Kean University Expansion and 462 Units Planned for Former Merck Property

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Kean Merck Expanision Union
1011 Morris Avenue | Credit: Google Maps

A local university is planning to expand onto a property that it recently acquired, while another portion of the lot could soon be home to a massive mixed-use redevelopment project.

Kean University, which has been located in Union Township since 1958, purchased the rear portion of 1011 Morris Avenue for $4.225 million in June. The amount was reached through settlement negotiation, according to Kean spokesperson Margaret McCorry. The property, which is situated near several townhouses, the university’s main campus, its Nathan Weiss Graduate College, the Liberty Hall Museum, and the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics, is currently a vacant lot that was previously owned by the Merck, Schering-Plough, and Schering pharmaceutical companies in connection with their former campus on a neighboring lot.

The acquisition comes after Kean first sought to gain this tract more than three years ago. In 2014, The Star-Ledger reported that Township and Union County officials were worried by the announcement, and stated that Mayor Clifton People, Jr. was concerned that it would exempt the property from municipal taxes. Schering-Plough had acquired the property in 1986 from the Kean family, and leased the lot in the years before. It had been one of the largest privately-owned lots in the area.

Now, after years of negotiations and disputes over the property, Jersey Digs has learned what is planned for the part of the site that is now under Kean’s ownership as well as the privately-owned portion.

“In order to serve the academic and residential needs of its students, Kean University sought to acquire property to expand parking, academic and research facilities, and graduate and faculty housing,” McCorry told Jersey Digs, explaining that “because of its location near the Kean University main campus, the Merck property is ideally suited for these purposes.”

Under Kean’s proposal, according to McCorry, there would be a parking lot created with several hundred spaces on the premises. However, in the long term, the academic and research facilities, as well as graduate and faculty housing, are proposed.

“The acquisition of the property will greatly enhance the Kean campus, which is an important education, economic and cultural hub for the community,” she explained.

The other part of the property, which contains all of the buildings that were used by Merck and Schering for manufacturing and office space, was acquired for $6.25 million in June by 1011 Morris Ave. Urban Renewal, LLC, according to NJ Parcels records. The company is registered out of the Carlstadt, Bergen County offices of Russo Development, which declined to comment for this report.

According to a legal notice from the Township of Union, a major development project is being proposed for the site. The company has applied for Preliminary, Final Site Plan, and Major Subdivision approval in order to divide the property into two separate lots and construct a multifamily community with 462 residential units. Eight of the units would be designated as affordable housing.

The complex is also set to include a 25,628 square foot clubhouse, a pool, a basketball court, a dog park, fitness facilities, and an indoor parking deck. Plus, 40,207 square feet of retail space are planned, including space for restaurants.

Residents of the proposed development would be situated just across Morris Avenue from the Union Train Station on the Raritan Valley Line, which is one stop west of Newark Penn Station. There is also bus service to New York, Newark, Elizabeth, and Springfield from the area.

The Union Township Planning Board is scheduled to hear this proposal on Thursday, August 24th at 7:00pm at the Municipal Building on Morris Avenue.

Russo is not the developer of Kean’s portion of the land, according to McCorry.

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