RAHWAY, N.J. — The city has given its initial blessing for the construction of a 174-unit apartment complex with retail space alongside the Rahway River, endorsing a settlement between state environmental officials and a developer.
A resolution approved at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting allows Tesla Redevelopment LLC — not affiliated or associated with the Paolo Alto, Calif., energy-car company Tesla Inc. — to begin the approval process with the city’s Planning Board. The project was initially proposed to the municipality’s redevelopment agency more than two years ago. With the state Department of Environmental Protection’s go-ahead, Tesla can now move forward.
“At first, the DEP said to Tesla Redevelopment, ‘we’re not going to give you the permit,’” Rahway spokesman Joe Brown said in a phone interview with LocalSource on Sept. 14. “The developer appealed the initial denial. The city supported their appeal.”
The property is contained within the quadrangular block of Bridge, Essex and Monroe streets and Clarkson Place. The Northeast Corridor rail line sits to the northwest, adjoining Bridge Street and the Rahway River abutting Clarkson Place to the west. The proposal does not include the stand-alone homes currently located on the northeast corner of Essex and Bridge streets, nor a power station on the southwest corner of Monroe Street and Clarkson Place.
The initial proposal was for a two-building project with housing and ground-level retail and commercial space, parking, fitness centers and social spaces for residents. However, since the property is located on a flood plain, a determination was required to pinpoint whether the hazard is due to the Rahway River or tides from the Arthur Kill. The property is less than 1,000 feet downstream of where Robinson’s Branch flows into the Rahway River and less than 4 miles upstream from where the river empties into the Arthur Kill.
“It’s in a flood hazard area, that refers to a technical step along the way,” Brown said. “The tide is effective to right about downtown, and in the parts that are closer to the ocean, you can see the tidal influence. You can see when it’s high tide, you can see when it’s low tide.”
The downtown area of Rahway, which includes the Union County Performing Arts Center, sits less than 1,000 feet upstream of the proposed development.
On June 10, the Department of Environmental Protection approved a hydraulic study from Tesla Redevelopment and the city. The study concluded: “the floodplain of the Rahway River impacting the property in question is tidal.” This determination enabled the DEP and Tesla to agree to requirements regarding the grading and flood-proofing of the area before any permits were granted.
“Conceptual site plans indicate which proposed buildings or portions of buildings are intended to be wet flood-proofed and which are intended to be dry flood-proofed,” the agreement says. “Conceptual grading plans showing that the proposed parking areas and access roads onsite will be constructed with at least 1 foot above the flood hazard area design flood elevation, wherever feasible.”