SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerset Station, an expansive Transit Village featuring apartments, townhouses, retail stores and a community center alongside the NJ Transit Raritan Valley line - with an interior roadway providing access to Route 206, has acquired the necessary financing for the massive project, and expects to begin construction in the fall.
The formal announcement of the acquisition from New Jersey Transit Corporation and financing by Investors Bank was made on Monday.
The Borough Planning Board approved the final site plan and subdivision approvals in May, 2018.
Preliminary plans include 14 buildings, each 4- to 6-stories tall, with 371 apartments in two of those buildings; 156 attached town houses and two parking garages on the 40.7-acre site, all within walking distance of New York City trains on the Raritan Valley line.
The conceptual architectural plans for the buildings embody a modernized Victorian-era design, reflective of the building facades in downtown Somerville, according to Brian E. O’Looney, architect for the project.
The mixed-used development will be built in phases, with completion projected in 2023. NJ Transit riders who utilize existing commuters parking lots in the area will be accommodated through the use secondary lots to avoid disruption during the development process.
“This acquisition marks the culmination of 10 years of work between Somerset Development, the borough of Somerville and NJ TRANSIT to realize our shared vision of transforming this former landfill site into a vibrant, mixed-use transit village," said Ralph Zucker, president and CEO of Somerset Development. "We are incredibly thankful to all of the partners who played a role in the planning and execution of this transaction, and look forward to beginning work on creating a development that can create a better, more prosperous future for downtown Somerville.”
The project will continue the transformation the borough’s landfill redevelopment area - a parcel totaling over 100 acres bound by the railroad, South Bridge Street and Route 206.
“After many years of planning the redevelopment of the whole landfill area, the Borough Council and myself are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Zucker, Somerset Development and NJ TRANSIT on the concept design of the Somerset Station project,” said Mayor Dennis Sullivan. “This milestone project, with its variety of housing alternatives, public areas and community spaces, will offer a new and exciting neighborhood for future residents of Somerville to enjoy. Somerset Station will link the borough’s downtown to the recently completed 17-acre open space area that adjoins this project, further enhancing the walkable lifestyle the borough promotes. The new road link to Route 206 will provide direct access to the NJ TRANSIT train station for commuters without impacting local streets. Somerset Development has planned for the needs of the community and incorporated these into this project.”
Somerville Station is based on a “wish list” included in the borough’s Master Plan which has evolved over several yearsLast year's Planning Board approval includes several contingencies that will require months of additional meetings for the developer working out details with local, county and state engineers, environmental agencies, traffic engineers, the borough’s fire marshal and other officials.
The developer will need to apply for permits and submit plans for each phase of the construction to the planning board.
Somerset Station will be built in phases, beginning with a 4-story parking deck adjacent to the rail line in close proximity to South Bridge Street. It will accommodate 526 vehicles, according to preliminary plans. That structure will then be surrounded and “wrapped” by a 4-story building that will include rental apartments, retail space on the first floor, and the community civic center, which will feature a 4-5,000 square-foot meeting room.
A brick-paved plaza with water fountain and retail space will be the focal point of Somerset Station, a four-story apartment building with a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Somerset Station is a dream come true for borough officials as it provides a beneficial remedy to what had been a gnawing problem for several years – what to do with the borough’s former landfill, an 80-acre tract bounded by the railroad, South Bridge Street and Route 206.
The other half of the former landfill has been remediated by the borough for passive recreation, with bikeways, jogging paths and other outdoor amenities that will tie into the new rail side community.
Station Road will be built along an abandoned railroad spur on the southern border of the borough’s Green Seam passive recreational park, exiting on to Route 206 North between the existing South Bridge Street intersection with Route 206 and the Orlando Drive jug handle that allows traffic to cross Route 206 into Raritan.
The 156 townhomes will be built in a neighborhood west of the plaza along Station Road and another planned roadway, Wetlands Highway. More than 300 trees will be planted along the residential streets within the new community.
The civic center meeting room will eventually replace the cramped space now used for borough council meetings and other municipal boards at Police headquarters at 24 So. Bridge St.
Somerset Station is the largest multi-use development ever approved by borough, according to Colin Driver, the borough’s Director of Economic Development. Driver has worked closely with the owners of the property helping to fine tune the development proposal to reflect the desires of local officials.
The parking deck, which will be the first structure to be built, will replace the existing commuter parking lot adjacent to the train station. The driveway into the parking lot will be eliminated, and a new access road to Somerset Station will be constructed further south on South Bridge Street. A traffic light will be installed at the new intersection.
The new access road will also be designed to permit access for residents of the 69-unit SOMA luxury apartment complex on South Bridge Street adjacent to the Somerset Station property.
Somerset Development has been in business for 60 years and specializes in transit-oriented developments, including:
The Glassworks, Aberdeen
Located adjacent to regional transit corridors, The Glassworks has created an accessible “Main Street” on what was once an abandoned industrial site. Approved plans for the 55-acre plot include 540 new residential units – 110 of which will be designated as affordable – along with a 110-room hotel and 75,000 square feet of retail space, including a boutique movie theater. Additionally, the development accounts for ample open space, including Glassworks Park, a 2-acre public park displaying the brick stacks from the original factory onsite. The project further represents Somerset’s mission to re-purpose environmentally problematic sites, transforming them into thoughtful and sustainable regional destinations.
Wesmont Station, Wood-Ridge
In partnership with NJTRANSIT, Somerset led a comprehensive environmental remediation effort in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey to develop a new train station and public plaza, serving as the centerpiece of a 70-acre traditional neighborhood design development, currently under construction. The site, formerly home to the Curtiss-Wright manufacturing plant, will be redeveloped to include a mix of housing, retail and community facilities that join together to create a vibrant center for the Borough.
With significant experience mitigating environmental hazards at brownfield sites – namely, at GlassWorks in Aberdeen and Baker Center in Elizabeth, Somerset worked closely with the Department of Environmental Protection throughout the preliminary planning stages to achieve the necessary permits and approvals. Though faced with a host of environmental challenges at the former industrial site, the Somerset team engaged a variety of specialized consultants, addressing conditions in the site's soil, groundwater, vapor, and more.
Every building within the former industrial site is situated within walking distance of the new, in-progress train station. Also flanked by new, high quality apartments and townhomes developed by AvalonBay Communities and Pulte homes, Wesmont Station is one of the region’s foremost pedestrian-oriented communities.
Bell Works, Holmdel
Bell Works is a 2-million-square-foot building designed by architect Eero Saarinen, which is surrounded by 472 acres of parking lots and green space, once home to Bell Labs, a world-class laboratory that produced the transistor, the touch-tone phone and eight Nobel Prizes.
Somerset Development has transformed the isolated property into an indoor “downtown,” with stores and restaurants lining the ground floor of the giant atrium that cuts through the space. With offices and a hotel will fill the upper floors, and new housing will be built nearby. The public library will have a branch in the building as well.
“After more than a decade of delays, I am proud that my team at NJ TRANSIT was able to advance this project to this next stage,” said NJ TRANSIT president & CEO Kevin Corbett. “Mass transit provides cleaner, greener ways for people to get to work, school and entertainment. Planned communities that combine transit and a walkable lifestyle benefit everyone and we are pleased to be a part of this initiative. One of my priorities as President & CEO of NJ TRANSIT is to help propel projects like this one, which provide long-term environmental and economic benefits locally and in the State of New Jersey, and improve access to our system.’