municipal

Multiple Practice Areas Help Ridgefield Rewrite Script on Providing Municipal Services

Multiple Practice Areas Help Ridgefield Rewrite Script on Providing Municipal Services 789 444 DMR Architects

The new 27,000 SF municipal building at Shaler Blvd. and Slocum Ave. is the next chapter of Ridgefield’s reinvention story with co-author DMR Architects providing a holistic program integrating innovative planning, public project procurement, architecture, and development practices.

The new municipal building now houses the borough’s administrative offices, municipal/court chamber, and the police and building departments. The move also paved the way for the sale of the former Borough Hall, which will galvanize the Borough’s main thoroughfare through new development.

“While the need for a new Borough Hall was obvious the real challenge came in developing a unique procurement program to meet the Borough’s goals,” said Charles H. Sarlo, Esq. “DMR may be the only architecture firm in New Jersey that is structured to address what was a complex set of issues that included concerns over controlling construction costs and a due diligence process that quickly narrowed prospective locations.”

Multiple practice areas within the DMR umbrella including planners, designers, and attorneys began work in 2018 with a feasibility study of two municipally-owned properties with potential for a new development.

Ease of access, traffic, parking, size, environmental issues and the opportunity to create a public facility hub were all assessed, arriving at the ultimate solution of a site on Shaler Blvd. across from the Ridgefield Nature Center and adjacent to the Ridgefield Community Center.

DMR’s team saw the project from multiple vantage points revealing a cohesive solution for a new right-sized, municipal complex as well as assessing new uses for the former Borough Hall location that will bring in rateables and generate street-level activation in a walkable area of town.  The former Borough Hall site is in the process of being sold, creating financial resources to offset the cost of the new building.

“The corner of Shaler Blvd. and Slocum Ave. also made it a natural connection point to five acres of passive recreational space and walking trails located directly across the street,” said Janet Pini, AIA.  “The complex was constructed with energy efficient materials and technologies, and design inspiration from its location.  An expanse of windows across the back feels like an uninterrupted flow between the complex’s interior and its surrounding topography including the nearby Wolf Creek tree buffer.”

DMR assisted the municipality in having the new Borough Hall site designated as an area-in-need-of-redevelopment, providing the framework to allow greater flexibility in the procurement process.  This approach also allowed the Borough to balance risk exposure and manage project quality and costs through an alternative method rather than utilizing the traditional local public contracts law. This strategy allowed it to engage redevelopers on a maximum-cost basis that eliminated the possibility of cost over-runs while encouraging efficiency through collaboration between the architects and contractors.

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan 789 444 DMR Architects

Prospect Park in Passaic County has become the first municipality to adopt a Community Energy Plan under the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) and Sustainable Jersey Clean Energy Grant Program, an effort to align with The State’s Energy Master Plan, the roadmap to reaching Governor Murphy’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

The borough used its $25,000 grant to retain DMR to prepare the plan, which identifies more than two dozen initiatives that Prospect Park will implement within a five-year period, including:

  • Installing renewable energy sources, energy storage, and public EV charging stations on municipal properties, and improving energy efficiency of municipal buildings;
  • Creating opportunities for community solar programs that allow the public to purchase solar energy from off-site sources, with an emphasis on availability and affordability for low- and moderate-income households;
  • Outreach campaigns to increase resident and business participation in incentive programs offered by the state, federal government and utilities like PSE&G to transition to electric vehicles, make energy efficient improvements and install solar and other forms of renewable energy;
  • Replace older borough fleet vehicles with newer, preferably electric alternatives, and adopt fuel efficient fleet vehicle management practices;
  • Make energy planning inclusive of low- and moderate-income and non-English speaking households;
  • Adopt zoning and regulatory language that permits renewable energy production and energy storage.

“We applaud Mayor Khairullah and the Prospect Park council for recognizing the role that reducing carbon-based energy sources plays in the overall health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works in Prospect Park,” said Tracey Woods, Energy Program Manager for Sustainable Jersey. “Their commitment to change shows that any municipality can address climate change in a meaningful way.”

“This is the next step for us toward making more clean energy sources available and reducing GHG emissions,” said Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah.  “We had a public reading of the plan earlier this month and there was overwhelming support from our residents and businesses.”

