A plan to replace a full block of attached townhomes in the middle of Downtown with a tiered high-rise that includes several community benefits could take its first formal step forward very soon.
Earlier this week, Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC) held a meeting through the Harsimus Cove Association detailing their plans for a 1.81-acre parcel in the neighborhood. The lot falls between First and Second streets and straddles Marin Boulevard and Grove Street, with two dead-end roads called Saddlewood Court and Laurel Court cutting through.
Redevelopment intentions emerged last year when the Jersey Journal reported on a city-prepared study that determined the lot qualified as being in need of redevelopment and “more specifically, as a Condemnation Redevelopment Area.” The property is currently home to 38 prefabricated homes that were moved to the land in the 1970s.
During the meeting, LMC Vice President Charles Epstein said that the property’s homeowners initially approached the company about purchasing their homes. He added that LMC has agreed to deals buying all the properties from homeowners at market-rate prices except for one. The holdout, the company claims, is a local developer who purchased the home as part of an effort to redevelop the entire block.
The proposed redevelopment of the parcel has been drawn up by New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle and would see a high-rise built along Marin Boulevard rising about 50 stories at the tallest point. The structure would then gradually step down as it heads toward Grove Street and Manila Avenue, bottoming out to three stories at the lowest point.
The project, which is being called Laurel & Saddlewood for now, would contain about 810 rental apartments and include 41 units designated as affordable housing. 14,000 square feet of retail space would be featured on the ground floor facing Marin Boulevard and as part of the deal, a 50,000-square-foot public school would be built along First Street.
The school in the plan, which would be deeded to the city upon completion, would house Pre-K to 5th grades and should serve around 300 to 350 students. Laurel & Saddlewood would also feature a parking garage with 294 total spaces and representatives for LMC say they want to paint a mural on the parking garage portion of the development.
In addition, the existing Philippine Plaza on the land would be almost quadrupled in size to about 11,400 square feet. LMC has met with representatives of the plaza and agreed to keep the existing memorial at the site while creating a true public park at the space, which is decidedly underutilized.
The design of the development would feature brick materials throughout and glass components on the tower portion. LMC says the tiered slope of the project allows many opportunities for terraces or green roofs and a stormwater management system would be included in the development to help alleviate flooding in the neighborhood.
LMC is not seeking any tax abatement for the project and their current proposal for Laurel & Saddlewood is the result of working with several neighborhood associations over the last year. The company, a subsidiary of Lennar, is behind the nearly completed The Lively and has also built several luxury developments along the Weehawken waterfront.
A step toward this development becoming reality could be taken Thursday, as the city council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would declare the parcel a condemnation redevelopment area at their February 13 meeting. After that, a formal redevelopment plan for the area would need to be drawn up by the city and approved by the council, after which LMC could then submit a site application to the planning board.
Representatives for LMC said during the meeting that they are hopeful the council could approve a redevelopment plan sometime in March, which would put them on track to submit formal plans to the city this summer. If all goes smoothly, the company hopes to break ground on the development in September 2021.