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Megan Apostol

School named for Plainfield civil rights activists breaks ground

School named for Plainfield civil rights activists breaks ground 789 444 DMR Architects

A new school, named in honor of civil rights activists who helped end segregation in Plainfield, is on its way.

On July 14 DMR joined the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) and project stakeholders to break ground on the new Charles and Anna Booker School.

The 120,000 SF school is designed to educate approximately 840 K-5 students. The new school will include 41 classrooms, an art room, a vocal/music room, an instrumental lesson room, a technology lab, a science demo room, a computer lab, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a media center, a playground, and a basketball court.

In 1965, Charles Booker and his wife Anna won the legal case, Booker v. Board of Education of City of Plainfield, which ended segregation in Plainfield schools.

“Just as the Bookers were pioneers of civil rights, the NJSDA is at the forefront of providing education spaces that support innovative ideas from both teachers and students,” said Lloyd Rosenberg, AIA, President and CEO.  “We are proud to be part of this project, which will certainly change the educational experience for Plainfield students.”

Under a design-build contact, DMR is working for the general contractor, Epic Management on the school, valued at $45 million. The facility is anticipated to open to students in September 2022.

 

 

 

 

Newly Formed DMR Foundation Makes First Donations to Local Charitable Institutions

Newly Formed DMR Foundation Makes First Donations to Local Charitable Institutions 960 540 DMR Architects

As DMR continues to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2021, we are giving back to New Jersey institutions through the newly formed DMR Foundation.

DMR Architects staff complemented the company’s financial donations with activities including the collection of food to assemble lunch bags for delivery to local children through the Bergen Volunteers Brown Bag Buddies summer lunch program.  The Foundation has also supported Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Borough of Dunellen Recreation, Borough of Ridgefield, Wildcat Football Sideline Club (Carlstadt/East Rutherford/Maywood Becton), and Bergen Passaic Arc Foundation.

“According to Table to Table, food insecurity has increased by 136 percent for children living in Bergen County with some of these children relying on school lunches as their only full meal of the day,” said Nina Bachrach, CEO for Bergen Volunteers.  “We are grateful to DMR Architects for recognizing that the need is just as great when school is out and will continue even as New Jersey begins its post-pandemic economic recovery.”

“DMR’s corporate culture dictates that we continue to be part of the communities where we do business by supporting activities and services that raise the quality of life for those who live and work there,” said Lloyd A. Rosenberg, AIA, President and CEO.  “We applaud Bergen Volunteers and all the local charitable entities for their work to feed those in need.”

Dunellen Celebrates Opening of Pop-Up Park

Dunellen Celebrates Opening of Pop-Up Park 789 444 DMR Architects

On June 12, the Borough of Dunellen celebrated the opening of its pop-up park, which is set to be open through September 2021.

The conversion of an underutilized area of the employee parking lot is the first of several initiatives that DMR proposed to residents in the 2020 Downtown Dunellen Visual Preference Survey. This low-cost, high-impact project will benefit the community by providing a location for outdoor activities such as music, yoga, food events, movie nights and children activities. It is part of Dunellen’s larger placemaking plans to transform its downtown into a walkable destination for residents, commuters at the Dunellen NJ Transit station, and visitors for dining and entertaining.

Pictured above at the ribbon cutting is, from left, Marjorie Kaplan, DMR Architects; William Robbins, Dunellen Borough Administrator; Louis J. Ploskonka, PE., CME Associates; Nancy Nagengast, Banking Center Manager, Provident Bank, Dunellen; Mayor Jason F. Cilento; Daniel Cole Signmon, Dunellen Borough Council Member; Nicole Turczak, Co-Owner, Yoga Essence; Heidi Heleniak, Chair, Dunellen Arts & Culture Commission (DACC); Trina Rios,  Dunellen Borough Council Member

DMR and Genesis Join Together Again in Celebrating Completion of Vista Village

DMR and Genesis Join Together Again in Celebrating Completion of Vista Village 789 444 DMR Architects

Just a few days after celebrating the groundbreaking of 60 affordable housing units at the new East Orange Senior Residences, DMR again joined Genesis Companies in celebration, this time to mark the completion of 180 units at Vista Village, also located in East Orange.

Developed by Genesis Companies in partnership with the East Orange Housing Authority, Vista Village is a 180-unit, 100 percent affordable residential building dedicated to seniors and adults with disabilities.

DMR designed the renovations to the building at 70 South Burnet Street. The 9-story former public housing development was approved for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, under which all residential units in the project will be subsidized through the Project-Based Section 8 program. The government- funded program provides rental housing to low-income households in privately-owned and managed rental units.  Renovations to the building encompassed system updates, kitchen and bathroom renovations, new windows and flooring, among other capital improvements.

