redevelopment

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment Moves Forward

East Brunswick Route 18 Redevelopment Moves Forward 789 444 DMR Architects

The redevelopment of one of New Jersey’s busiest commercial corridors, Route 18 in East Brunswick, is underway, with the latest step forward coming in the form of two RFPs to developers.

Last summer, the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency retained DMR to develop several redevelopment plans on numerous tracts of land within the Township.

On one of those tracts, 88 acres that includes the Route 18 shopping center and Loehmanns Plaza, DMR developed a redevelopment plan that will bring these lots, all currently under performing or vacant, to life. Despite traffic of more 100,000 cars daily, Route 18 has one of the highest vacancy rates in the State, a challenge that the Township needed to address among other issues including a lack of a downtown center, a growing suburban population and a high volume of commuters who travel to the Township on their way to New York City.

As part of this effort, DMR developed multiple concept plans which called for a town center, including 95,000 SF of retail, 700 units of residential, 62,000 SF of office space, and a parking structure. The plan also includes a hotel, a boulevard and open space.

The RFPs to developers, released last week, are an important step toward implementing needed change.

“We are so excited to welcome a developer to our dedicated team of professionals who are pushing forward our 2020 Vision,” Mayor Brad Cohen said, “Located at the center of the State and close to Rutgers, every major highway and the shore, we are hopeful this project will attract significant interest from the development community.

Past (and future) glory: In real estate, older can be better

Past (and future) glory: In real estate, older can be better 789 444 DMR Architects

by Martin Daks

When folks move into Annin Lofts, a 52-unit edifice at 163 Bloomfield Ave. in Verona, the apartments will have that just-built scent, but the building—an Annin Flag factory for 94 years—is anything but new.

The Annin Lofts project keeps historic design features while updating others, such as the addition of energy-efficient windows. – (AARON HOUSTON)

Russo Development and Dinallo Construction Corp. took the nearly century-old structure and updated it for residential use, with move-ins to start this year.

The project is part of a well-established trend: Some 43,000 historic rehabs were completed in the past 40 years, with New Jersey projects representing a $500 million slice of the $90 billion in project outlays, according to a study by Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

“We were attracted by the potential of the Annin structure,” said Ed Russo, CEO of Russo Development and a member of the joint venture D&R Verona. “When you’re away from the waterfront urban areas, you don’t see many 100-year-old, high-ceiling, concrete buildings. The opportunity of constructing loft-style units in a suburban area made it stand out, and the town was in favor of it.”

Ed Russo CEO Russo DevelopmentEd Russo, CEO, Russo Development.

When developers rehabilitate an older structure like the former Annin factory, some apply to the National Park Service for an official historic certification and related federal tax credits. Russo and his joint venture partners decided against that.

“We considered that option, but an outside consultant advised against it,” Russo said. “He said it could be done, but it would be more complicated.”

Even without the official designation, the lure of the building was its historic character—and staying true to it meant the project would be challenging in any event

“Even though we gutted the interior, we still had to run electrical lines and mechanical and other distribution systems through concrete floors, which required more than 600 cuts,” Russo said. “It’s not just a matter of cutting through concrete, because preserving the original design meant that in some cases we couldn’t cut through existing floors, and had to reconfigure and coordinate the apartment layouts.”

There were other issues, like remaining true to the window designs. Factories built in the early 1900s tended to have extra-large windows, 20 feet or longer to let in a lot of natural light; they were replaced with energy-efficient ones.

“We had to design the apartment units to work within the confine of the existing windows,” said Kurt Vierheilig, senior project manager, partner and director of design for DMR Architects, which designed the repurposed structure and a new, matching 60-unit building adjacent to it.

“We were able to keep the feel of the older, larger windows,” Vierheilig said. “If this project had been certified as a historical one, we probably would have had to go even further, like matching the thickness of the original [glass partitions].”

Such painstaking planning adds time and costs to the construction process, but it’s all part of building a desirable property, Russo said.

(AARON HOUSTON)

“Of course, it’s got to be in an area that will support the rent, but a historic building is unique and attracts people across demographics,” he said. “Usually the demand for loft-style construction comes from younger people, but here we’re seeing demand from residents who are downsizing but want stay in Verona. There’s not a lot of new product being built here, and Annin Lofts stands out.”

