Monthly Archives: September 2019

NJ Voters Approve More Than $160 Million in for School Construction

In towns around New Jersey on Tuesday, voters decided on nine school bond referendums. Eight out of the nine passed to fund projects that will total more than $160 million in spending for renovations, upgrades, and new construction.

Five days during the year, school boards can ask voters to approve school construction proposals. The state will fund at least 40 percent of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid thanks to the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act. All of the referendums that passed are at least partially eligible for state funds, according to the NJ School Board Association.

According to the NJSBA, the projects that received voter approval are:

In Rutherford, the $45 million plan includes renovating high school science labs and adding them at Union Middle School. It also includes HVAC, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

At Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Burlington County, the nearly $22 million proposal includes fire and security upgrades and renovations of bathrooms, windows, HVAC and more.

In Oaklyn, Camden County, the bond referendum was for a new HVAC system and main entrance, as well as a roof, drains and windows for just under $4 million.

The Carteret School District in Middlesex County asked for $37 million to build a new junior high school for seventh and eighth grade and renovate multiple elementary schools.

Fair Haven schools in Monmouth County passed a referendum for more than $15 million to expand full-day kindergarten, renovate with a focus on STEAM courses and improve security and HVAC systems.

Rockaway Borough in Morris County got approval for expansion and renovation at an elementary school and middle school that will include classrooms, electrical, plumbing and HVAC work totaling about $12.5 million.

Watchung Hills Regional High School, which takes students from Somerset and Morris counties, will undergo renovations including upgrades to the media center and electrical system. The board says no new tax dollars will be needed for the nearly $4 million project thanks to other funds.

In Hawthorne, Passaic County, more than $24 million will go to upgrades and renovations to the media center, science lab, fire and electrical systems. There will also be asbestos removal, roof repairs and a boiler replacement.

The lone referendum to fail:

In Colts Neck, the $25 million proposal addressed indoor air quality by replacing the HVAC and electrical systems and removing asbestos flooring.


WeWork’s Lord & Taylor Site Hoping to Woo Amazon

Long has WeWork, since rebranded the We Company, been a name in real estate as a builder and marketer of shared office spaces (both virtual and physical), beneficial to businesses and individual entrepreneurs. With a recently delayed IPO, WeWork may need to pivot their growth strategy and reach within New York and elsewhere. Barring a failed IPO, its Fifth Avenue holding, the Lord & Taylor building, may soon be home to a major name that has been looking to expand its influence in the New York City area.

Reports suggest that Amazon may be eyeing a lease in a portion of the building since political opposition put a stop the previously-anticipated headquarters construction in Long Island City. Additional reports state that Jeff Bezos has been buying up residential property within blocks of the location and has done little to quiet the chatter. 

What Would It Mean for Amazon to Settle in This Location?

It is first important to note that this will not be the first time that Amazon has leased from the We Company in order to do business. In fact, it is reported to be one of the We Company’s largest and most frequent clients, owing to quicker turnaround and expansion. The We Company tends to send leases out to businesses months far ahead of other options that require time-consuming additional planning. 

Another benefit Amazon would have in setting up base in a We Company-owned location would be no need to pay property taxes, which would have been a major expense had the HQ2 project in Queens gone forward. The Lord & Taylor building space would be another We Company property they would lease. 

What Could It Mean for New York Workers? 

For the people of New York, the promise of new jobs in such an important location is not to be overlooked. However, sources have yet to confirm whether an Amazon location in the Lord & Taylor building would be filled with new hires or transferred workers from a previous site.

However, We Co.’s CEO may soon be removed due in part to a postponed IPO. With lost faith in fundraising and valuation, the site might be in jeopardy. It is looked at with great speculation because 2019 has been a strong year of IPOs with fellow tech-based startups like Lyft and Uber growing each quarter.

If the project proceeds jobs may be on the rise for people in construction and development. The We Company has contracted with known architect Bjarke Ingels to help the redesign of the building. Over 500k square feet of space is to be reworked, including headquarters and office spaces in the upper floors. As their new chief architect, they are hoping to see his innovations throughout this project as well as others, including WeGrow, an elementary school currently in the works. Along with refitting the upper floors for offices, some changes to the building, as reported late last year, may include:

  • Retaining the basements, first, and second floors for retail space;
  • A rooftop courtyard to be added;
  • Restored balconies on the upper floors;
  • Restoring the main floor’s original bay windows and entrance space; and more.

As a historic landmark, all full plans will have to be approved before moving forward, but the manpower required to update the building should stretch through multiple trades. 

Why Are Conglomerates Like Amazon Choosing Manhattan to Set Up Shop?