“Across the tri-state region affordability remains a critical issue, particularly with residents who require additional services and support. This public-private partnership provides a framework for future developments,” said Karim Hutson, Founder and Managing Partner at Genesis Companies. “We are proud that this maintains the long-term affordability of the Vista Village Apartments and furthers our mission of keeping urban communities accessible for everyone, including New Jersey’s senior and adults with disabilities populations.”

With opening of expansive courtyard, 30 Court development in Morristown is complete

With opening of expansive courtyard, 30 Court development in Morristown is complete 789 444 DMR Architects

The DMR-designed 30 Court is complete. The building, which began welcoming residents at the end of 2020, recently unveiled the private courtyard, the final element of the luxury development, located in the heart of downtown Morristown, NJ.

The 58-unit project is a four-story building, with two partially underground levels of parking below. The units are comprised of two-bedroom and two-bedroom plus den units, each offering generous square footages.

The 3,700 SF outdoor courtyard, one of the largest offered locally, provides shaded seating and dining areas, firepits, pergolas, an outdoor kitchen area and a water feature.

Upscale features and amenities inside the building include 9’ ceilings, full and Juliette balconies, a club room and a fitness center.

PCD Development of New Providence, NJ, is the developer of 30 Court.

Image source

Successful Municipal Planning for a Clear Vision of the Future

Successful Municipal Planning for a Clear Vision of the Future 789 444 DMR Architects

By John Labrosse, Mayor, Hackensack and Francis Reiner, Partner, DMR Architects

The City of Hackensack is in the midst of a renaissance.  Over the past ten years, under the leadership of Mayor John Labrosse, Jr., the City has taken tremendous steps with the adoption and realization of a comprehensive plan which provides a clear vision for the transformation of the downtown into a mixed use, pedestrian friendly environment.  Fran Reiner, Partner at DMR Architects which has been the City’s redevelopment and planning consultant since 2010, worked with Mayor Labrosse and the city’s leadership team under its Director of Redevelopment Albert Dib to author the 2012 Downtown Rehabilitation Plan which implemented the strategies for the City’s rebirth.

A key component to the success of the plan has been the public outreach through on-going meetings as well as symposiums to the engage the community, developers, contracted partners, civic leaders and key stakeholders in an on-going conversation regarding the City’s goals and objectives.

Timely results

In only a short period of time since the adoption of the plan, the City has already begun to see the benefits of these strategies.  Deputy Mayor Kathleen Canestrino’s work over the past six years with developers to reinvent blighted properties through the adoption of PILOT programs, resulting in more than 2,500 units are under construction within and surrounding the Main Street downtown district.  It has been a catalyst for a wave of additional development and improvements within the downtown including the completion of a supermarket, the renovation of a farmers’ market, the opening of the Performing Arts Center and the Atlantic Street Park.

The comprehensiveness strategy has allowed the City to be proactive in its approach to redevelopment and set itself up to attract and support future development.


The Plan, which was adopted in 2012, promotes:

  •  Smart growth principles by creating zoning which increases development flexibility, reduces parking ratios and promotes mixed-use, pedestrian friendly development in the downtown;
  • The creation of public parks, plazas and open spaces with an emphasis on community gathering and includes the construction of a performing arts and community center;
  • Connectivity to existing public infrastructure, including the two NJ Transit Rail Stations, the NJ Transit Regional Bus Station and Routes 4, 17, 46, Interstate 80 and the Garden State Parkway;
  • A mixture of uses with a variety of residential housing options to encourage walkability and active streetscapes;
  • Redevelopment and rehabilitation through architectural, neighborhood design standards that ensure high quality development;
  • The implementation of a two-way street system; and
  • Strategies which include municipal tools and mechanisms to promote revitalization.

At the heart of the plan are projects to revive the Main Street area into the nexus of this livable, walkable downtown district.  Clear pedestrian and vehicular circulation and ample convenient parking are vital to attracting developers and ultimately residents and businesses.  Hackensack is in the process of converting Main and State Streets back to two-way and completing a comprehensive streetscape installation which includes traffic signals, new sidewalks and curbs, and handicap ramps which create a safe environment for pedestrians and drivers within the downtown.

In 2020, the City completed a Master Plan which outlines the City’s goals and objectives over the next 10 years.  The plan outlines a strategy for job growth and business development to support the revitalization efforts within the downtown.  These strategies include the creation of a life science zone located between the downtown and the Hackensack Meridian Health campus.  The plan seeks to promote lower density housing options between the downtown and the hospital with a new townhome district for empty nesters and retirees looking to downsize but stay in the City.  In addition, the City recently adopted overlay zones that require the inclusion of affordable housing as a proactive approach for the pending fourth round affordable housing requirements that are scheduled for 2025.