From a bank to a fitness center

A rich tapestry of history and a high foot traffic were the attractions for Paramount Assets in acquiring Ironbound Plaza in Newark, a triangular-shaped, limestone-clad building at 2 Ferry St.

The property started life around 1905 as a bank and later was converted for medical use. After a redesign, it houses a Blink Fitness—the fitness chain’s first Newark location, opening April 27—and a soon-to-open 7-Eleven convenience store.

“Municipalities like to preserve a city’s character,” said Richard Dunn, senior vice president of Paramount Assets. “Knowing Newark and the history of the Ironbound section was a key to preserving the façade of the structure while returning retail to the area.”

Adjacent to Newark Penn Station, an estimated 30,000 people a day pass by the building.

Paramount Assets wanted to preserve the exterior to maintain the building’s history, “but inside people still want modern facilities,” said Dunn. “The challenge was the greatest on the outside, where any repair and maintenance have to match the era’s look.

“Fortunately, Paramount Assets has done a lot of this kind of adaptive reuse, including Newark properties like Halston Flats at 127 Halsey St., where we engaged in an eco-friendly restoration of a historic industrial building constructed at the turn of the 20th century on the banks of the former Morris Canal. That development now includes 16 luxury apartments and 4,000 square feet of street-level retail.”

Said Blink Vice President of Real Estate Bill Miller: “We recognize that the Ironbound Plaza is a historically significant property. We’re looking forward to preserving the space’s history while also providing a service to the local community.”

Some historic properties are converted from private use to a public one.

Rendering of Annin Lofts in Verona. – (RUSSO DEVELOPMENT)

“The building was constructed as a kind of assembly hall more than century ago, when most of the people would be on the ground floor,” said Francis Reiner, a partner and senior project manager with DMR Architects. “Repurposing the former Masonic building as a theater meant opening up and reinforcing below-ground footings and foundations so they could bear the load of crowds on the second floor.”

The firm’s projects have included the HACPAC and the ongoing rehabilitation of a train station in Bloomfield listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The HACPAC’s 224-seat theater space has a second-floor stage with access to first-floor dressing rooms through spiral staircases. While maintaining the look and feel of the building, Reiner and his team had to bring it up to modern safety and accessibility standards with new bathrooms, heating and cooling systems, sprinkler systems, ramps, an elevator and other mechanical and other devices.

“It was a challenge,” he said. “But we had the support of the city and the community, and the first performance was on Nov. 11, 2017. Every weekend since then has been booked by community and regional performers and others.”

All aboard

The Bloomfield train station — at Washington Street and Glenwood Avenue, across the street from a mixed-use development — has its own quirks.

Built in the early 1900s, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As a result, there are significant restrictions on the restoration, which is still in the planning stage.

“The materials and design for the renovation have to match the original design,” said Reiner. “Fortunately, we found the original architectural drawings, but we had to work with a historic preservation specialist to find matching materials or the best match. For example, the concrete mixture back then used shells, shale, rock and stone.”

But such challenges are worth the effort, he stressed.

“When you’re done, you have an iconic structure,” Reiner said. “They spur activity—new properties have already gone up near the Bloomfield train station—and they enhance an area’s appeal.”

This article originally appeared in NJBiz.

Hackensack: A Redevelopment

Hackensack: A Redevelopment 960 540 DMR Architects

by Francis Reiner, PP, LLA, Senior Urban Designer, Redevelopment Consultant/Partner

As densely populated as New Jersey is and as much development as we have seen over the last decade, there remain many once thriving communities struggling to regain relevance. Like many of these proud communities, Hackensack’s fate was sealed back in the 1970’s, with the advent of the malls and proliferation of land use policies that promoted isolated land uses where people would work in one location and live another. Previously esteemed communities like Hackensack slowly died from the inside. Left with little to no residential, high vacancy rates and low rents, these suburban downtown centers become desolate, dangerous areas with little opportunity for revitalization. Even today, there are many communities struggling to create a strategy to recover their vitality without having to compromise their vision and values.

