Clark Thread ready for redevelopment?

EAST NEWARK –

A decade after it designated a redeveloper to convert the old Clark Thread mill on Passaic Ave. to apartments, East Newark is moving close to actually seeing the prospect of closing the deal for the largest property in the borough.

On Aug. 21, the borough Planning Board recommended certain zoning amendments to the proposed redevelopment plan with East Newark Town Center (ENTC), the redeveloper.

And, immediately after, the mayor and Borough Council ratified those amendments.

Neil Marotta, the borough counsel, said the changes “incorporate terms of the legal settlement” entered into with ENTC and subsequently adopted by borough ordinance in February.

These issues were points of contention between the parties during what has stretched into several years of on-again, off-again negotiations on how the old factory should be re-shaped.

During that period, the borough engaged special counsel Anne S. Babineau of the Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer law firm in Woodbridge to assist in the talks.

These are the changes to the redevelopment plan for the project:

  • The minimum average dwelling unit size in the so-called “Thread Mill District” will be 1,200 square feet, not 1,500.
  • Regarding possible commercial uses that may be part of the overall project, “Restaurants shall provide a minimum of one [parking] space for each three seats.”
  • The borough Planning Board shall control the required amount of parking in any building or surface lot anywhere within the project area. Site plan approval for the project “shall be conditioned on the requirement that there is sufficient parking provided on site…”
  • An application to the Planning Board for amended site plan approval for any requested reduction in required parking may be considered after construction has begun on any phase after the initial phase has resulted in occupancy.
  • The redeveloper may install a “green roof … in lieu of recreation” and, further, “If a parking garage does not contain hard surface recreational uses on the rooftop, then at least 80% of the rooftop area shall be landscaped with natural vegetative material with functioning irrigation systems.”
  • Professional offices for doctors, lawyers and engineers are permitted while other commercial uses “must be approved by the Planning Board,” which may limit hours of operation and “noise generation.” Hotels and senior day care are prohibited.
  • Self-storage facilities are allowed, “provided that they are accessed from the interior of the complex and are limited to vehicles with no more than two axles and are open to the public a maximum of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and a maximum of noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.”
  • “Work-live units” are permitted and are to be “regulated by the fire sub-code official of the borough.”
  • Structural or underground off-street parking is allowed, “provided, however, that surface parking is permitted.”
  • Private recreation facilities and areas including pools, landscaped yards and decks, along with active recreation uses such as gymnasiums and exercise rooms, are permitted and “may be located on the roof of any building.”
  • Community rooms are “to be included in locations to be determined by the redeveloper.”
  • The owner of the ENTC property “shall establish, operate and maintain a shuttle [jitney] service to provide the residents and workers of the Thread Mill project transportation to and from the project site, using dedicated jitney vehicles,” carrying between 12 and 20 riders, to the Harrison PATH station. The service will run “at least every 15 minutes” during rush hour and “shall commence prior to the morning rush hour period and end no less than three hours after the conclusion of the evening rush hour,” although the Planning Board may grant waivers from those requirements, “especially in the early occupancy stage of the project.” The need for such service “may be revisited from time to time in the form of an amended site plan application to the Planning Board, but not more than once every two years.” The owner will set “reasonable” fares.

Babineau said the next step is for the borough and ENTC to sign a redeveloper agreement which provides for no PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the project.

After that, she said, the borough Planning Board will review the project site plan and final design and engineering details which will spell out how ENTC plans to reshape the old 12.5-acre factory complex consisting of about 40 mostly interconnected brick buildings and two vacant lots across the street from the block-long cluster of buildings.

In 2006, Alma Realty, based in Long Island City, N.Y., the parent of ENTC, agreed to purchase the property for $10,652,000, which included $2 million for site remediation.

As proposed under the project redevelopment plan, ENTC proposes to install 616 rental apartments, with mostly one- and two-bedroom units and some studios. Retail and commercial space was to be included as well.

Robert Cotter, the borough’s consulting planner, said the project would be done in phases, starting with demolition of some “garages and small buildings.” The other structures would remain, he said, with the exteriors to be cleaned and re-painted and new small pane windows conforming to National Landmark requirements to be installed. Inside, he said, a lot of partitioning is expected to provide for the new apartments, offices and stores.

Mayor Joseph Smith said: “I’m very happy and I hope we’ve made the right move. It’s taken us 10 years but it’s well worth the effort.”

 

 

 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.