City builds gateway to affordable housing

City council members unanimously approved a resolution to add an additional 38 new units of affordable housing to the Gateway Building now underway downtown.

New Brunswick Development Corporation and developer of the residential portion, Pennrose Properties, are seeking tax-exempt financing for the new units through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage and Finance Agency.

'To me, a mixture of socioeconomic programs creates vitality in any neighborhood and this building is big enough to be its own neighborhood,' said City Council President Elizabeth Garlatti.

Under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority awarded the project a $27 million dollar tax credit.

This is the first project since the program's establishment in 2007 that is seeking funds.

'This multifaceted building will be mixed-use, mixed-income and directly connected to mass transit. There is no better example of urban smart growth in the state of New Jersey,' said Devco President Christopher Paladino, in a New Brunswick City Hall press release.

The Gateway Building, which will be located at the foot of College Avenue and Somerset Street is going to house shops, residential units and a 657 space public parking garage, according to the release.

The affordable housing units are being built to open up commuter opportunities downtown.

The N.J. Department of Transportation approved a $14 million Local Aid Infrastructure Grant to help fund the parking and access improvements to the train station, according to the release.

'I am very excited because it's a transit village so that means that it gives people easy access to public transportation and therefore a way to get to jobs that are potentially not in New Brunswick,' Garlatti said.

People will now be able to afford to live in a transit location, which will make internships for students and full-time jobs out of New Brunswick much easier to get to.

Along with increased transportation opportunities for future residents, the lower income opens doors for many different types of tenants.

'I think it diversifies the kind of people that can live there, and I think it's a great thing,' Garlatti said.

Glenn Patterson, director of Planning, Community and Economic Development, said the city is trying to provide housing that is affordable to its residents.

'What we are trying to do is have housing in New Brunswick that is affordable to a very wide spectrum of incomes and we are able to try to do that in this one project,' Patterson said.

This addition of affordable housing adds to other programs aimed at providing housing downtown, he said.

'There is a rental component to the project, which is why it's called an 80-20 project where 20 percent of the units are set aside for low and moderate income renters,' Patterson said.

The other units in the building will be priced at market rate, and the condominiums will be priced at what is known as work force housing, making the units relatively inexpensive, Patterson said.

The council passed a resolution of need last night to be sent to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage and Finance Agency, a necessary part of the process to get the financing, according to the release.

'This is a type of financing that they are trying to get and one of the steps in the process is the city council has to have a 'hellip; meeting because the state government wants to know that the council is aware of the project,' Patterson said.

With the council's approval, these new additions to the project are one step closer to completion.

'It got site plan approval a little less than a year ago, and they are about to start construction in a few weeks or so,' he said.

Construction at the site of the new building has begun, although none of the major structural work is scheduled to begin until February, according to the release.

'They have started some of the utility work, which is a lot of preparation [where] you don't see a lot coming out of the ground,' Patterson said.

The Gateway project will link New Brunswick and the University to a major transit hub. The building will be 58,000 square feet and will include a new University bookstore along with office space, a parking deck and 192 housing units, which include the 38 affordable housing units.

The project is scheduled to be completed under a two-year construction schedule.

'This is a great opportunity to broaden the housing options in the project so that this new gateway to downtown New Brunswick, and Rutgers University will also serve as a home to all income levels in our diverse city,' New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said in the release.

The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for Feb. 3 and is open to the public.

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