It’s been a long road for Hackensack. Understanding all of the layers, all of the details, all of the pieces that have to be considered from the very start through every decision that is made every day to support the goals, objectives and vision for the City can be daunting. Most people would have given up on the thought that one day Hackensack would have another day in the sun and even with dozens of projects underway, there are still doubters. Even communities who can correctly articulate a strategy that takes into account the complexities of a changing demographic society looking to live and work in ways that no previous generations considered are lost for lack of the most essential element to revitalization: a plan.

But unlike many communities, Hackensack took this first step in redevelopment—which is the hardest to take. A plan may sound simple, and at the beginning it is: create a vision that represents the goals and objectives of the community. Then, identify public initiatives, plans, zoning, projects necessary to encourage the maximum amount of private investments and it quickly becomes more complicated. The plan also needs to maximize private investments in an area with numerous property owners, failing infrastructure, with poor circulation, that lacks parking and provides little to no entertainment without the use of condemnation within an existing and constrained 2% municipal budget. Each decision has to be weighed and measured to understand the financial implications while continuing to seek what is best for both its existing and future residents.

The key is to create a plan that promotes private redevelopment, increases tax revenue and enhances the community in a manner that meets the goals and objectives of the residents that is realistic for both the municipality and for the development community. Too many plans are written that are either not practically realistic or are not financially feasible. This key aspect is one of the most important differences from a plan that sits on a shelf, to a project that gets built. For municipalities, the professionals that represent you and their knowledge of development, costs and construction is a critical component to the creation of a plan.

For Hackensack, this meant creating zoning that encouraged land assemblages by creating a two tiered as of right zoning within the downtown. For small individual properties, a non-catalyst zone was created, which promoted smaller scaled redevelopment with appropriate parking ratios. However, for developers that assembled multiple properties that fronted on Main Street (Min. 200’) a catalyst zone was created, which permitted higher density development with lower parking ratios. For Hackensack’s revitalization this was a key component. Without the use of eminent domain and without any existing large land owners, creating zoning that promoted land assemblage allowed development to move forward. This along with designating a large enough area that allowed developers to find willing sellers without having such a large area that development could feel scattered and unconnected was a crucial first step in creating a vision for the downtown. The result of these strategies was that real estate brokers started to assemble multiple properties and package them for potential developers to consider.

In addition, the implementation of a streamlined submittal, review and approval process through the adoption of a Preliminary Review Committee Process, that gave developers a more certain understanding of the timeline and schedule. Architectural and Streetscape Design Standards were included in the Rehabilitation Plan and every Redevelopment Plan that has since been adopted. These standards represent the architectural design and scale that is consistent with the vision of the community and are the key to getting the look and design of a building during site plan approval.

The final piece was the City’s willingness to consider long term financial incentives to potential developers as a means to move development forward. This tool provides the City with significant increases in revenue that can be invested back into the City in the form of infrastructure improvements and new community facilities. For Hackensack that included the construction of a new public park, the renovation of a 140 year old abandoned building into a state of the art Performing Arts Center, the renovation and expansion of a Community and Recreation Facility, the design of new streetscape, the separation of combined stormwater and sewer system and the conversion Main and State Street back to two way. Fiscal responsibility included hiring an independent financial analyst to review each proposed PILOT.

Hackensack has attracted more than $500 million in private investment in less than 10 years, providing an example for the revitalization ambitions of other communities. Today, there are more that 750 new residential units under construction, with another 750 units that will start construction in 2018 and more than 2,000 additional units planned for in the next 5 to 7 years. The City recently opened a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and an award winning downtown park. The conversion of Main Street to two-way traffic is under construction and will include new streetscape and much needed and long overdue infrastructure improvements—all paid for by the revenues generated by redevelopment. The plan put in place only six short years ago is working.

New Hackensack Performing Arts Center opens Saturday

New Hackensack Performing Arts Center opens Saturday 960 540 DMR Architects

by Jim Beckerman

The Center, which Jane Monheit and Tony DeSare will inaugurate with a pair of weekend concerts, is seen as a linchpin of a revitalized downtown.

“If you build it, they will come.” That’s true—so far—for the newly completed $3 million Hackensack Performing Arts Center, opening its doors on Saturday.

The gala inaugural event at 8 p.m., a jazz-pop two-fer featuring the vocalist Jane Monheit and the singer-pianist Tony DeSare, sold out quickly. A second show had to be added the following day, 3 p.m. Sunday.

