UNION, NJ – The proposed project for a mixed retail-residential development in Union Center by American Landmark Developers, Inc., with buildings on Stuyvesant Avenue and Bonnel Court, were reviewed at the township’s Planning Board meeting Thursday night.
The plans call for a retail/residential building on Stuyvesant Avenue, in the area of the current Terminal Mills building, and a residential structure behind on Bonnel Court. “This is an exciting redevelopment project for Union Center and Union as a whole,” said attorney for the developer Steven Heil.
Architect Darrell Alvarez from Gregory Comito & Association described the look of the project, including the interior and exterior design, lighting and landscaping. The Bonnel Court building, a residential structure, will contain a first floor parking garage. “There’s not a bad side of the building,” said Alvarez, “all four sides will have the same beautiful façade.”
Alvarez said the project complies with all redevelopment plans. “I think it’s a great project. It can generate a lot of foot traffic, increase security in the area and revitalize the area.”
Testifying on traffic and parking, Joseph Staigar from Dynamic Traffic, a professional engineer and planner, described the studies conducted to evaluate the impact of the proposed development in those areas.
Staigar said a traffic study was performed, consisting of an evaluation of the existing conditions, a projection of anticipated traffic and a review of the site to ensure the plans work safely and effectively with good ingress and egress and sufficient parking.
Staigar said the traffic study revealed the main influx of additional traffic will be generated by residents. He said the evaluation looked at when residential use generates traffic, typically at rush hour, between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
According to Staigar, the proposed development “will not have any negative impact on traffic conditions in the area”, specifically at the intersections of Morris Avenue and Johnson Place and Bonnel Court and Johnson Place. He said the proposal will increase traffic by 50 trips in the morning, mostly residential, and 92 trips in the evening peak, a combination of retail and residential.
Staigar said the projection was based on the existing volume, plus a standard growth rate, and the anticipated additional volume. The results indicate that traffic on Bonnel Court and Johnson Place and Bonnel and Morris Avenue “do not degrade." He said waits increase somewhat but do not degrade the current level of service. “Additional trips can be assimilated into the roadway.”
Reviewing the parking impact, Staigar said the plans call for parking for 134 residential units and for 10.8k sq. ft. retail space. He said the property provides 112 parking spaces, deficient by 22. Staigar said the redevelopment plans allow for street and municipal parking for overspill. According to the parking survey, there are ample vacant spaces on Bonnel Court and in the municipal lot at the Senior Center.
“There is no overburden of parking demand to the public,” said Staigar. “Three independent analyses clearly indicate that there will be sufficient parking to accommodate the site and still have ample parking availability for the public.”
Seven residents asked questions of Staigar, including regarding concerns about senior citizen parking at the Senior Center, school children crossing Stuyvesant Avenue, and permit parking enforcement on area streets.
During public comment, one resident said, “I think in general the community all wants to see Union Center thrive, but we have a lot of concerns in terms of the school system, traffic, congestion and quality of life issues.”
Joseph Cioffi, owner of Cioffi’s Restaurant on Stuyvesant Avenue across from the proposed development, said, “I understand the residents’ concerns, but I feel that Union Center needs a development like this to redevelop this town.”
“My concern is the Senior Citizen building,” said one resident. “The Monday Club has 60-70 people, although not all of them drive there. If the people across the street take Senior Citizen parking, it’s going to be a problem. We should make sure people park as far from the Senior Building entrance as possible.”
Rueben Peraza, owner of the Magic Fountain Ice Cream Shop, said, “as a resident, I can relate to some of these concerns. But, it was the Center that attracted me to this town over 20 years ago. For my business, this development is a big welcome.”
The application for development was approved by the Planning Board, 10 to 1.