Amazon is not the only major tech company eyeing New York City as a major base of operations, with corporations like Google and Facebook also finding new homes for themselves. This is owed largely to attractive elements such as room for office spaces, either through new construction developments or redevelopments and leases through companies like the We Company, as well as a high concentration of tech-experienced workers in the area ready to come to work for them. 

In light of the metropolitan area’s continued efforts to improve on existing structures and implement mixed-use spaces for citizens of all backgrounds, the landscape will only continue to change and evolve, even where tech giants like Amazon plan to settle. 


Broadway Junction, Reinvigorated: What City Plans Reveal

A good community thrives when its mass transit system is running smoothly for everyone. While the vehicles carry people all over the city, the place where all the connections are made can decide what’s a smooth ride and where the first bumps will form. Broadway Junction as a subway line sits at the border of East New York, Brooklyn and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, near the intersections of Van Sinderen Avenue, Broadway, and Fulton Street. 

The line also shares space with the elevated BMT Jamaica and BMT Canarsie Lines, as well as the underground IND Fulton Street Line, the Long Island Rail Road, and six bus routes. 

Virtually every corner of the metropolitan area connects via subway, bus, or regional rail, and it sees an average of over 100,000 passengers every weekday. The number of commuters could be greater, and the wide range of access that Broadway Junction Station offers can only get better. After calls from Brooklyn officials to give the area some proper attention, the City of New York has released plans to make that happen. 

What Are Some Major Features of the Current City Plan?

One of the major issues with the 25-acre area as it stands is that while all these transit services are available, they’re largely divided, as is the infrastructure that keeps them running. This makes it a less-than-appealing place to begin to introduce services and businesses to the area in the increasingly popular mixed-use style. The City’s current intention is to introduce structural changes to solve this problem, including

  • Making all lines at Broadway Junction fully accessible for all commuters. 
  • Redesigning the streets surrounding the area to make Broadway Junction Station a “true hub.”
  • Improving the safety of the Jamaica Avenue, Georgia Avenue, and Fulton Street intersection with the use of multiple “circulation improvements,” new “traffic-calming” measures, and signals and signs. 
  • Introducing new and permanent fair reductions for LIRR Atlantic Branch city trips.

The city is also seeking measures that include the surrounding community and ensures that the development benefits local residents and businesses, not just commuters. These measures include additional job training, increasing legal protections to already existing businesses and tenants, and increasing opportunities for minority enterprises. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the city’s full plans, which also seek to address neighborhood amenities, open public spaces, and more. 

Are There Any Steps Remaining Before Ground is Broken?

The plan represents the combined efforts of multiple area leaders and community boards as well as the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. At present, the city’s main focus is to take the current plans and see them evolve with constant consultation between Council Member Raphael Espinal and Brooklyn Borough President Erin Adams, as well as local public agencies and stakeholders. 

They continue to absorb feedback from local residents and business owners, making this development a fully collaborative effort. For now, they must develop a strategy for how to best implement this plan, and the first steps in construction will have to follow that. 

This endeavor will pull together tradespeople and architects to introduce multiple new retail spaces, dining, streetscapes, and new signage. New parking is needed while current options are improved, as well as more friendly open spaces for pedestrians, and other infrastructure improvements. There is also a great deal of emphasis on structuring this project so it does not affect current traffic flow or business operation, promising a long and well-paying project for those tradespeople that have a hand in completing it.


Sendero Verde – The Nation’s Largest Passive Property

In these days of multi-use properties, the Sendero Verde project seeks to bring innovation to an idea that’s been beautifying multiple regions of the metropolitan area for quite some time now. Located on the block of East 111th to 112th Streets between Madison and Park Avenue, the development, once completed, will be the biggest passive property in the country, containing fully affordable housing, commercial opportunity, and community resources for all who come together there, and it aims to do this without sacrificing design or quality. With plans to break ground imminently, the first phase is set to be completed in 2022, and that will be just the beginning. 

The Features of the Sendero Verde Project: A Look Into the Future

Sendero Verde will be going beyond a mere mixture of residential and commercial space contained within a single building. Its completed edifice will be a small community contained within itself, including: 

  • Affordable residential spaces and (in future phases) residences for multiple income levels. 360 affordable housing units will come in phase one, with an additional 350 to follow in phase two. 
  • School space and room for a gymnasium, keeping educational opportunities within steps of its new residents. Sources reported earlier in the year that the school would be the Harlem RBI/Dream Charter school.
  • Space for the local chapter of the Union Settlement Association.
  • Community common area to include seating, a stage for outdoor events, childrens’ play areas, and adult exercise equipment. 
  • Mount Sinai East Harlem Community Health Center for local healthcare.
  • Urban Market as a local grocer.
  • Two Boots Pizza, the third in the NYC area. 