The theater at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But the key thing, says Edward Decker, is that they’ve not only built it — they’ve also built it right.

“You hear that?” says Decker, an officer of the Main Street Business Alliance.

He claps his hands. “That’s dead,” he says.

Dead, in acoustical terms, is a good thing. No reverb. No echo.

“The acoustics, as you can hear, are really wonderful,” says Decker, whose group is co-sponsoring the venue’s flagship series, PAC the House. It’s five events, through June; the Monheit-DeSare jazz program is the first.

(left to right) Hackensack Deputy Mayor, Kathleen Canestrino, Hackensack Mayor, John Labrosse, Vice Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Edward Decker and Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Jerome J. Lombardo pose at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center. The center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

Decker knows from acoustics. He’s the owner of Musically Yours, a Hackensack shop that specializes in DJ and musician’s equipment.

“You don’t want a lot of echoes in the room,” Decker says. “Here, it’s like a pin dropping. You can hear the softest tone of the guitar in the back row.”

It helps that the new auditorium, designed by DMR Architects, is carpeted from top to bottom, with sound baffles in strategic places to help deaden the noise.

That’s part of what gives the auditorium — officially, the Hackensack Meridian Health Theater—its striking look. That, and the decor. The venue’s 224 seats are done up in red, with the outer seats of each row in gray fabric. The lighting, too, is distinctive. Dangling from the ceiling are four Tiffany-ish vintage chandeliers that look like upside-down glass umbrellas.

Details from the top floor lobby are shown at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“They add distinction,” says Greg Liosi, artistic director of HACPAC (as the venue has inevitably been dubbed) and the Hackensack Cultural Arts Department.

“There’s a simplicity to the chandeliers,” Liosi says. “It’s a beautiful aesthetic, but the design has simple lines. It’s very powerful at the same time.”

The chandeliers are a holdover from the 168-year-old building’s earlier career as a Masonic lodge. The imposing red-brick Gothic revival structure was built, in 1849, as the First Methodist Church. By the late 19th century, the Masons had taken it over.

It was purchased by the city in 2011, and became the designated successor to the Hackensack Cultural Arts Center at 39 Broadway, the city’s arts headquarters since 2001. (Hackensack Meridian Health got the naming rights for the auditorium in exchange for contributing a fancy marquee, which has yet to go up).

The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“It’s like moving from one home to another,” Liosi says. “You’re sad to say goodbye to the old place, but at the same time you’re so excited to start a new life. In this case, we’re very excited to have the arts start a new life, to be reborn in this space.”

The Broadway site—another old, repurposed church—sat only 117 people in a makeshift black-box auditorium. And it was eight blocks from the center of town. This new venue is a big improvement, Liosi says.

“We were very successful in the other space, don’t get me wrong,” he says. “But this is double the size, and so much closer to downtown. It’s a perfect marriage.”

The drama and dance events, art shows and niche programming that the old arts center was known for will continue to thrive in the new location, Liosi promises. A large downstairs gallery space (currently, 21 pieces by a local artist, Ruth Bauer Neustadter, are on display) can become a multipurpose room. There’s even a large adjacent kitchen—another Masonic holdover—for any wine-and-cheese parties or gala dinners that might come up. It may also be handy for stocking the refreshment bar in the lobby (alcohol will be available for some events).

The lower level gallery of the Hackensack Performing Arts Center, is shown, Monday October 30, 2017. (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But with the larger venue comes a larger mission: to fill the 224 seats, on a regular basis, with name artists that will appeal to all elements of Hackensack’s diverse population. Among them are many African-American, Hispanic, and Caribbean residents.

“The decision was made to represent the diversity of the city and the county,” says deputy mayor Kathleen Canestrino. “The committee decided to have Hispanic, African-American, Broadway, comedy and mainstream pop [events].”

A lot is riding on this, says Mayor John P. Labrosse Jr.

The new arts center is being fêted as a crown jewel of the new, revitalized Hackensack downtown. As Hackensack rebuilds and upscales, the city fathers have been looking at other cities that have reinvented themselves. Always, it seemed to come back to the arts.