“There are state-level grants, tax credits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, and incentives through utility companies available right now making it the ideal time for municipalities to create Community Energy Plans,” said Daniel Hauben, PP, AICP, LEED Green Associate. “As planners committed to building healthier and more affordable communities, our team at DMR is equipped to guide our municipal clients through the resources that are available to them now.”

In June 2022 NJBPU approved $820,000 in grants to 46 municipalities to create Community Energy Plans to combat climate change.  Prospect Park was one of only 24 designated as overburdened and eligible for $25,000.

Creative Land Arrangements Power Long-Awaited Projects

Creative Land Arrangements Power Long-Awaited Projects 2560 1450 DMR Architects

by Charles H. Sarlo, Esq.

Some of the best untapped development opportunities may be held by municipalities whose well-located but outdated schools and administrative buildings can be relocated, unlocking value that can be then used to finance new facilities elsewhere.

DMR has had an up-close view of municipal innovation in two recent situations that solved the problem of locating and financing much-needed reinvention of public buildings without undue pressure on the tax base. In New Brunswick, an antiquated elementary school became the site of a new cancer center for RWJBarnabas Medical Center and Rutgers Cancer Institute, with a new school developed on another city-owned site featuring modern educational resources and functionality that the old building could never accommodate.

In addition to addressing rapidly evolving educational needs, the New Brunswick program had at its heart two dynamics that are dominating the current real estate landscape: the boom in healthcare-oriented development that pushed RWJBarnabas Health, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, to create a new facility for cancer treatment; and the massive pressure to repurpose and scale-up sites in the face of downtown redevelopment.

In Ridgefield leadership declared its former Borough Hall site on Broad Avenue as an area in need of redevelopment to facilitate a sale, and constructed a brand-new municipal complex on property it already owned that offered superior access and parking. Here the requirement was for municipal services and public safety rather than education, but the driving economic concepts were the same, albeit on a smaller scale in terms of the project itself and the community in which it sits.

Each site represented interesting challenges, and each found their solution in an unusual place: Ridgefield was a perfect match for alternatives to the traditional municipal bidding process, resulting in it contracting for a fixed-price that greatly reduced its risk. And New Brunswick had DEVCO, the City’s vaunted redevelopment resource, at its disposal for both financial and planning solutions.

While residents can sometimes have sentimental feelings about municipal buildings, in both these cases when my colleagues at DMR dug just below the surface, we found that their occupants were eager to trade into something more modern and that there would be no meaningful resistance to moving from within. That tells an important story: that pragmatism about getting the job done overcomes sentimentality among the user-constituents, and once the fiscal and productivity story is told, civil servants and residents alike quickly get on board with making a change.

As schools, police stations, city halls, parking facilities, public works depots and municipal garages age out of their relevance, and as renovation costs continue to be nearly as high as constructing new facilities, we expect to see more of our municipal clients not only updating their facilities, but also turning into the next generation of insightful real estate developers.

Montgomery Municipal Center, Fueled by Robust Community Input, Reflects History and Identity

Montgomery Municipal Center, Fueled by Robust Community Input, Reflects History and Identity 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR Architects conceived the design for the new Montgomery Municipal Center to reflect the township’s identity as a close-knit suburban community with deep agricultural roots while providing a state-of-the-art facility that will serve the future needs of the community and administration.

The 62,000 SF building opened last summer delivering offices for Montgomery Township’s police headquarters and administration, a new branch of the Somerset County Library System, and the council chambers arranged around a central common public lobby.

It is unique in not only its design, hearkening back to old barns and farm structures, but also in its purposes and function, with connected spaces for municipal, library and community programs under one roof. The project was borne from a collaborative approach that included input from municipal and county voices, as well as more than 200 residents.

“The new municipal center has been planned to serve as a community gathering place, something that the township has long sought,” said Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan.  “This is not just a building to us; it is a representation of Montgomery’s collaborative spirit and pride of place.”

The design takes cues from agrarian architecture with contemporary material choices, seen through the gable roof, stone exterior, metal roofing, wood siding, heavy timber canopies and abundance of glass. The result reflected the collective pride of Montgomery’s elected officials and residents so effectively that the building design was incorporated into an updated municipal seal.

“There is a distinct shift in attitudes away from building utilitarian municipal facilities that are seen as a place people ‘have to go to’. Trends are moving toward providing residents with a location that is more welcoming and engaging to the community,” said Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C. “It’s important to a project’s success to work in unison with residents, county and municipal leaders. The spirit of collaboration was strong at all levels and the final product is something we are all proud of and that will be used for many generations.”

