For years the redevelopment of the southern portion of River Edge has hinged on two projects - Huffman Koos and a Transit Village. And while progress is slowly moving forward with the proposed trio of retail buildings by Total Wine, the Villege has suffered yet another setback following a lack of responses that meet NJ Transit's strict criteria.
Borough redevelopment attorney Francis Regan recently sat down with NJ Transit and appeared before the governing body this week stating that Transit is interested in meeting in the future. He was joined by borough planner Paul Phillips.
"Unfortunately Transit makes it very difficult to create an economically viable project proposal," Regan said. "They include certain requirements such as a 650 space parking deck for River Edge. That's potential a $12 to $14 million expense for a developer. Five to seven years ago that was difficult in the best of economic times, in today's market even more so."
As of Oct. 2010, the project called for a proposed three mixed-use buildings consisting of 130 residential units, about 35,000 square feet of retail space, 70,000 square feet of office space and a parking garage for up to 900 vehicles near the New Bridge Landing train station, near Kinderkamack Road and Grand Avenue.
Seven months later, while the scope of the project had not changed, several developers that provided an Expression of Interest (EOI) had concerns that the project was not financially feasible. Four developers, Jonathan Rose, Avalon Bay, LCOR, and the Richman Group, were invited to submit Requests for Proposals. Only Avalon Bay submitted paperwork but their proposal was vastly different from what NJ Transit required.
According to Phillips, Transit's requirements called for the parking deck to be constructed in phases but a developer would also have a hard time with the residential component which could cost upwards of $125,000 per unit to construct.
"The world has changed," Phillips said. "I'm not sure you would have gotten responses to this in 2007, maybe in 2006, but things have changed since then."
Both professionals suggested that following a joint meeting between Transit and the borough, that the best way to proceed if Transit is willing is to seek new expressions of interest from the redevelopment community and just what exactly developers may be interested in building near New Bridge.
"It's a different world out there," Phillips said.
"Ideally you want to have mixed use there but in that location you have a lot of retail to be developed across the street," Regan said. "I'm not sure there is enough demand for that and retail at the train station."
He further added that including an office component is a long shot as the most likely use for the property would be for residential with some retail on the ground level.
At some point after the New Year, the council will look to meet with NJ Transit representatives to determine how to proceed with creating a viable Transit Village.