“As you know, we’re going through a major redevelopment phase in Hackensack,” Labrosse says. “We have at least 2,500 new units on Main Street. We went to see what other towns were doing. One developer had a great phase: ‘I’ll bring ’em here, but you’ve got to keep ’em here.'”

Arts and green spaces, he decided, were both key. That’s why Hackensack invested in Atlantic Street Park, a smallish commons area, built for roughly $750,000 on the site of a former parking lot, that opened in July 2015 (there were concerts there all last summer). The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, on an adjacent parcel of land, is a companion project: mayor Labrosse can imagine the whole street, park and arts center combined, being closed off for day-long arts festivals.

The Hackensack Performing Arts Center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

“We kind of got a feel for what was going on in these other towns,” Labrosse says. “Whether it was murals, arts shows, a music or concert venue, a small theater, clubs with music, it was the arts that really helped to keep a town successful.”

But in order to help make Hackensack successful, HACPAC will have to be successful itself.

The trick will be to find the sweet spot: artists big enough to draw an audience, but not so big — and expensive — that the venue can’t possibly make its money back. This is a built-in challenge for all arts venues, whose programming is to a great extent dictated by their size.

For instance, tickets for the PAC the House shows, the venue’s flagship series, range from $40 to $60, with the house split evenly between the two price points. At those admission prices, the venue could not—even if it sold out—break even on an act costing more than $11,200. Less, if you factor in operating costs.

All of which is just to say that Hackensack Performing Arts Center, like any other, has a limited pH range from which to select its marquee attractions: a Goldilocks zone of artists who are not to big, not too small, but just right. Some examples from later in the PAC the House series: a jazz night featuring Alyson Williams with the Nat Adderley Jr. trio (Jan. 27), a pop rock program with John Waite (Feb. 3). a comedy night with Roy Wood Jr. and Michelle Wolf (March 3), and a pop/Broadway event with “Hamilton” star Mandy Gonzalez (June 2).

Vice Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Edward Decker, speaks with Hackensack Mayor, John Labrosse, Chairman of the Main St. Business Alliance, Jerome J. Lombardo and Hackensack Deputy Mayor, Kathleen Canestrino at the Hackensack Performing Arts Center. The center, located at 102 State St. will officially open on November 11. Monday October 30, 2017 (Photo: Wexler, Kevin, Kevin R. Wexler/NorthJersey.com)

But there is also a possible wild card here, Liosi points out. A trend of the moment, it happens, is big stars playing small venues.

The prime example is Springsteen’s current Broadway show. There are others: including Ringo Starr’s appearance last year at the 1,367-seat bergenPAC in Englewood. These top names are sometimes willing to trade a big-stadium paycheck for the pleasure of playing a small venue. Audiences, meanwhile, have been known to pay more to see their idols up close. All of this could work to HACPAC’s advantage.

Especially given those pin-drop acoustics.

“We could use the intimacy of the facility as a selling point,” Liosi says. “Some artists are dying to scale down their show. And there are some audiences that just want to see an artist and a guitar.”

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.

Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center

DMR Celebrates Completion of the Final Phase of the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park

DMR Celebrates Completion of the Final Phase of the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park 789 444 DMR Architects

The multi-phased and dynamic Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park is now complete!

DMR’s relationship with this project began when DMR worked with the City of Hackensack, its professionals and stakeholders to adopt the Rehabilitation Plan for the Main Street Area. In continuing to support the efforts of this plan, DMR again worked with the City in bringing the Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts Center & Atlantic Street Park to life – a major catalyst project for the revitalization and one that has brought a cultural arts center and public park to the heart of the downtown.

The Hackensack Cultural and Performing Arts & Atlantic Street Park encompasses the 140+ year old, former Masonic temple at 102 State Street, and the adjacent site, a former under-utilized surface parking area.

We are proud to join with the City of Hackensack, its professionals and stakeholders in celebrating this exciting accomplishment. For more information on the project, please click here.

To read about the grand opening of the Performing Arts Center, please click here.