Green priorities

Hackensack made the creation of open green spaces a priority, with all development projects requiring public plazas, parks, and walking trails to connect them to the rest of the city.  In 2011, one of Hackensack’s first redevelopment projects was the conversion of an existing parking lot into Atlantic Street Park funded by a $265,000 Bergen County Open Air Grant.  Its benches and outdoor covered areas bring people out of their offices at lunchtime, and its outdoor performing area supports cultural entertainment throughout warmer months.

The plan has also attracted projects to expand the walkable downtown area.  The Record Site at the east end of the city, dormant for more than a decade, is in the early stages of a redevelopment plan that will bring 700 new rental apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail with green spaces interspersed throughout the nearly 17-acre community and—most-notably—connect Main Street for the first time with a newly created Hackensack Riverfront District.  There are also plans for a schematic design through construction documentation for a proposed sports facility and boat launch.  In the center of the downtown, there are plans to turn an area near Main Street into a public park with a pedestrian paseo that will be closed on weeknights and weekends for festivals and community events, creating a significant public park.

Performing arts and entertainment

Cultural, performing and culinary are vital for economic sustainability in any municipality.  Hackensack converted a Masonic Temple adjacent to Atlantic Street Park into a 225-seat performing arts space for performances that range from singer Marc Cohn and Defining Moments Theater Company’s In the Heights and The 25th Annual Spelling Bee as well as local performances like Cabaret by the Hackensack High School Drama Club and Still/Moving a dance performance by local choreographers Bergen Dance Makers.

While outdoor space and entertainment options are good for the soul, providing opportunities for community sports and fitness and gathering are just as important for attracting new and keeping long-term residents.  The city invested in its senior center as well as upgrading the existing 8,000 square feet and an additional 14,000 square feet at its M&M Recreation Center into a basketball arena that is also used for volleyball and baseball hitting cages, indoor soccer, and a new senior center.

The 2012 redevelopment plan provided a blueprint for Hackensack and developers to work together to meet their shared goals and set the city up to continue its growth trajectory.  The city recently completed the Hackensack Life Science Zone Assessment Report to identify Federal Opportunity Zones, a designation that will attract new private investment and job creation.

The key for Hackensack and for any municipality that is seeking to revitalize its downtown or Main Street area is to be proactive in its approach to revitalization.  It’s crucial for municipalities to first understand the goals and objectives of the community and its residents through an inclusive public outreach process and then to develop a comprehensive plan that will guide all future decisions, an approach that has allowed Hackensack to dictate the type and pattern of development that appeals to residents who are new to the city as well as those who are life-long residents.

This post originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of New Jersey Municipalities.

Groundbreaking ceremony marks both the start of construction and naming of new elementary school in New Brunswick

Groundbreaking ceremony marks both the start of construction and naming of new elementary school in New Brunswick 789 444 DMR Architects

A May 12 groundbreaking ceremony marked both the start of the construction and naming of the new Blanquita B. Valenti Community School, named in honor the late pioneering freeholder in Middlesex County.

The state-of-the-art, K-8 school is being constructed on a now-vacant tract of land at 50 Jersey Avenue and will replace the former Lincoln Annex School. Plans call for the building to feature 3 stories and 127,000 square feet of learning space.

Working for the developer, New Brunswick Development Corporation (DEVCO), DMR designed the new building which will serve 900 students.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Chris Paladino, President of DEVCO. “It certainly helps when the village includes great teachers, committed administrators, loving parents, County leadership, a Mayor, a hospital chairman, and a president of the state’s largest healthcare system who appreciate and truly understand what the power of partnership is.”

“This is a pioneering educational facility providing spaces that support creativity and analytical thinking, skills that will elevate New Brunswick’s appeal for families with school-aged children and equip its students with expertise and knowledge that will be critical for entering higher education and the greater workforce,” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Design and Partner for DMR. “We designed the interior and exterior spaces with the understanding that all kids are unique, requiring and deserving a customized education formula to help them excel in school and in life.”

The ceremony also marked the unveiling of the name of the school in honor of the late Blanquita B. Valenti, an educator in central New Jersey for nearly 40 years. She was the first Latina to serve on the New Brunswick Board of Education, serving from 1971 to 1974. Her numerous other public capacities also included the New Brunswick City Council from 1990 to 2010 and the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders (now Commissioners) from 2005 until her retirement in 2019.

Through a collaborative development effort, the new Blanquita B. Valenti Community School will be built without taxpayer dollars and will allow for the construction of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Cancer Pavilion, a 500,000+ square foot, state-of-the-art cancer hospital, on the current Lincoln School Annex site at 165 Somerset St.

