Apartment building to replace abandoned lot
The New Brunswick Planning Board heard a proposal Tuesday night that could drastically change the character of Mine Street.
The Construction Management Associates, LLC. asked the board for permission to build a four-story apartment building on the uninhabited lot and house at 17 Mine St.
Thomas Kelso, who represented the company for the hearing, said the plan was consistent with the redevelopment of the College Avenue campus and was intended to provide housing for Rutgers and New Brunswick Theological Seminary students.
“It provides much-needed safe, state-of-the-art housing,” he said.
But many residents objected to the project, leading the board to delay their decision until their next meeting on April 8.
The building would include 57 apartments with 70 bedrooms intended to prevent large gatherings that could cause trouble for the neighborhood, said Stephen Schoch, architect for the project.
According to nj.com, the site would cost around $10 million.
The city approved the initial project in December, Kelso said.
The company requested variances that would allow them to build an underground parking garage with only 43 spaces, far less than the required 106 spaces, Schoch said.
They also asked to raise the height of the fence around a proposed electrical transformer to 6 feet to improve the view.
Schoch outlined the details of the project, which included studios and one-bedrooms on each floor. Theological Seminary students would have access to 10 first-floor apartments with a separate entrance.
The H-shaped ground floor would allow each apartment to have windows, some into two small courtyards, he said. The top floor would be T-shaped to prevent the building from casting a heavy shadow.
“To prevent a large shadow … we’re manipulating the mass and developing as best we can,” he said.
Schoch said the final building would be more than 53,000 square feet.
Edward Bogan, the project engineer, said the original lot is about 21,000 square feet.
As New Brunswick requires new buildings to compensate for increased rain flow, Bogan designed a piping system that would move water on the roof directly into the storm drain.
Mine Street residents are concerned about the project. One such resident, David Drinkwater, said he was disappointed in the construction.
“If you look down the street you see porches, views — it’s all very nice,” said Drinkwater, a retired professor emeritus of music. “[The new construction] doesn’t fit in with any of the other architecture.”
At the meeting, Schoch addressed aesthetic concerns by saying the developer would consider design schemes to enhance the structure of the building.
Varying materials and colors would brighten the residence, he said. They would also provide articulation, or varying widths and sizes, to break up the large impression of the building.
But he warned the building was not meant to mimic the surrounding neighborhood.
“We can put local design standards and guidelines, but the federal design of Old Queens is not appropriate for the building,” he said.
Mitchell Broder, owner of the company, said the building would have modern amenities lacking in other properties.
The apartments would include modern kitchen appliances, granite countertops and abundant closet space. They would also provide professionally designed common areas and a lobby.
Drinkwater said the architecture would never be able to blend in with the community.
“The façade’s okay, but it doesn’t belong on my street,” he said.
The neighborhood houses have a wide history. Drinkwater’s was first built in 1722, although the remains of that home had been obliterated by the 1980s.
The house across the street had been standing since 1880, while other residences came from the 19th and 20th century. Many of the homes were student-occupied.
“Only three owners occupy their homes on this block,” he said.
He also expressed concerns about the two-entrance design that would separate the mostly white theological students with more diverse Rutgers students. It is almost like cutting off the undergraduates, he said.
Jennifer O’Neill, whose house is located close to the proposed site, lives with her husband and young stepson. She recognizes the importance of replacing the dilapidated homes, but wants any new construction to be harmonious with the rest of the neighborhood.
The apartments would add about 140 people to the 200-person street, said O’Neill, a former new student recruiter for Douglass College.
Charles Olivo, who performed a traffic study for the project, said public transportation would provide alternatives for residents.
He said the additional population would generate 49 trips per hour, well below the 100 trips recommended by engineering manuals.
O’Neill was doubtful the study reflected the needs of students.
“Students may not take their cars to class … but they may want to bring their cars to use them for other things,” she said. “They’ll have visitors, friends, stores to visit and jobs.”