 

City of Bayonne Redevelopment

The City of Bayonne Advances with Redevelopment Efforts

The City of Bayonne Advances with Redevelopment Efforts 789 444 DMR Architects

On August 15 the Bayonne Planning Board unanimously approved the city’s updated Master Plan, another step forward in the city’s efforts to continue economic stability and promote revitalization in the municipality of more than 66,000. The Master Plan, developed by DMR, calls for “station area plans” that will provide mixed-use redevelopment in the neighborhoods surrounding the city’s four light rail stations; revitalizing the main Broadway corridor; and addressing abandoned properties.

The task of reexamining the master plan included a multi-tiered public involvement process which entailed consensus building through meetings with a steering committee and staff, and three public workshops in which more than 400 people participated. An online survey was also conducted and gathered more than 1,000 responses.

As an extension of the reexamination study, DMR also completed a feasibility analysis for a private ferry system from Bayonne to New York City. This process was initiated with an online survey to determine the demand for a commuter ferry from the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY).

The study used existing commuter and census data, socio-economic information, and times to determine the existing and future markets for ferry use. In addition to ridership projections, the study determined the number of stops and most likely destination to support the implementation. The process included research, census data, GIS mapping, online surveys, and on site interviews, as well as input from NJ Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

 

Here’s what Bayonne residents are saying about city’s Master Plan

Here’s what Bayonne residents are saying about city’s Master Plan 960 540 DMR Architects

Bayonne Residents Discuss City's Master Plan

Several dozen residents gathered in Bayonne’s Council Chambers for a public workshop to discuss the city’s new Master Plan. June 26, 2017. (Corey McDonald – The Jersey Journal)

by Corey W. McDonald

BAYONNE — Rarely does a public meeting in the City Hall’s Council Chambers go without minor squabbles, rising tensions, and even full-blown arguments.

Monday’s gathering at City Hall took on a decidedly different tone.

Several dozen residents attended an open public workshop to discuss the draft of the city’s new Master Plan and give their opinions of future development in the Peninsula City.

After a quick synopsis of the plan’s central suggestions, residents broke up into teams to discuss their opinions on the proposal, as well as specific aspects of the city. They then presented their consensus to the rest of the attendees.

A Master Plan is a legal document adopted by a municipality roughly every 10 years that provides long term goals for development, preservation, transportation, and other aspects of the city’s future.

The workshop was headed by Francis Reiner of DMR Architects, the architectural firm hired by the city to design the plan.

The 175-page document, which is available to read on the city’s website, covers practically every facet of the municipality, but the main focus of the plan is development and where it should be prioritized within the city.

Reiner, who along with his team has been working on the plan for more than a year, summarized the proposal’s suggestion to prioritize development in specific areas called “Station Area Plans” near the city’s light rail stations on Eighth, 22nd, 34th and 45th streets.

“The question is how do you encourage appropriate development (and) how do you protect the existing one- and two-family homes from development occurring right next to them,” Reiner said during the workshop.

He added: “The report really talks about focusing development into a few limited areas in Bayonne and no longer having this kind of piecemeal development… What we’re recommending is that there are clearly identified areas where development should occur in Bayonne… So the goal here is to focus development into those zones that are appropriate so that we can preserve the existing residences and neighborhoods.”

After the presentation, workshop attendees broke up into four groups to discuss the plan and to provide their own suggestions, which Reiner and his team will use for a revised draft that the city will post on its website.

Residents discussed a number of aspects of the Station Area Plans, including suggestions on the size of the development zones.

Peter Franco, a resident of the city who was speaking on behalf on one of the groups, said they wanted to reduce the targeted areas of development from one-quarter mile radii surrounding the stations to one-tenth mile radii.

Franco also suggested consolidating Broadway’s shopping district: “If you look at Chicago, they have a mile-long shopping district and they have a lot of people in Chicago; we have a three-mile long shopping district and we have (roughly) 70,000 people, so realistically its just not sustainable. Consolidating that would make sense.”

There were also suggestions regarding the plan’s proposed rubber trolley that would serve to transport pedestrians east and west from the train stations to Avenue A in order to alleviate parking congestion in the city.

“I think everybody recognized the need for the east-west connection but nobody was particularly approving (in our group) of the trolley plan in its current incarnation,” said Laura Wildes, a resident representing one of the groups.

Other groups, however, said the trolley would provide the city with an “old-fashioned” feel.

Groups were also largely in consensus that the plan’s height recommendation for new development projects—eight to 10 stories—was too high, and five to six stories was about right.

