A walk around Bloomfield’s downtown today will reveal that the Essex County township’s central business district looks quite different now than it did just a decade ago. Multiple mixed-use developments have risen in Bloomfield Center within a few blocks of the main train station, ranging from the Avalon Bloomfield Station complex along Glenwood Avenue to The Green at Bloomfield and Bloomfield College’s Franklin Street Residence Hall on Broad Street. Now, another major project in Bloomfield could possibly be added to the list.
A developer is scheduled to go before the Bloomfield Planning Board this week as part of a plan to construct a new complex on eight Bloomfield Center properties. A legal notice issued earlier this month shows that Royal Urban Renewal, LLC, which was incorporated last year, is seeking Preliminary and Final Major Site Plan approval in order to construct a building with 210 apartments and 7,283 square feet of retail space at 610-612, 616, and 622 Bloomfield Avenue, 55A and 81-85 Washington Street, 10 and 18 Ward Street, and 7 Farrand Street.
A parking garage with 311 spaces is also planned for the project, 24 shy of the area’s requirement. The parking facility, known as the Royal Garage, will be built by the developer, though the Township of Bloomfield will pay for its construction since some of the parking spaces will be able to be used by Bloomfield parking permit holders.
The structure is expected to have “varying heights,” the notice states, but it would be eight stories and just over 96 feet at the highest. The proposed development would not only include the 210-unit building but would also feature 15 townhouses along Farrand and Ward Streets, according to the notice. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, June 18 at 6:30 pm during a special meeting of the Bloomfield Planning Board.
The properties in question have had varying uses over the years. A significant portion of the site contains the Royal Theater Lot C, a public metered parking lot named for the former Royal Theater that stood there before being demolished. Other parts of the premises contain buildings that have been occupied by local businesses, including the Bloomfield Wax & Skin Care Center, Lecia Bianca Jewels, Ben’s Auto Shop, and Ultra Pure.
Royal Urban Renewal spent last year spending millions to acquire property for the site, according to NJ Parcels records. The company reportedly spent $900,000 in June 2018 for one tract, $650,000 the previous month for another, $950,000 for one of the buildings on Bloomfield Avenue, and a whopping $3.86 million for the property at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Ward Street.
Additionally, in the fall, the Bloomfield Township Council unanimously voted to sell the parking lot to Royal Urban Renewal and execute a redevelopment agreement with the company, which is expected to receive a tax exemption of up to 35 years. As part of the deal, Royal Urban Renewal is expected to pay an annual service charge instead of property taxes.
The trend over the last few years of developing near train stations in older suburban downtown areas has gone far beyond Bloomfield. Municipalities throughout Northern and Central New Jersey, including Metchuen, Montclair, Morristown, South Orange, and Somerville, have all seen new mixed-use and residential projects as well recently.
Note to readers: The dates that applications are scheduled to be heard by the Bloomfield Planning Board and other commissions are subject to change.