The Shape the Development Takes

Sendero Verde is not a single building, however. What the project heads hope to bring out goes beyond the brick and mortar, important though this can be. In two ways people are already seeing where it will shine: for the people and the environment as a whole. 

Something Sendero Verde will also hope to be is energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. With public gardens and building standards to increase insulation and air circulation, developers on the project propose that this will reduce local energy consumption by 70% compared to the city average. 

Sendero Verde will also open first to low-income residents. Thirty percent of its initial units will be reserved for these people, 10 percent specifically for the formerly homeless, and some will pay nothing to start as the community grows around and with them. The rest of the phase one units will be given by lottery, with local Harlem residents receiving preference, to households earning 60, 80, and 90 percent of the average income for the area.

What Remains to be Completed?

Phase one is expected to wrap up in 2022, which leaves two and a half years from groundbreaking to complete. In that time, the initial 300+ units, businesses, and community areas will need to take shape. Developers suggest that the commitment to energy efficiency will increase construction costs 5 to 10 percent, but the savings in utility will more than pay for it. For a thriving community of residents, educators, business owners, union members, and their families, virtually every trade needs to be involved for a project of this size, with work stretching into the foreseeable future.


Building Resilience with LEED and World Green Building Week

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has released a Measuring Resilience Guide. The publication was created to help community leaders and planners use LEED v4.1 to measure and improve existing community resiliency, which includes building in a way that is cognizant of and adaptive to changing environmental conditions. It also aims for construction that can recover quickly after a crisis or natural disaster and “increases sustainability and quality of life for all residents.”

Resilience is a hot topic, according to the USGBC as more people recognize environmental issues such as flooding and fires needs to be taken into consideration when developing cities and communities.

“USGBC has a vision that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation,” the guide states. “LEED is evolving beyond buildings to the city and community scale to meet this need.”

In other Green news, next week (September 23-29) is World Green Building Week (WGBW), an annual international campaign by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) to raise awareness of green buildings and their impact. This year, WGBC is “calling on all of the building and construction industry supply chain to decarbonize.”

The construction industry has focused its green efforts on a building’s operational emissions and performance in-use. But, according to the WGBC, buildings and construction are responsible for 39 percent of global energy-related carbon emissions and 28 percent of these emissions come from the operational “in-use” phase (heating and cooling of the building), while 11 percent of these emissions are attributed to carbon released during the construction process and material manufacturing.

Follow the conversation on social media through the hashtags #BuildingLife and #WGBW2019.

Empire State Dairy Site Gets Update, Affordable Housing Plans

Recently declared a historical landmark, the Empire State Dairy complex that has stood since the early 1900’s is looking forward to a little touch-up as well as an expansion. When the city settled on rezoning East New York, historians sought landmark status for the former dairy processing complex in order to protect the structure from demolition. Its most notable feature are Swiss pastoral scenes pictured on the front facade in ceramic tile. It is the largest remaining decorative display by the American Encaustic Tile Company. Some gentle restorations of the structures as well as new construction are now in its near future. 

The Most Recent Changes to the Development Plans

Already in the complex’s new plans, a few adjustments have been made to address concerns that had been raised. The initial proposal involved: 

  • Restoring the facade to its former glory;
  • Taking down some of the connected buildings; and 
  • Constructing a new 14-story residential structure that would cantilever over the landmark. 

Heeding commentary on the first approved plans for the new development, a few small changes have been made to perfect the project moving forward. These include: 

  • An altered facade that excludes the cantilever, which critics felt didn’t respect the original landmark, as it would call for demolishing the original chimney;
  • New positioning for the rooftop mechanicals;
  • New windows at the front that more closely resemble those on the original structure; and 
  • Darker brickwork.

The Current Plan, As It Stands

The zoning plan for this property is going to allow for 270,000 square feet of retail and residential space. Visual renderings released to the public show a number of characteristics: 

  • The structure shows a U-shaped design that hugs the preserved landmark.
  • The completed project should offer around 330 affordable new apartment spaces, as designed by Dattner Architects
  • Apartments would include 70 studios, 160 single-bedrooms, 88 two-beds, and 17 three-bedroom apartments, allowing for families of every shape and size. 

On the original dairy facade, changes such as a replica clock, restored signage, and stone casting to match the original architecture will also be major focuses. 

What Will It Take To Complete the Current Plan? 

The project will likely come in several phases, focusing on small-scale demolition where needed, wholly new construction, and updates to the facade. It will pull in tradespeople from demo experts to stone workers, electricians, and more. 

