Ron Ladell, Avalon Bay Senior Vice President for Development, says that the 235-unit apartment complex in Maplewood that was partially destroyed in a six-alarm fire this past weekend will be rebuilt and completed.
Ladell told NJ.com Tuesdsay, “In no way has this challenge that we are now facing impacted our decision to have an Avalon community in Maplewood.” Although he did not speak to the cause of the fire, Ladell said that fire safety elements had not yet been installed in the portion of the project that burned.
A timetable for rebuilding was not discussed. Read Ladell’s full comments on NJ.com here.
Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca told the media earlier that, before the fire, a number of the units were weeks away from move-in dates. DeLuca now says that the approximately 130 units that were not destroyed will need some refurbishment due to fire and smoke damage, pushing back move-in dates.
At Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting, DeLuca said Avalon Bay has taken out a demolition permit with the township and will proceed with rebuilding.
“We are going to insist…[on] a higher level of fire safety planning and will be negotiating with them on the means and methods with which they can do the construction and utilize any heaters they might need to use,” DeLuca said.
The township has also hired a structural engineer — which Avalon Bay will pay for — to work with the township to ensure that the remaining buildings (including the 130 units and the parking garage) “are structurally sound and free from…mold or water damage.”
He estimated that demolition and clean up will take place in February and rebuilding will begin in March.
Meanwhile, the township is meeting with developers of other projects in town to discuss their plans for use of gas powered heaters, to ensure “maximum fire protection.”
“We are on it, we will be negotiating with Avalon to make sure they meet our standards.” DeLuca said the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office had not yet determined the cause of the fire, and the township would not comment until the report was complete.
“We are moving forward to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again,” DeLuca said.
Township Committeewoman India Larrier noted that the increased fire safety standards that Avalon Bay had agreed to use in the development were not yet in place in the destroyed buildings because they were still under construction.
“Had it been in place, as it is in the part that is fully built, I think we may have had a different outcome.”