Ridgefield Celebrates Opening of Municipal Complex

Ridgefield Celebrates Opening of Municipal Complex 789 444 DMR Architects

On Nov. 6, DMR joined Mayor Anthony Suarez, the Ridgefield Borough Council, local dignitaries and residents for a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration, including entertainment, refreshments and tours of the new 27,000 SF municipal building.

State, county, and municipal leaders in attendance included Senator Paul A. Sarlo, Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco and Commissioners Mary Amoroso, Ramon Hache, Germaine Ortiz, Thomas Sullivan, and Tracy Zur, among many others.

The DMR-designed facility is a welcoming gathering place, in addition to functioning as the new home for the borough’s administrative offices, municipal/court chamber, and the police and building departments.

“We’re excited to replace the old building which was plagued by inefficiencies with this new complex.  It’s modern, safe and ADA-compliant, and will be the location for many more community activities like today’s celebration,” said Mayor Anthony Suarez.  “DMR has delivered a new asset to our community that will help grow our downtown district.”

“We took a comprehensive approach to determining the best location, design, and materials for the Borough’s new municipal complex to ensure that the final work product fulfilled the functional needs in a way which was welcoming to community members,” said Charles H. Sarlo, Esq.  “In addition, we developed an innovative delivery method to ensure that the Borough would be the recipient of the best value and quality.”

“As municipalities have outgrown the size and technical capabilities of their facilities, which were built in the 50’s and 60’s, there is the opportunity for municipalities to use the development of new municipal complexes as points of pride and centers for community interaction rather than just a unitarian facility.”

The new complex is across from the Ridgefield Nature Center and adjacent to the Ridgefield Community Center. It was designed to symbiotically coexist with its natural surroundings, incorporating the land’s topographic gradation and maintaining the nearby Wolf Creek tree buffer.

The complex was constructed with energy efficient materials and technologies and includes a new streetscape and a pocket gathering spot at the corner of Shaler Blvd. and Slocum Ave.

Pictured above: Charles H. Sarlo, Esq., General Counsel, Partner for DMR Architects; Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese; Senator Paul A, Sarlo; Commissioner Thomas
Sullivan; Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco; Commissioner Tracy Zur; Commissioner Germaine Ortiz;  Commissioner Ramon Hache. Front Row: Councilman Craig Dorsett; Councilman James Kontolios; Council President Russell Castelli; (hidden Fire Chief John Hoffman); Councilman Hugo Jimenez; Police Chief Thomas Gallagher; Councilwoman Lauren Larkin; Mayor Anthony Suarez; Commissioner Mary Amoroso.

Hillsdale Plan Reflects Collaboration Between Residents and Elected Officials

Hillsdale Plan Reflects Collaboration Between Residents and Elected Officials 789 444 DMR Architects

The Hillsdale council recently approved the Patterson Street Redevelopment Plan for the former Waste Management site following over two years of collaboration between the public officials and residents of the community.

The redevelopment plan for the almost 12 acres known as the Patterson Street Redevelopment Plan was written in consultation with DMR Architects and includes a requirement for the developer to provide approximately 5,000 square feet of community space within the project.  The redevelopment plan allows for residential rentals to represent a significant portion of the overall area with 255 residential units of which 20 will be affordable housing.  It also requires a new public park located at the corner of Patterson Street and Piermont Avenue.

“These facilities will provide meaningful gathering spaces for meetings, sports, and recreation, improving everyone’s quality of life as well as increasing their property values,” said Janetta Trochimiuk, Council President. “The redevelopment zone was established in 2019 and encompasses 12 acres of underutilized industrial land at Knickerbocker Ave., Brookside Place, Piermont Ave. and Prospect Place.”

“Resident engagement is a critical component to municipal planning. It provides insights on what the community needs are and how redevelopment of underutilized properties can solve affordable housing requisites and also provide alternative market rate housing,” said Francis Reiner, PP, LLA.  “We are working with municipal leaders throughout New Jersey to create customized protocols for requesting and collecting feedback and refashioning plans that make everyone feel heard.”

A partnership between Claremont Development and March Development of Morristown has been chosen as the developer of the site.

