One of the major players in New Jersey’s development scene might not be getting the affordable housing flexibility they were seeking for their latest project following a big statement from Jersey City’s planning board.
Last month, we exclusively reported on a request submitted by Mack-Cali regarding their 57-story tower called The Charlotte. The project, which includes 17,000-square-feet of retail space, a 36,000-square-foot public elementary school, and 750 rental apartments, is slated to wrap construction next year.
Located at the corner of Columbus Drive and Warren Street, 5% of The Charlotte’s units are required to be set aside as affordable housing per regulations that govern the parcel. However, Mack-Cali went before the city’s planning board on November 24 asking for redevelopment plan amendments that would allow them to provide the affordable units “within one mile” of their upcoming project.
During the meeting, lawyers for Mack-Cali revealed that the company wants to provide The Charlotte’s required affordable units inside their 475 Washington Boulevard property. That mixed-use development, completed in 2011, consists of two 50-story towers with retail that includes Santander Bank, VB3 Pizzeria, and Orange Theory on the ground floor.
Mack-Cali had agreed to provide 40 units of affordable housing at 475 Washington Boulevard in exchange for the modifications, up from the required 35. Lawyers for the company testified to the board that the proposed affordable units would come furnished under the deal, with the company also agreeing to lengthen the affordability controls to last 30 years from the required 20.
Mack-Cali’s counsel said the affordable units at 475 Washington Boulevard would be provided “right away” if officials agreed to the changes, which they described as a “win-win” for both parties. They argued that the city gets more affordable units for a longer time if the modifications are approved, while Mack-Cali can meet their affordable obligation to the city at a lower cost.
Both the language in the amendments and the deal itself seemed to leave the planning board unimpressed. Chairman Christopher Langston noted during the meeting the wording of the proposed changes was “cloudy” and worried that allowing developers to move affordable housing off-site might “set a bad precedent.”
The board voted 5-0 on a motion to not recommend the changes Mack-Cali requested regarding the affordable housing, which leaves the proposal on shaky ground. The City Council can still consider the changes despite the planning board’s lack of support, but Mack-Cali would also need to convince the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency to sign off on the amendments as well.
While the affordable housing requirements at The Charlotte remain unchanged for now, Jersey Digs will continue to update our readers on any news on the matter that may emerge in the coming months.