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Vol. LXIV, No. 31
 
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
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Conversion of Building C Apartment into Gym Meets Council Resistance

Dilshanie Perera

Attorney Gary Green representing Nassau NHKT Urban Renewal Associates, LLC. and developer Jack Morrison came before Borough Council last week to request changes to the redevelopment agreement concerning 25 Spring Street, also known as Building C. The municipality decided to table the request until further information could be reviewed.

In a memorandum, Mr. Green wrote that “in response to market demand, one of the residential units has been abandoned in favor of an exercise room so that Building C will not include 52 residential units and an exercise room (which will serve only residents of Buildings A and C).”

The previous agreement stated that there would be 53 units in the building. The memo noted that “we are not requesting any reduction in rent payable under the Ground Lease as a result of the elimination of one dwelling unit.”

Also requested was the designation of the property as a “special purpose entity,” which is sometimes a requirement by lenders, Mr. Green said. “This would facilitate permanent financing that may come in the future.”

Council took umbrage at the fact that Mr. Morrison had already converted the apartment unit into a gym before getting the requisite approvals from the Borough. The removal of one potential living space in the downtown also concerned certain members of the governing body.

Of the conversion, which took place three months ago, Mr. Morrison said that this was a change he had contemplated for nine months, and that he talked to the Borough Engineer and Planning Director, while also submitting a full site waiver plan.

“This last apartment was 715 square feet, and was the smallest of all the apartments,” Mr. Morrison said. His rationale was to take the smallest living space and convert it into a usable amenity for those occupying the downtown redevelopment project space.

“Lee [Solow, the planning director] approved everything and said I needed to go to Borough Council and the Planning Board,” Mr. Morrison said, adding that “DCA [the NJ Department of Community Affairs] has this plan and has signed off on it.”

Council member David Goldfarb called 25 Spring Street a “very attractive building” but added that “even if this request had been presented to me before the fact instead of after the fact, I would have voted against it.”

“Market rate housing in the downtown has a significant value,” Mr. Goldfarb said. “We’re being deprived of a rental unit in the downtown.”

Council member Roger Martindell noted that should they approve the request “it would set a troubling precedent.” He asked that the application to DCA be sent to the Borough Engineer for review.

“This is a very minor change that makes perfect sense. It is a health facility that includes lower income residents and the elderly… to delay this further — to what end?” wondered Mr. Green. “If you want your professionals to vet it, we can do that.”

“Losing that residential unit is important to us; it is not trivial,” added Council President Andrew Koontz. “We need to think it over.”

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