Development wasn’t the only aspect on residents’ minds: participants discussed abandoned religious sites in the city, the need for an assisted living facility for seniors, the longevity of PILOTs given to developers, etc.

But all of the groups pointed to the completion of the Hudson River Walkway and the Hackensack River Walkway, as priorities for the city.

The Hudson River Walkway—which in theory would extend from the George Washington Bridge down to First Street of Bayonne—is incomplete largely due to the old industrial sites on Bayonne’s eastern waterfront. But the Hackensack River Waterfront has potential to be completed with no interference. Resident even suggested establishing commerce on the city’s western walkway.

“What we may not get on the east side, we can certainly get on the west side and I think it would be appealing for the community to have,” Franco said.

After writing a revised draft, Reiner and DMR Architects will present it to he city’s planning board and city council to vote.

Reiner said the firm would like to have a final plan for approval by the council by the end of the summer.

This article originally appeared on NJ.com.

Flag Day marks transition for Verona’s Annin building

Flag Day marks transition for Verona’s Annin building 960 540 DMR Architects

by Joshua Jongsma

Ed Russo, the developer converting the Annin Flag building in Verona into an apartment complex, said he wanted to maintain the historic integrity of the property.

Russo started that pledge by commemorating the start of the construction at the Bloomfield Avenue site on the holiday most associated with its former use: Flag Day. On Wednesday morning, June 14, the Verona Fire Department Honor Guard helped raise the American flag high into the air while people connected to the project swapped stories about the facility’s past and future.

Ed Russo

Ed Russo, developer, talks about the Annin Lofts project in Verona on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. (Photo: Joshua Jongsma/NorthJersey.com)

“Today is Flag Day as everyone knows, and what better place to celebrate Flag Day than this property,” observed Russo. “We hope this will be something we can do now that’s symbolic, but more importantly we want everyone to come back a year from now and help us cut the ribbon.”

From 1919 to 2013 the building was a flag manufacturing plant. It ceased operations in 2013 and will now be converted into 112 rental units. Carter Beard, the CEO and president of Annin Flag, said it was an emotional day to signal the change at the Verona site.

“It’s a little bit of a sad day because it’s the end of a factory that had been there for 100 years,” Beard said, “but it’s exciting because it will be the Annin Lofts going forward, and I think it’s going to be a beautiful project.”

Annin Lofts Rendering

A rendering of the future of the Annin Flag building on Bloomfield Avenue in Verona. (Photo: Joshua Jongsma/NorthJersey.com)

The main Annin building will include 52 loft-style apartment units, and a new second building next to it will hold 60 more. It will include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

The existing building is four stories tall but the re-purposed version will add an extra floor for a penthouse.

Kurt Vierheilig, the architect working on the project, said they anticipate the development being ready within 12 to 14 months.

“Obviously the building is a fixture in the community,” Vierheilig said, “and we’re excited that we’re going to be able to reutilize the building for a different purpose, but it’s still going to keep its presence in the community.”

Joe Vallone, a Cedar Grove resident who worked as the Annin plant manager for 32 years, made many memories there. He recalled an especially active time at the building following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Annin added 100 extra employees at the facility to keep up on demand and fixed four New Jersey State Police buses with flags.

Annin employees also made a made a 60-by-90-foot flag to be flown at the George Washington Bridge, according to Vallone.

“This is like home to me,” he said. “I had been treated well here. There were times when we had blizzards and I’d stay [overnight]. I lived on coffee, cake that was in the machines, but we got through. It’s kind of sad to see this happening, but we know it’s necessary, and I’m glad to see something done with the building.”

Verona Mayor Kevin Ryan said the Annin site serves as a gateway to the community due to its location near the township’s border on Bloomfield Avenue. Ryan noted how the Annin Lofts follow a trend for Verona.

“For a small town,” the mayor said, “2.7 square miles, every time I think it’s totally developed, somebody else comes up with another piece of property that they want to redevelop or do something with.”

Verona Fire Department Honor Guard

Members of the Verona Fire Department Honor Guard, from left, Rick Neale, Steve Neale and Bill Neal, at the Annin Flag building on June 14, 2017. (Photo: Joshua Jongsma/NorthJersey.com)

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com.