The developer of a proposed mixed-used, multi-story development at 4th and Valley in South Orange met with the Township’s Development Committee for the third time on Feb. 18.
Meridia Capodagli Property, which the town designated as conditional developer of the site back in July 2015 (see below), proposes building a multi-unit apartment complex with ground floor retail similar in scale to the project at Third & Valley. Third & Valley, developed by Jonathan Rose LLC, has 215 apartments and 3,000 sf of retail, plus a parking garage. The Third & Valley apartments are a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
Although Academy Heights neighbors have told The Village Green that Meridia’s original proposal was for a 5-story, 330-unit project, they reported that the development committee had instructed the developer to scale back. Village Administrator Barry Lewis did not confirm the original proposal but wrote in an email to Village Green that “the current discussions involve a mixed use development of similar style and scale as 3rd & Valley, but not bigger.”
Lewis stressed that the two projects would not be de facto twins: “However, each site is unique with respect to adjacent properties, traffic and other issues that have to be evaluated and considered to ensure that any development is appropriate for its specific location.”
On Feb. 18, Meridia listened to feedback from members of the Development Committee as well as neighbors at the meeting, who raised concerns about scale, design, traffic and more.
Residents reported that the Development Committee “did not like the interior light wells/courts proposed by Meridia. The units proposed are small studio or 1-bedroom units, and the Committee has asked them to include some larger 2-bedroom units. The proposed building would also include some retail space.” (Village Green did not attend the meeting; but followed up with neighbors and town officials via email.)
Members of the Development Committee include Trustee Mark Rosner, South Orange Village Center Alliance Executive Director Bob Zuckerman, Village President Sheena Collum, Village redevelopment counsel Joe Baumann and Village planner Phil Abramson and several other volunteer resident members, “most of whom have relevant experience as architects, developers, builders etc.,” reported Lewis.
The 10 Academy Heights neighbors who attended the Feb. 18 meeting put together talking points concerning the development which they shared with The Village Green. They included suggestions that:
- the design of the building match the character of the neighborhood (as is in the master plan).
- the development not be an exclusionary structure as is 3rd & Valley, but instead be constructed in such a way (townhouses, for example) that entranceways give out into the street, forcing the residents to become members of the neighborhood and ultimately participate in day-to-day activities.
- views of South Mountain be preserved at least in part by allowing the proposed structure at the bottom of 4th street to be lower, or by have “peaks and valleys” in the roofscape that would allow views through the structure.
- some of the space of the building be dedicated to the “public” in that green areas might be viewed or accessible or public walkways might traverse somehow partially through the complex.
- the town to retain the right-of-way and possession of lower 4th St and not relinquish it to the developer.
Academy Heights resident David Kraiker said that Village President “Sheena Collum is always keen to hear from the public, and made sure that anyone who wanted and needed to speak would be given that chance.” He added, “In all, this seemed to be a positive meeting between developer, town and community. I note that the developer seemed pleased that residents had attended with pre-formulated thoughts and suggestions in hand.”
No site plan was available at the meeting.
Tax abatements are not under discussion for the project, said Lewis.
“At present the discussions have not involved taxes or tax abatements,” wrote Lewis. “As these properties are not in the Redevelopment Area (but are eligible for a Redevelopment Plan by virtue of the Village-wide rehabilitation designation) they are not eligible for Long Term Tax Exemption. The most any project would be eligible for would be a 5-year Short Term Tax Abatement in which the taxes are phased in at 20% a year, with payments to all taxing entities, and hit full taxes after year 5.”
The next step for the project is the formation of a subcommittee, Collum reported at the Feb. 22, Board of Trustees meeting. The subcommittee will be “working directly on this issue, bringing professionals, residents, administration, Trustees and the developer together.”