After mounting concern and criticism from members of the Maplewood Planning Board, the Maplewood Village Alliance, a former Mayor and residents, the developer of the proposed Post Office building has agreed to make “significant” changes to the building’s plan.
The developer, Joe Forgione of JMF Properties, will eliminate one floor from the proposed building, reducing it from four stories to three. This would lower the building’s overall maximum height from 50 feet to 45 feet, and reduce the number of residential apartments from 23 to 20 on two residential floors.
Forgione said after the February 3 Township Committee meeting, when numerous people spoke out against the building’s proposed height among other issues, he got a call from Mayor Vic DeLuca asking him to consider making changes to the plan.
“Vic reached out to me,” said Forgione in a phone interview Wednesday. Forgione said he himself “didn’t walk away [from the meeting] feeling good.” He went to his architect and asked him to revise the plan.
“Basically, we started all over again,” said Forgione. “We are in it for the long haul.”
“I agreed it was important to scale it down,” said DeLuca in a phone interview, adding that “the goal of [the building] fitting in with the Village is important.”
The Township Committee voted 4-1 on February 3 to introduce an ordinance that would add amendments to the already amended Post Office Redevelopment Plan. The final vote and public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for February 17.
“I will recommend we vote down [the proposed] ordinance [on February 17],” said DeLuca. He said he had notified other members of the TC about the revised plan, and while the financial details still need to be worked out, “in general [the township committee] will be in favor.”
JMF had initially sought to increase the building’s overall height to 53 feet; the amendments would have limited the height to 50 feet.
“We want to make the project go forward,” DeLuca said on Wednesday. “There was enough concern from the Planning Board, the Maplewood Village Alliance design review committee and the public that it was important to make it work.”
He said he called Forgione and asked him to “bring us back a proposal.”
In the newly revised plan, there would be two studio apartments on the third floor, and a combination of one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second floor. Forgione said the specific details are still being worked out, but overall the studios are replacing some of the larger apartments.
“We want to be welcomed in town,” said Forgione. “Between meeting with the design committee and the community, we heard everyone’s concerns.” Forgione continued, “This is one of the greatest parcels of land I’m fortunate to be involved with.”
There will be minor changes to the setbacks to accommodate the new plan, he said. The retail space would still house five tenants and consist of roughly 9,000 square feet. There would still be a plaza at the corner of Maplewood Avenue and Ricalton Square, and JMF would still build
20 21 basement parking spaces for residential tenants. Other design elements would remain unchanged.
“Maplewood is such a spectacular place,” said Forgione. “I think we can build a spectacular project here.”
At the February 3 meeting, former Mayor Fred Profeta asked township officials to step back and reevaluate the current plan, and suggested repurposing the current building rather than constructing a new one.
Asked about Profeta’s idea, the building, DeLuca said, “Well, that’s his plan,” but he pointed out the township has to follow redevelopment laws and is currently still in exclusive negotiations with JMF.
Meanwhile, the current Post Office is set to close tomorrow, February 12, and will reopen its retail operations in a new space at 195 Maplewood Avenue.