New properties on the horizon for ‘St. Anthony’s District’ in East Newark

What was once the site of St. Anthony’s School in East Newark Ron Leir photo

East Newark, the tiniest municipality in Hudson County, has another distinction: the borough’s been tagged as having one of the oldest housing stocks in the region.

A recent study by Heyer, Gruel & Associates, of Red Bank, the borough’s consulting planners, found “between 65% to 71%” of East Newark’s residences are “at least 50 years old.”

So local officials are strategizing to do something to change the complexion of the borough’s tired, old landscape.  Of course, they’ve already set in motion plans to transform the old 30-acre Clark Thread Co. plant along Passaic Avenue into a colossal mixed-use development with 600-plus apartments with more than 100,000 square-feet of commercial/retail plus parking and open space.

But that project is still early in the development stages so the borough is expanding its vision to incentivize further modernization — including its recent decision to designate “the entire borough of East Newark … to be an area in need of rehabilitation … in order to institute a program of rehabilitation to prevent further deterioration of the borough and promote the overall development of the community.”

One area in particular being eyed by the borough is the former St. Anthony School property across the street from the Municipal Building on the south side of Sherman Avenue.  A new owner has taken title to that property, which takes up five large lots comprising 1.1 acres, and has torn down the old school building.

At one time, the borough had considered acquiring a portion of the property — which had been categorized as part of a Public Facilities Subdistrict under a prior version of the borough redevelopment plan for the area — but never followed through with that plan.

Now, under a revised redevelopment plan recommended by Heyer Gruel, the property would be reclassified as a new “St. Anthony’s District,” which “permits residential development and adopts bulk and design standards governing such residential development,” as proposed by the planners.

Borough Administrator Robert Dowd said the new property owner has come before the Council to sketch out a concept for a number of two-family homes that, the owner said, could be built on the property. However, Dowd added, that concept remains just that, unless and until the owner submits an application to build the new housing to the borough Planning Board.

Elsewhere in the borough, the planners are recommending these designations for consideration by the Borough Council:

— The Riverside District, a 1.3-acre stretch of land on the west side of Passaic Avenue, which could be developed as “public open space, schools and other public facilities.” Or, as alternatives, the property could be maintained as is “or be developed as a hotel with other ancillary uses such as restaurants, meeting and banquet halls.”

—The School House Subdistrict, less than an acre, where permitted uses include “studio and one-bedroom residential lofts utilizing the existing school building, an elementary school and a parking deck serving both the redevelopment project and municipal needs.

— The Thread Mill Subdistrict, where East Newark Town Centre LLC has been designated the site’s redeveloper for mixed-use at the old knitting mill.

Heyer & Gruel have recommended the borough also designate the entirety of the borough as an “area in need of rehabilitation,” as a “mechanism to encourage renovation and reconstruction of existing structures. Local Redevelopment and Housing law permits the use of tax abatements on improvements for a period of five years, which can be an incentive to property owners to make improvements.”

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

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 WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York