  • Restoration will call for stone and glassworkers to restore the facade and install a working clock. 
  • If developers wish to clean, update, or otherwise improve the ceramic tile displays, there may be a call for more specialized contractors. 
  • The new building and all 14 stories of it will call for quality living spaces of multiple sizes and layouts, as well as community (5,000 square feet) and potential retail areas (another 29,000 square feet). 

The ending structure aims to meld historic style with modern amenities, much like many mixed-use structures taking shape in older areas of the city. Dattner Architects, as a company, seems to be no stranger to these kinds of projects, as you can see more of their work at the Atlantic Chestnut project in another part of East New York, bringing another 1,000+ units of affordable housing in the near future. 


Long Beach Superblock in New Negotiations

The Engel Burman Group very recently entered into negotiations with iStar Financial to buy the 6-acres of oceanfront land dubbed the Superblock, a property that has been in a state of arrested development for over forty years. This comes after the Nassau County Zoning Board revoked iStar’s building permits in late 2018 due to its failure to break ground after four years of variances and extensions. iStar originally obtained them in 2014 to construct two 15-story residential structures, plus retail space, along the beach and boardwalk. Engel Burman has not fully disclosed all its plans for the property once they take ownership, but CISLeads reports their intention to build over 400 residences, answering a long-standing cry for more housing options in the Long Island area. 

Why Has the Superblock Been Such a Contentious Piece of Property?

The Superblock’s troubles have long been documented. Originally the home to apartment buildings and a bowling alley in the 1960s, the properties became derelict and were razed to make room for new developments. The city reclaimed the property in the 1980s due to unpaid taxes and sold it to the Haberman family’s developers, who planned to build high-rise apartments. The 90s saw plans to build hotels, a convention center, and more, but nothing came of it. 

When iStar Financial stepped in, their plans were well-timed for what has been in high demand for the area: shopping and residential spaces on the waterfront and boardwalk. They applied a one-year variance in 2014 that would allow them to build beyond the zoning board’s regulations for the location and then never moved forward. A Nassau County State Supreme Court judge upheld a decision to revoke their permits when no progress had been made, and all paperwork failed to be completed and submitted. iStar has filed a $100 million dollar suit against the city; officials have filed to dismiss the lawsuit, and a judgment is pending. 

What Is In Store for the New Long Beach Project? 

Four hundred  residences in the form of apartments and condos (with possible retail space) can spell a number of possibilities for this site. At this point, however, the sale must be completed, and all surrounding litigation needs to be settled. What is known right now is at least encouraging:

  • Engel Burman owns and manages many properties around Long Island and Nassau County, including multiple assisted-living facilities, as well as other commercial and residential properties. 
  • The sale of the property calls for a viable building plan for the property, which hopefully promises a projected date for groundbreaking and completion. 
  • The plan Engel Burman is developing is to include construction that will require no variances, which should help to reduce the time it takes to get the ball rolling. 
  • Engel Burman is also making plans to meet with the community to ascertain what locals and developers want for the area. 


Impact Study: Residential Construction Will Transform Teaneck

There is good news and bad news when it comes to the impact of six new residential buildings in downtown Teaneck, NJ. A recently released impact study commissioned by the town shows there would be positive financial impact but a change in the general character of the town. Whether the latter is good or bad is, of course, is subjective.

“The new development will generate new residents, and thus more customers for nearby stores, potentially spurring the revitalization of neighborhood retail areas,” the report said. “It will generate substantial tax revenue for the Township.”

And the study showed, “no significant impacts are anticipated on the environment, utilities, or community facilities” at this time.

While it may not change the natural environment, the buildings will change the overall feel of the town the report shows.

“At the same time, the scale and character of the State Street study area will be irreversibly transformed by the development of significantly more dense and taller multifamily residential development that was not contemplated by the Township’s current master plan or reexamination reports, which are meant to guide development in the Township,” the study said.

The six multi-family residential projects are: 1475 Palisade Ave, which was completed in August; 189 The Plaza, which will be reviewed by the Teaneck Board of Adjustment later this month; 140 State Street100 State Street, which had its final site plan approved last week;  1500 Teaneck Road, which is currently under construction; and 1425 Teaneck Road.

 The buildings, which will total just under 600 units when complete, will diversify housing in the area and offer moderate and low-income options, but the they are much taller and more dense than the current buildings in the neighborhood bringing a more “urban, downtown character not seen anywhere in Teaneck.”

The report says it is the kind of development expected in North Jersey cities like Fort Lee and Hackensack.  If and when Teaneck looks to develop again, town officials should look long and hard at the impact and nature of the construction, according to the study.

