Arts & Culture Business Maplewood

Local Architects, Developer Propose Modern Design for Maplewood Village

Baker Streetscape East, Uhl Architects

Local architects Josh and Christian Uhl and local developer Josh Mann of Iron Ore Properties are proposing something new for Maplewood Village: a modern architectural design.

The proposed, updated design for 104 Baker Street was unveiled at a Maplewood Village Alliance Design Review meeting that was open to the public on May 28. The new building, which Josh Uhl said requires zero variances as it complies entirely with the approved redevelopment plan for the site, will provide ground floor and partial second floor commercial space, plus 11 apartment units on the second and third floors.

Approximately 15 members of the public showed up for the meeting at the Burgdorff on Tuesday night. Josh Uhl said that some were uncomfortable with idea of a contemporary design in the Village, and some voiced support.

One member of the public who spoke against the design later posted to the SOMA Lounge Facebook group saying that she felt that this building and The Clarus were destroying the character of Maplewood Village: “When will it become too much? When will it stop? What precedent are we setting for protecting the Village? After all I’m sure the Village is one of the main reasons we all decided that this was the kind of town we wanted to live in.”

Other posters on SOMA Lounge said they supported a more modern design. Wrote one, “I have to say people that say we’re losing our town every time a new building for new residents goes up sound kind of like the people who say we’re losing our country every time a new immigrant group comes in.”

Josh Mann, a local resident and principal of the developer Iron Ore Properties, told Village Green that he felt Maplewood and South Orange are ready for some new design ideas.

“We very specifically asked our design team to do something modern and something that did not look like a lot of the other buildings being built today [in Maplewood]. We felt the site deserved something unique, special and modern.” Mann added, “We think that it reflects Maplewood and MapSO or SOMA. It reflects the two towns [which are] modern, progressive, forward thinking.”

104 Baker Street Northwest rendering, Uhl Architects
Mann continued, “We think the Uhl brothers, who are both SOMA residents, did a great job. We’re really proud of where we are in the process. It’s still a work in progress.” Mann credited the Village Alliance with providing “really great feedback. … We’ve been responsive to it because it was really good feedback.”

Regarding the MVA Design Review Committee’s reaction to the May 28 presentation, MVA Chair John James, himself an architect, told Village Green, “Overall, the committee said that they felt that [the architects and developer] were trying to be responsive in answering our previous comments with changes to the design.” James explained that the committee had asked to see materials samples and colors. He noted the design is “unabashedly modern” and intentionally does not borrow other elements from the Village. James said that the Design Review Committee had wanted to see “material variations or inflections to pull up the details” of the proposed building.

“Many committee members after seeing the design for a second time had a much better opinion,” said James. “Some of the public … was really astonished we could have a modern building in the Village. Other people thought that was great.”

James added, “I really believe that going through this process will make it a better building. I feel that they have been very cooperative.” James called the design process “really positive. It’s just really a question of working on some of the scale on Baker Street and the transition to the residential neighborhood.”

“It’s obvious to us that they have assembled a talented team,” said James.

Next, James said that the design committee will meet and then there will a public meeting with the full MVA board that will be publicized.

Mann said that his team hopes to have the project before the Maplewood Planning Board over the summer, perform site work in the winter (the property is a former automotive service station), and be under construction next spring.

Some numbers on the project:

  • 17,598 sf total
  • 1st floor commercial: 1,800 sf approximately
  • 318 sf residential entry
  • 2nd story commercial (connected to the first) 820 sf approximately
  • residential floors 2nd and 3rd, 6,900 sf each of residential
  • 11 apartments (9 2-br; 2 1-br)
  • 11 parking spaces, in lot behind and partially underground
  • Setback on back of building; the two sides are zero lot line; zero setback for front.

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