RAHWAY, NJ — Rahway is trying to lessen the reality — if not the image — of the struggling artist by giving preference to artists in a federally-subsidized apartment complex the city hopes to fill with 58 tenants by the end of January.
The Willows at Rahway is located on the site of the former Elizabethtown Gas Parking Lot at 219 Central Ave; about a block away from the Union County Performing Arts Center and Hamilton Stage.
“The municipality said it was important to them to foster the growth of the arts community because they wanted a burgeoning arts district,” Bruce Morgan, of BCM Affordable Housing, a partner in the project, said. “They felt that if they had more artists living in town, and they could afford to live in town, it would be better for the community.”
The four-story building will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, washers and dryers for each unit, vinyl plank flooring, energy-efficient appliances, three artist studios and performance spaces, a small gym, and a common room area with a kitchen on the first floor.
The minimum and maximum income limits are determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s low-income housing tax credit program, administered through Union County, according to an informational flyer from the developer.
Practicing artists who meet certain income criteria will have have first dibs on the newly constructed units. Non-artists can still apply, but will be further down the waiting list.
The developer, the Ingerman Group based out of Collingswood, established the preference policy and defined “practicing artist,” according to Todd Stecker, the company’s director of leasing and marketing. Ingerman will determine who is an artist, he added.
Not all artists will qualify for an apartment; they must also fall within federal income regulations, Stecker noted.
Artists who work in any of the fine arts, including but not limited to drawing, sculpture, book arts, printmaking or mixed-media would qualify, as well as those who create literature, theater, poetry, photography, music composition, choreography, film or video.
Also qualifying are designers, technicians, craftspeople, teachers, curators or administrators “dedicated to using their expertise within the Rahway Arts District “ to present their art through events or classes. A yoga instructor, for example, would also qualify.
Applicants would also be required to provide resumes listing professional art experience and educational background, and three letters of support from patrons or art professionals attesting to the applicant’s artistic endeavors. In addition, applicants would provide clips of their art, such as 12 to 20 digital images on a CD; five to 10 minutes of video; 12 to 20 production photographs; five to 10 reproductions of sketches used in a set or costume design; or 15 to 30 pages of sample scripts, works of fiction, nonfiction or poetry.
The Rahway Redevelopment Agency bought the site of the apartment building from Elizabethtown Gas for about $731,000 last year, county records show. Ingerman bought the property from the agency for about $1 million in late 2016, Morgan said.
Morgan, who gave a tour of the property to a group of about a dozen interested people Oct. 30, said it was the city’s decision to give artists preference for the affordable housing units.
Rahway, “did the request for proposal, by the way, soliciting the developers,” he told LocalSource. “So all we’re doing is building the commitment we made when were selected.”
The county’s HOME Investment Partnership funding from the county was allocated for the project, Rahway Business Administrator Cherron Rountree told LocalSource.
“The developer, Ingerman, has a history of success and building projects that enrich their communities,” Rountree said in an Oct. 30 statement. “HOME Investment Partnership funding was allocated to this very worthwhile project and all rules and regulations applicable to these funds will be followed.”
Ann Marie Williams and Amy Garcia-Phillips of Rahway’s Downtown Special Improvement District, also known as the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership, said the apartments cater to the specific market they want to attract: artists.
“It shows our commitment to the arts,” said Garcia-Phillips. “Arts are being attacked all over the place. Funding is being cut and it’s our way of saying ‘we’ve got you.’”
To learn how to apply for an apartment, call Ingerman at 732-352-4500. Approved applicants will be able to choose apartments beginning Dec. 7, on a first-come, first-served basis.