“If you don’t invest in the community and the people who live in the community in a culturally-competent way, if you don’t invest in education and business development, all the clinical programs in the world won’t make the community happier or healthier,” added Barry Ostrowsky, CEO of the RWJBarnabas Health System.

The Blanquita B. Valenti Community School is scheduled to open at the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Above, Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, Director of Design and Janet Pini, AIA, Project Manager at the May 12 event. 

DMR Joins Genesis Companies and the East Orange Housing Authority in Breaking Ground on Senior Supportive Housing Development

DMR Joins Genesis Companies and the East Orange Housing Authority in Breaking Ground on Senior Supportive Housing Development 960 540 DMR Architects

Above: Henry Ossi, third from left and Kurt Vierheilig, fourth from left, of DMR Architects join representatives from Genesis Companies, The Metro Company and the City of East Orange, including Mayor Ted R. Green, at the groundbreaking of the East Orange Senior Residences on May 11. Photo courtesy of The Metro Company.

On May 11 DMR joined local dignitaries and project stakeholders in celebrating the groundbreaking of the East Orange Senior Residences located on Halsted Street in East Orange, NJ. Developed in partnership with Genesis Companies, the East Orange Housing Authority and The Metro Company, DMR designed the project which will ultimately provide a new, 61,000-square-foot senior supporting housing development.

Addressing a critical need for affordable senior residences, the 60-unit building will be 100% affordable and comprised of 52 one-bedroom and 8 two-bedroom residences, with 15 units set-aside and marketed to homeless persons and several units designed to accommodate the needs of residents with disabilities.

“This redevelopment, part of our ‘Building Homes, Changing Lives’ program, will greatly enhance the quality of life for the property’s residents and provide services that are too often overlooked,” said Wilbert Gill, Executive Director of the East Orange Housing Authority.

“Just as we know there is a critical need for affordable housing in New Jersey, we know that there is an overwhelming desire among adults to age in place, and continue to live in the communities they grew up in” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Design and Partner for DMR Architects. “This project is especially meaningful as we are doing our part to provide a safe and attractive place to call home to many who need it.”

The building also includes 8,000 square feet of administrative offices for the East Orange Housing Authority, 1,755 square feet of indoor community space and 1,400 square feet of outdoor space for the residents.

Leading the way in P3: DMR Positions Itself as Leader in Advocacy

Leading the way in P3: DMR Positions Itself as Leader in Advocacy 1275 925 DMR Architects

Legislation enacted in early 2019 revived the P3 (public-private partnership) conversation in New Jersey, with DMR, a longtime supporter of the model, leading the way through a variety of advocacy efforts, including published media, conference involvement, and webinars.

The P3 business model allows for public projects to be undertaken via a design-build-finance-operate-maintain methodology, rather than the traditional design-bid-build approach. Dating back as far as 2009, DMR encouraged the use of the P3 model, at the time through the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. With the design-build construction approach a significant aspect of the model, and with a uniquely qualified staff of professionals with municipal government, real estate development, land use law, planning and financial budgeting and analysis experience, DMR is ideally qualified to help lead the way in P3 advocacy.

“As supporters of the model for more than 10 years, we are excited to finally have an enthusiastic audience to share our knowledge with,” Lloyd A. Rosenberg, AIA, President & CEO, said. “P3 legislation has been on our radar for years and we are excited to finally see its impact.”

A roundup of advocacy efforts includes:

  • A professional development seminar,  “Options for Capital Projects: P3, Redevelopment, LPCL,” at the Rutgers University Public Purchasing Educational Online Forum (April 2021)

 

 

  • A professional development seminar at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Annual Conference, “P3 and Municipal Projects, Perfect Together?” (November 2019).

 

 

 

  • A byline by Charles H. Sarlo, Esq., “Municipalities and P3,” published in New Jersey Municipalities. (March 2019)

 

  • A forecast from Lloyd A. Rosenberg, AIA in the ROI-NJ 2019 Real Estate Predictions that “Public-private partnerships and design-build programs will become more prevalent…and establish themselves as common, rather than exceptions, in the development realm, especially when it comes to public buildings.” (January 2019)

 

 

This post was originally published in March 2019 and will be periodically updated. 

Introducing the DMR Foundation

Introducing the DMR Foundation 789 444 DMR Architects

Today we are excited to announce the establishment of the DMR Foundation.

Since 1991, we have seen our work have a profound impact on the communities we serve. Just as we have delivered the visions and physical infrastructure that have provided critical programs, paved the way for economic growth and improved quality of life, we have turned our clients into friends, joining them in support of their civic and philanthropic efforts.

To that end, we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary by expanding our charitable efforts. The establishment of the DMR Foundation will allow us to expand our support of the services that are most important to our neighbors, ensuring that we continue to grow together.