Springfield OKs complex to replace Saks store

An artist’s rendering gives a glimpse of what a 223-unit, four-story apartment building will look like when it replaces the long-empty Saks Fifth Avenue store on Millburn Avenue in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — The hulking shell that long ago was the Saks Fifth Avenue store on Millburn Avenue just off Morris Avenue may finally be removed.

The local Planning Board at its Sept. 26 meeting approved preliminary and final site plans for the 9.7-acre plot that would see 47 townhouses, 223 apartments and 5,200 square feet of retail space replace the vacant structure that has been empty since the early 1990s.

A four-story apartment building with an interior courtyard and parking garage on the eastern side of the property will front Millburn Avenue, with the townhomes in clusters of three, four, five and six units occupying sections on the western and rear sides of the property.

Garden Homes of Short Hills, the property owner, is overseeing the project under the name of 92 Millburn Ave. Urban Renewal. A start date for construction was not given at last week’s meeting.

About 20 square feet of the property sits in neighboring Millburn, which will also have to OK the plans. But Springfield township administrator John Bussiculo, when reached by phone Sept. 30, said he did not anticipate any snags since Millburn had been informed of the plans since at least May, when the redevelopment plan was approved.

The long-abandoned and boarded-up Saks Fifth Avenue store on Millburn Avenue in Springfield will be razed to make room for a 223-unit apartment building.

Bussiculo said Millburn’s approval is necessary since the eastern entrance and exit from the property would cross Millburn sidewalks.

Of the 223 apartments, 41 will be designated as affordable housing under the state Supreme Court’s mandated Mount Laurel requirements.

Each of the townhouses will include a two-car garage and the entire property has a fully compliant LED lighting plan that is designed not to spill onto adjacent homes.

The complex will feature a rain garden, which allows runoff to go through a curb break.

A map lays out the configuration of a 223-unit apartment building, 47 townhouses and parking garage that will replace the long-vacant Saks Fifth Avenue store on Millburn Avenue in Springfield.

As part of the plan, a traffic light will be installed at the intersection of Millburn Avenue and Baltusrol Way, across from the property to the west, to accommodate the increase in traffic.

Jay Troutman, a traffic engineer with McDonough and Rea Associates Inc., said that during peak hours morning hours, from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m., 98 cars are anticipated to be leaving the property and 32 arriving. During peak afternoon hours, from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m., 128 cars will be entering and 98 leaving.

“As it relates to stormwater management for the subject site, under existing conditions, it is 84 percent impervious coverage on the existing site,” Bohler Engineering associate Ben Crowder told the board at the hearing. With the proposed complex, that paved or developed area “gets reduced to 71.3 percent. We are preparing a fully compliant landscaping plan with additional street trees that are provided along that strip of land.”

Residents who questioned the plans, had concerns about traffic safety, privacy issues, stormwater drainage and maintenance of the complex.

Jennifer Mariano wanted a fence higher than the 6-foot barrier that was approved.

“We are requesting that it could be 8 feet for a little more privacy. Especially since some of those townhomes, their backyards are almost to our property,” Mariano said.

Board members argued that a 6-foot fence and what they called an “evergreen barrier” would be more aesthetically pleasing without compromising privacy.

Mariano also expressed concern about cars making a left out of the property to get to Morris Avenue, the major thoroughfare about 1,000 feet to the west.

“There have been many accidents there already.” she said. “I would also like to say, I am disappointed that none of the properties there are for sale, they are all rental.”

Among other issues, board members replied that any pest control issues, especially regarding insects and rodents, will be addressed before construction begins, and the property will be baited for rodents as part of general maintenance.

One resident was concerned about the speed of traffic on his neighboring street, saying it has been an ongoing issue and claiming that when there has been construction in Millburn, traffic backed up onto his road. He suggested the possibility of adding a speed bump on his road for safety.

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