Somerset Developers presented their latest design concept for a mixed use community at the location of the old Anchor Glass Factory during the Aberdeen Township Planning Board meeting Wednesday night.
The purpose of the presentation was to show Aberdeen their ideas for the property. They described the concept as a "pre-preliminary plan," noting that they still have to meet with township engineers and planners to fine tune the details before seeking approval from the planning board.
Raphael Zucker, the president of Somerset Developers, explained that the company was selected by the property owner to represent them in 2004. By 2006, redevelopment plans for the industrial area were extensive and involved creating hundreds of residential units, large commercial stores, and a new Garden State Parkway entrance and exit.
According to Zucker, the 2012 design concept is much more modest in comparison to plans developed in 2006 and even those developed in 2010.
"We scaled back some of the ambitions we had," Zucker said. "Way back when we had the intention of coming in and saying 600,000 square foot retail community and approximately 700 to 800 residential units with its own on and off ramp to the Garden State Parkway. We were going to have a park and ride facility, a 1,000 car parking garage, on and on and on. Large dreams, big dreams that were cautiously embraced, I would say, by this municipality. But those dreams did not get past the Turnpike Authority."
Zucker explained that the Turnpike Authority required extensive reworking of the grounds to create an on and off ramp, and the project would have cost "tens of millions of dollars."
Somerset was also unsuccessful in acquiring a piece of property on Cliffwood Avenue, where they originally intended to put an entrance and exit to the development for local residents.
In response to these setbacks, Somerset Developers abandoned the idea of a Parkway entrance and moved the Cliffwood Road entrance and exit slightly. This in turn caused them to reduce the proposed amount of residential units and commercial property and forgo the idea of a park and ride in an effort to mitigate increased traffic in the area.
"What you have here is a true mixed use, live, work, play, people centric community that we're extremely proud to put here," he said.
The entrance and exit to the property would still be located on Cliffwood Avenue, but would be closer to the Parkway overpass than previously planned, according to a design rendering (the rendering is attached to this article in the photo gallery). That road would be called Main Street, and would be the location of the commercial property and several multi-family units above the retail stores.
Continuing down Main Street, there would be a traffic circle allowing a motorist to turn around and look for on-street parking or to travel along Main Street to Glassworks Park. Glassworks Park would be located where the factory is right now, and Somerset said they plan to preserve three smoke stacks and make the rest of the space open for passive recreation.
Behind the commercial property on Main Street near the Cliffwood Road entrance would be a large parking lot, where the majority of shoppers would park, explained Planner Robert Goodill, of Tort Gallas and Partners, Inc. According to Goodill, by keeping the majority of the parking out of sight and off of Main Street, shoppers will be more likely to visit the retail area and foot traffic will dominate the road.
"You make streets that are pedestrian friendly. Streets were the automobile is not the king," Goodill said.
Just over 15% of the area would be commercial. Somerset envisions a small movie theater and other smaller retail businesses versus the larger box stores, Goodill said.
The concept plan also includes between 500 residential units, 110 of which would be one, two, or three bedroom affordable housing units. One hundred ninety of the units would be townhouses for sale, 65 with an integral garage and 129 with a detached garage. There would be 56 townhouses and 129 apartments available, in addition to 16 multi-family units above retail.
"We're creating a community that is seamless; providing a renter with a feeling of home ownership. Rather than forcing everyone who needs to rent into a large monolithic building that's pretty typical for rental communities, a lot of what you see here looks like townhouses," said Zucker. "It provides an entry level into the market place for someone who needs homeownership but because of today's economy is unable to do that."
Goodill explained that 17.5% of the redeveloped property would be open space, including Glassworks Park, small pocket parks throughout the residential area, and a fitness trail running around the perimeter of the development. They also plan to have rain gardens to help with rain water and storm drain management.
Aside from green open space, they also intend to have several "hardscapes" along Main Street that would allow for benches, tables or a gazebo. An outdoor place designed to allow pedestrians to enjoy a cup of coffee or sit with friends, Goodill explained.
"This is a rich and inviting neighborhood to walk around in, with gorgeous streetscapes," Goodill said of the concept design.
What do you think of Somerset's vision? What else would you like to see included if this development is approved?