SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Enthusiastic support from Springfield’s Township Committee led to a consensus on the redevelopment plan for Block 101, Lots 1, 24,45 and 46, or commonly known as the “Saks” property. The five-member committee voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of a proposed plan to build a four-story apartment complex that will include 223 residential apartment units and 47 townhomes on the nine-acre lot on Millburn Ave.
The Springfield Planning Board was directed to review and discuss the proposed plan in February 2019. As the plan was consistent with the Township’s Master Plan and did not identity any other matter, the board recommended and supported the redevelopment.
Concerns from residents about increased traffic, impact to public schools and even the potential increase of using Millburn Township resources like parks, fields and train stations were voiced, among several other issues.
Keenan Hughes, a licensed Professional Planner and Principal at Phillips, Preiss, Grygiel, Leheny, Hughes LLC, and hired by Springfield to consult on the project said, “ We did have a traffic expert study this, we are well aware of the potential issues with these movements.”
According to a traffic expert present at the informational session, held prior to the regularly scheduled Township Committee meeting, the access points to and from the property on Millburn Ave. and Morris Turnpike will provide “adequate capacity due to the various ways, in and out, of the property to process the flows of this size.”
A detailed traffic analysis will have to be submitted at a later time by the applicant as required by the process.
Based on the size and quantity of the residential units, no negative impacts to Springfield schools are anticipated. A study was also done on this issue and shared with the Springfield Board of Education.
At this preliminary stage, many aspects of the project are at the conceptual stage and have been presented as such. It is too early to determine what will and will not be in the final proposal. Artist renderings, therefore, do not necessarily represent what actually will be developed. For example, several drawings show no trees bordering the property and other drawings show a 20 foot-deep tree line surrounding the entire property. Hughes confirmed that the intent is to surround the development with trees.
Legitimate resident concerns about many aspects of the development were coupled with an overall positive mood and support for the project. Currently the property sits on nine acres of paved land. An abandoned building, the former Saks Fifth Avenue department store, sits along Millburn Ave.
According to Michael Scalera, Co-Chairman of the Springfield Business Improvement District, the redevelopment plan will include almost three acres of green space, or about 30% of the project, and only two, small retail spaces. One space is designated to be a convenience store to primarily support the residents of the property and the other retail business is, at this time, unknown.
Despite the anticipated concerns, the consensus of attendees is in agreement that something needs to be done with the vacant property that is now a blight on both Springfield and Millburn. Additional tax revenues for Springfield and patronage to businesses on Upper Millburn Ave. and Morris Turnpike are some of the potential benefits the development purposes.
Now that Springfield has blessed the redevelopment plan, more detailed planning, studies, additional meetings with stakeholders, further approvals from municipal, county and State bureaucracies await the project. Even neighboring Millburn will have some say on the redevelopment plan because the township owns a stretch of property, about 70 feet in length, that runs along Millburn Ave., bordering the property.
Last year in March of 2018, Stop & Shop ended a 24-year legal battle with Millburn over the use of the “Saks” property as a supermarket. Though Springfield approved the measure, Millburn’s Board of Adjustment denied Stop & Shop’s application. Traffic concerns was the primary issue. A Stop & Shop traffic engineer, during a Millburn Zoning Board meeting in 2012, estimated that more than 6,000 vehicles could come in and out of the supermarket complex daily.