UNION, NJ — The Weinstein & Sons scrap metal yard on Morris Avenue has been recommended for declaration of “in need of redevelopment” by the Planning Board, which hopes the property with dilapidated structures can be repurposed.
The vote at the board’s June 27 meeting now goes to the Township Committee, which will review the recommendation and potentially turn it into a resolution. The issue would then return to the Planning Board for a redevelopment plan to be drafted.
“The main purpose is to restore and rebuild areas that are in decline or exhibiting dilapidation,” said Kendra Lelie, of Clarke Caton Hintz, the architectural and planning company hired by the township to evaluate the property. “The goal is to turn a distressed property into a productive and economically viable piece of the community.”
The property includes Innovation Tile & Stone to the west, and sits across Morris Avenue from the Huck Finn Diner, and Lelie outlined challenges with the approximately 1.6-acre property, the biggest being that it is divided among five different lots with split zoning districts. The northern half of the property along Morris Avenue is considered the business zone while the southern half along Ogden Road is zoned as residential.
“Right now, there are commercial properties in that site in those different zones which are actually not considered permitted uses because it’s a split zone,” Lelie said, adding that a variance would be needed to expand commercial use on the site, making it difficult to develop.
Lelie said a garage in the Weinstein section is a substandard and unsafe structure.
“The Weinstein building, specifically, has a dilapidated structure on the inside so you have some broken windows, unsafe steps and there is no handicap accessibility,” she said. “There’s mold that is present from water damage and potentially some unsafe structural conditions.”
In addition to the one-story garage, there are also one-story and two-story buildings on the property.
The board also unanimously approved modifications to plans for the old Union Center National Bank, including facade upgrades and a potential rooftop terrace.
The mixed-use development on the northwest corner of Morris and Stuyvesant Avenues, which was approved last year, consists of a three-story addition above the existing renovated office and retail space, 43 residential units, office space and community center.
The units will be split into 39 one-bedroom and four studio apartments.
Attorney Stephen Hehl, who represents Titan Engineers, the developer, told the board that the changes were necessary because his client “started to get into comprising construction documents and meeting with the township.”
Changes from the original plans also include creating separate entrances for the commercial and residential use, according to Kyle McKenna, Titan’s site engineer.
Nicholas Wong, managing principal and president of Titan Engineers, told the board that Titan had updated the facade because they wanted to “give more respect to the original bank” by adding stone work. Wong also said Titan is now proposing to add a hard, partial canopy to the roof for the terrace space, eliminating safety concerns regarding stand-alone umbrellas.
The terrace area may feature tables and chairs to be utilized by both residential and commercial tenants. Wong emphasized that the patio will not be utilized as a lounge with a bar, just a social space.
There will also be a 12-foot-wide pedestrian walkway between Morris Avenue and Stowe Street for residential use, which was approved with the original application, and the development will become headquarters for Titan project designers, whose offices are currently located on Stuyvesant Avenue.
Titan held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in February.