Transformational Municipal Park Planned for Woodcliff Lake

Transformational Municipal Park Planned for Woodcliff Lake 789 444 DMR Architects

A $500,000 grant from Bergen County and two anonymous donations totaling $1 million – $750,000 from a private person and $250,000 from a local corporation – have given a strong start to the construction of a park in Woodcliff Lake that is unlike any in New Jersey and will transform how residents interact with its downtown.

Previously home to the Galaxy Gardens Nursery, the municipality acquired the site at the intersection of Werimus Road and Woodcliff Lake Avenue in 2018. By connecting the two-acre parcel to the Westervelt-Lydecker House and the municipal pool and athletic fields, DMR’s designs for the site creates a recreation, cultural and civic corridor featuring a passive great lawn, water feature, dog park, picnic areas, pergolas for shaded seating, a playground, as well as an amphitheater with a stage for concerts and other public venues.  Other elements of the municipal park include walking paths with an approximately quarter mile loop, lighting, and landscaping.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to provide our residents with a central gathering place in our Borough,” said Mayor Carlos Rendo.  “Woodcliff Lake’s history, athletics, entertainment, and outdoor living will all come together in one place, creating a community asset that will be unique to our extraordinary community.”

“We only get to do this once, and by patiently reviewing a wide array of concepts and then meticulously planning this use, we’ve arrived at something we can all be proud of – and something that already has drawn spectacular support from the private sector. The construction of this park will provide an integrated home to the resources and activities in Woodcliff Lake that not only will serve and delight our residents but become a focal point for the arts and sports communities in Bergen County,” said Council President Jacqueline Gadaleta.

“Meaningful and vibrant outdoor spaces like this one are essential to residents’ health and quality of life and will have a positive impact on the community for generations,” said Francis
Reiner, PP, LLA. “DMR has a long history of designing green spaces that have profoundly transformed the surrounding neighborhoods and how they are used. The design of this park is one of the more unique opportunities we have been involved with and we are excited to be part of such an important project with the Borough and its residents.”

“We want to congratulate Woodcliff Lake on creating a productive collaboration with a broad array of constituencies and stakeholders to arrive at this wonderful plan,” says County Executive James Tedesco. “Woodcliff Lake has found impassioned and motivated partners, including Bergen County for a project that will be a benefit to everyone.”

The borough continues to seek corporate and foundation donors for the $3.7 million project and is offering individual and family sponsorship opportunities that will be commemorated in the park.  Woodcliff Lake collects between $210K and $225K per year through its open space tax which will go toward paying off any potential bond for the project.

Montgomery Celebrates Ribbon Cutting of Municipal Center

Montgomery Celebrates Ribbon Cutting of Municipal Center 789 444 DMR Architects

DMR joined Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan, local and county officials to open the new DMR Architects-designed Montgomery Municipal Center on June 16.

DMR designed the 62,500 square foot building through a collaborative approach that included the input of more than 200 local residents.  The result is a contemporary style that connects the building to its natural surroundings through the use of similar wood materials, glass walls, stone flooring, and zinc cladding on the façade.

It will be the new home for municipal offices, the police department, council chambers and an additional branch of the Somerset County Library System, and also includes gallery space for displaying community artwork and items of historical and cultural importance.

“The new municipal center has been designed to serve as a community gathering place, something that our community has long sought, and which has proven even more essential after two years of the pandemic,” said Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan.

“Its rare that we get to work with residents in addition to both county and municipal leaders on a project, but the spirit of collaboration was strong at all levels and the final product is something we are all proud of and that will be used for many generations,” said Pradeep Kapoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C.

Achievements in Downtown Economic Development Recognized

Achievements in Downtown Economic Development Recognized 1644 925 DMR Architects

Downtown New Jersey announced the winners of their Excellence Awards, which recognizes projects, programs and individuals for their impact on downtown economic development. This year, two friends and clients of DMR will be among the honorees, including:

Mayor John P. Labrosse, Jr., City of Hackensack

Individual of Excellence – Public Official

Since 2011, the City of Hackensack has undergone a tremendous renaissance, illustrated by more than $1 billion in private investment, 4,000 new residential units, with another 2,000 on the boards, and many sophisticated infrastructure, outdoor space, zoning, funding, and connectivity efforts. This level of success would not have been possible without the clear vision and dedication of Hackensack Mayor John Labrosse. During his nearly ten-year tenure as mayor, John Labrosse has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to the redevelopment of downtown Hackensack. Elected to the Hackensack city council in 2009 and becoming mayor in 2013 when the city’s redevelopment efforts were in its infancy, Mayor Labrosse has remained the City’s elected leader through its most significant stages of redevelopment.