“The cumulative impacts of the proposed development within the study area must be considered going forward. As such, if development of this type is going to be permitted in the future, it merits a reexamination of the master plan policies and the zoning for the State Street area to determine whether such development is appropriate, and is designed in such a manner as to ensure that it is sensitive to and compatible with existing development to which it is adjacent, as well as the neighborhood of which it is part.”

Friction in University of Delaware Dormitory Redevelopment

In spite of a negative vote by the Newark planning commission, the University of Delaware is moving forward with its redevelopment plans for the West Campus, which has been primarily closed to students since 2015. The current view of the commission, recommending against the proposed plan in a 4-2 vote. This comes as a surprise to many, especially given that the project does not have any need for variances or rezoning. However, approval for the redevelopment sits in the hands of the Newark City Council, which will have the final word. 

Why Is This Project Being Met With Resistance? 

The Newark planning commission cited several concerns in their vote to recommend against the project in its current form. These include: 

  • Negative impact on traffic, which is already considered dense for the area. 
  • A lack of recreational spaces; however, the current, variance-free proposal was chosen over others in order to preserve nearby properties like the Oaklands Swim Club, in itself a recreational space with open memberships.
  • A shortage of paved areas. 

What Does the Current Construction Plan Entail, and Can UD Go Without New Housing? 

To answer the second question, probably not. On the heels of the sudden, ahead-of-schedule closure of the 17-story Christiana Towers residence hall back in November, the university saw itself suddenly needing to find space for hundreds of displaced students. They had originally intended to close the dormitory much later, but the site was outdated and in need of costly repairs and updates that proved too massive to maintain for the rest of the academic year. While space was immediately found for many residents, the institution remains in dire need of places to live while attending school, with many citing a preference for apartment living. 

Thankfully, the new Dickinson townhome and apartment complexes are hoping to fill this gap. Available details on the proposal suggest the following: 

  • 46 three-bed townhouses.
  • 45 apartments to include a mix of two, three, and four-bedroom offerings (320 beds in all).
  • 240 total parking spaces.

At present, the developers acknowledge these new residences will only offer perhaps half what the original Dickinson dormitories did, but they are still much-needed. They also dismissed concerns to do with traffic, providing projections suggesting that the development should not affect its current state. 

What Will Completion Involve Once the Project is Approved?

Apartment and townhome living on a college campus calls for very similar trade, development, and construction as you might expect in a common residential area, with some variations that you don’t tend to get outside of the college experience. 

  • Townhomes aim to have space for multiple student residents, with private, fully-functional kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. 
  • Apartments may feature communal spaces between individual spaces, with rooms enough for 2-4 residents per apartment as well as private kitchens and baths. 
  • All residents, townhome, apartment or otherwise, will be expected to have modern, stylish features reflecting new-construction residences off-campus. 
  • Residents will also expect access to facilities and offices belonging to residence hall staff for the purposes of maintenance requests and interpersonal issues with roommates. 
  • In all locations, students will need sometimes private but often public, easily accessible laundry facilities.

More specifics should become available to the public once the City Council has voted and approved the current plans. 

JPMorgan & Chase Park Avenue Headquarters Demolition and What Comes After

Earlier this year, it was announced that JPMorgan & Chase would be taking on the single largest voluntary demolition in New York City’s history at its Park Avenue headquarters. At 52 stories and making up 1.5 million square feet, the lot on which the skyscraper’s remains stand will not stay empty for long. The plan, as proposed in recent months, is to build a new headquarters that stands even taller. Of course, there is still much to be done in dismantling a structure that owns its own piece of the sky. 

How Far Along is the Demolition? 

“Dismantle” is a key word in discussing this initial project. “Deconstruction” is another one, because while it’s easy to think of demolition in terms of explosives and other similar means—not tools that are easy to apply in what is the most crowded office district in the city. 

The project will take place in phases. By mid-summer demolition had reached the second stage, enclosure, and is steadily progressing. 

What Are the Plans for the New Headquarters?

JPMorgan & Chase’s new Park Avenue headquarters is still a distant vision that will not be realized until demolition is complete. As a result, details on the future structure are few, but they include that:

  • The new building will come from designers Foster + Partners.
  • It is projected to stretch from the previous 52 stories to 70, adding a whopping one million square feet to what existed on its original blueprint. 
  • The expansive office spaces will also include a 10,000 square foot, privately-owned “public space” as well as improvements to local transit and pedestrian spaces. 
  • The new building will house offices as well as upgrades to local transit terminals and the street around it.

This project is one of the first to take full advantage of local rezoning laws that came into place in 2017, which will allow the new headquarters to use higher square footage than was allowed previously.