STUDENT HOUSING
The presentation from Stolar Capital and Vertical Realty Capital was their second one they had made to the Development Committee, having also presented at the April meeting, and began with a background of the project for those who had not attended the meeting in April.
The developers outlined the benefits they see for the community of creating more housing for Seton Hall students, primarily that the new building would be an improvement from the one that is currently on the site, and that it would be advantageous to neighborhoods surrounding Seton Hall to have fewer students renting single family homes, and living instead, in this new student housing. They also stated that the new building would increase the tax base in South Orange, and that they are not requesting a PILOT or tax abatement.
The Seton Hall student housing development would be privately owned and managed by a national company that only manages student housing. All units would be rented fully furnished and supplied with all utilities. including internet and cable.The rentals would be made on a per bed basis and would require a guarantor for each student, explained the developers.
The original proposal in April had been for a building which would accommodate 160 students. However, since then, the developers have found that to engage a top-quality student housing management company they would need a minimum of 200 students. As a result of this finding, the developers are now proposing a 5-story project that would house 216 students. On site parking would be for 57 cars, and Seton Hall has committed to providing on-campus parking for all residents who request it, and to add the location to the SHUFLY shuttle stops, given its proximity to Ora Manor.
The developers have engaged an architectural firm, KSQ Design, headed by Armand Quadrini who then presented to the committee sharing his views about the project, including its challenges and opportunities and how he feels the project will be respectful of the neighbors and neighborhood, while providing high quality furnished housing and amenities to keep residents engaged in the building.
The typical floor plans for the apartments were shown, and the potential of an “O” shaped building with a tail to create an interior courtyard. Also discussed were amenities planned for the building such as bike racks, a gym, and a common room to keep the students engaged in community living. There are similar, but larger scale, privately owned student housing developments at Syracuse University and Drexel University, both of which are very successful, shared Quadrini. The management company would oversee all the leasing, provide the security, and enforce comunity rules.
A number of residents shared their questions and concerns, and were told these queries will be addressed if the project continues forward.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum stated that as yet the partnership has not been designated a Conditional Developer, but that in general she feels that diversity of housing stock is good for the community. She also mentioned the various concerns with multifamily housing, and the "Airbnb model" which some residents are interested in using
Jon Vogel referred to the position taken by the Development Committee in 2005 that the best way to improve downtown South Orange and Valley Street is through retail and rateable properties. He stated that students living in a building which has been built for students would not only gain tax revenue for the town, but that the proximity to downtown would also mean residents would support retail, restaurants, and SOPAC -- all while not impacting the transit system.
It was also pointed out that the front of the property, as currently zoned, does allow multiple family housing, but that the back part of the property does not. The value of the site, given how close it is to downtown, was discussed, as was the fact that over the years others have attempted to purchase the property, but that the current developers are the first to come to terms with the owners.
Collum told the developers that once they provided additional details on the project based on a size of 200 beds that would become the basis for going forward and determining what does or does not work for both sides.
FOURTH AND VALLEY
This project still has a few items to be completed, such as the streetscape to activate the public space. The PILOT financial agreement has not been passed as yet as well. Collum noted that there are a number of givebacks for the community, including push button lights for crossings, water and electric for the park on Valley St., signage, and an enhanced playground. The agreement needs to be finalized for all the terms, with the five-year tax abatement due to the fact that to accommodate the desires of the town regarding size and appearance, the cost to the developer higher than their original plan.
SOUTH ORANGE VILLAGE HALL
Mark Rosner reported that round three of the Planning Board hearings took place on Monday, June 5, and the consultants had been asked many questions about parking and traffic by residents. Many questions were raised by the attorney for Wainco Realty. The next meeting is scheduled for July 3 and is anticipated to be the final hearing, with the vote potentially occurring that night.
The Orange School Board had pulled out of the deal to purchase the property as of the last meeting. Several others have been looking at the property, and Collum stated that there was information that would be discussed in the Executive Session of the Development Committee.
SOUTH ORANGE MASTER PLAN
A select committee has been working on an RFP which would be used to then negotiate a deal for a planner to update the current master plan.