“The remarkable redevelopment success in Hackensack would simply not have been possible without the clear vision and commitment of the city’s municipal team, led by Mayor John Labrosse,” said Francis Reiner, PP, LLA. “All you have to do is look around Main Street: the rising buildings, attractive streets, art, culture and overall vitality are all due to his unparalleled dedication.”

Borough of Dunellen Pop-Up Park

Honorable Mention for Excellence in Placemaking

In the summer of 2021, the Borough of Dunellen implemented the first of several community revitalization and placemaking efforts of the mile-square borough – a pop-up park located along the main commercial corridor of North Avenue. Reflecting the importance of public space and placemaking initiatives, the low-cost, high-impact project brought to life an under-utilized parking lot in the heart of the downtown. Located near businesses, the train station, and Borough Hall, the temporary place provided space for residents and visitors to sit, relax, engage with their community and take part in special programming, such as yoga classes, musical performances, Coffee with a Cop, and programming in support of the arts, the library and local businesses. Through community support and corporate sponsors, the Dunellen Pop-Up Park engaged hundreds of residents and visitors and more than 15 local businesses and organizations.

“Through the pop-up park, hundreds of residents and visitors who may not have otherwise spent time downtown last summer were able to connect with neighbors, businesses, and organizations; and most importantly, experience the great downtown atmosphere of Dunellen. The project was made that much more special because of the heart of Dunellen, our community of volunteers, who brought this project to life,” said Mayor Jason Cilento.

For more information on the other award winners or the May 24 award ceremony, please visit the Downtown New Jersey website.

Ridgefield Breaks Ground on Municipal Complex

Ridgefield Breaks Ground on Municipal Complex 960 540 DMR Architects

On Jan. 29 the Borough of Ridgefield and many local dignitaries broke ground on the new DMR Architects-designed municipal complex to be located on Shaler Blvd.

The 27,000 square foot building will be across from the Ridgefield Nature Center and adjacent to the Ridgefield Community Center and will house the borough’s administrative offices, municipal/court chamber, and the police and building departments. The new municipal complex was designed to symbiotically coexist with its natural surroundings, incorporating the land’s topographic gradation and maintaining the nearby Wolf Creek tree buffer.

The complex will be constructed with energy efficient materials and technologies and will include a new streetscape and a pocket gathering spot at the corner of Shaler Blvd. and Slocum Ave. The new location strategically anchors the project to the Shaler Blvd. commercial zone, facilitating economic development and providing proximity to the community center.  This facility will replace the existing Borough Hall, which is plagued by inefficiencies.

“This project will address the borough’s needs for a modern, safe and ADA-compliant facility, gratify residents with a new asset to the community, and serve as a bookend anchor of the Shaler Ave. downtown that we are seeking to improve and expand,” said Mayor Anthony Suarez.

“Ridgefield’s governing body has long recognized that it made economic sense to develop and construct a new municipal complex rather than continuing to put tax payer money into a facility that has outlived its useful life,” said Charles H. Sarlo, Esq.  “The mayor and council directed us to be creative in the procurement process so that quality entities could submit proposals to redevelop the borough-owned property for a public use. We’re now witnessing the commencement of the last phase of this process and the next milestone will be to celebrate the opening of this asset with the public.”

Pictured above, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez was joined by local and state officials to break ground on new DMR-designed municipal complex. From left to right: Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese; Bergen County Commissioner Ramon M. Hache, Sr.; Bergen County Commissioner Mary J. Amoroso; Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton; Bergen County Commissioner Germaine M. Ortiz; Ridgefield Borough Administrator Ray Ramirez; Ridgefield Councilman Hugo Jimenez; Ridgefield Councilman James Kontolios; Ridgefield Council President Russell Castelli; Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez; Ridgefield Councilman Ray Penabad; Ridgefield Councilwoman Lauren Larkin; Borough Attorney Stephen F. Pellino, Esq.; Bergen County Board of Commissioners Chairman Steven Tanelli; Bergen County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Tracy Zur; Bergen County Improvement Authority Executive Director Mauro Raguseo; DMR Architects Project Manager Janet Pini; and DMR Architects General Counsel and Partner Charles H. Sarlo, Esq.