Ample Progress Anticipated On Housing Developments in 2021

By FRED T. ROSSI
For The Leader/Times

SCOTCH PLAINS – Expect a good deal of visible progress next year on the various housing development projects that are already underway or in the works.

Township Redevelopment Coordinator Thomas Strowe provided The Westfield Leader with updates this week on several of the bigger projects that will help Scotch Plains meet its affordable-housing obligations in the coming years. Preliminary work at the former Bowcraft Amusement Park site on Route 22 has been underway for several months. Various infrastructure has been put into place in advance of the construction of 200 housing units, 35 of which will be designated as affordable units. Mr. Strowe said that “things are moving pretty quickly” and that ATA Developers informed him recently that they expect to have the first units ready for rental within 12 months.

At the former Parker Gardens property on Terrill Road, progress is a bit further behind, Mr. Strowe said, due to various environmental issues that needed to be addressed. But, he said, SP Reserve, the developer, anticipates having the first units completed within 18 months. The plans call for five apartment buildings containing a total of 228 units and two rows of townhomes with 34 of the units deemed as affordable. A 2.5-acre wedge of property adjacent to the Terrill Middle School property will be remediated by the developer and turned over to the township as green space and will likely be used for playing fields. A third of an acre of property across the PSE&G right-of-way at the rear of the Parker property also will be turned over to the township by the developer. Like Bowcraft, it is expected that the Parker site will be developed “a few buildings at a time,” according to Mr. Strowe.

The planning board will likely hold public hearings early in the new year on two projects, one in the downtown and the other on North Avenue. Mr. Strowe expects a proposed three-story, mixed-use development on East Second Street to be on the board’s agenda in the next few months. That project would include commercial space on the ground floor and 15 apartment units each on the second and third floors.

Prior to that application, it is likely that the planning board will consider the proposed redevelopment of the North Avenue property located to the west of the Charlie Brown’s restaurant. The wooded lot will be turned into a five-townhome, seven-apartment complex, two of which will be classified as affordable. A slice of adjacent land to the west will be donated by the developer to the township and serve as a buffer between the new housing and the single-family homes to the west.

Action on the other sites slated for significant housing development — including the Amberg garden center property on Lamberts Mill Road that will include five buildings with 125 units, 19 of which will be set aside as affordable housing, and all of the planned housing in the downtown business district — are still being formulated although the process should get underway next year as plans for the downtown are finalized, unveiled and eventually approved.

The other large property slated for redevelopment, the Snuffy’s/Pantagis site, remains in flux. The long-standing facility closed its doors earlier in the fall, but it is unclear what the property’s owners are planning to do. Initial plans called for a Lidl supermarket, a 51-space, park-and-ride commuter lot and a small retail building to be built on the 5.5-acre site. Whether those plans are ultimately fulfilled is unclear, but Mr. Strowe told The Leader the township will work with the property owners on a suitable site plan.

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