Plans push forward for Summit Broad Street West redevelopment

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SUMMIT, NJ — A community meeting and presentation was hosted on Thursday, May 20 on proposed concepts for the Broad Street West redevelopment area in Summit. The area along Broad Street, between Maple Street and Springfield Avenue, has been designated “an area in need of redevelopment” by the Planning Board.

At the virtual meeting, redevelopers presented draft concept plans, and an update was provided by Topology, the community planner contracted by the city, regarding progress made by the project team since the last public meeting.

“The Broad Street West Redevelopment is … extremely important for our community,” Summit Mayor Nora Radest said on Thursday, May 20. “These decisions are big and will generate the tax revenues that our municipality needs. … This investment will not be at taxpayers’ expense, and, more importantly, the project will bring an improved dynamic to our downtown living, working and shopping experiences. Council and I are extremely pleased with the work that has been done so far, and we look forward to sharing the proposed concepts this evening.”

Topology planner Annie Hindenlang has been guiding Summit through the Broad Street West Redevelopment process. She was joined at the virtual meeting by the development team of Bryan Oos of Toll Brothers Apartment Living, Jonathan Cortell of L+M Development Partners and Alex Merlucci of Inglese Architecture + Engineering in explaining the current concept plan for the project.

“We’re really excited to finally have a chance to update you on what’s been going on, since the last we’ve touched base with you all was in December 2019,” Hindenlang said on Thursday, May 20. “There’s been a lot of hard work over that time. The redevelopment area is adjacent to the green and the train station in downtown. It includes largely and mostly publicly owned parking lots, and that’s one of the main reasons that this area was pursued.”

According to Hindenlang, redevelopment planning is a very special tool in New Jersey with its own attorneys, engineers, planners and architects, allowing a municipality to make sure a troublesome site can be redeveloped and reused if it meets certain criteria that necessitate reinvestment. She said the redevelopment planning for the Broad Street West project began in 2016 and continues into May 2021.

“Overall, it’s 16 lots, 10.1 acres in total. Of that, more than half, 6.3 acres, is owned by the city,” Hindenlang said. “There are 11 owners, and currently, in totality, it is assessed at almost $10.5 million, which is an indicator of the parking lots there, because there’s not much improvement value and there’s a lot of publicly owned land that’s not generating revenue for the city.”

Hindenlang said the redevelopment planning focused on what kind of public improvements, such as housing, commercial and architectural changes, were desired. In 2019, Topology went to Summit High School, had many public meetings and spoke with different stakeholder groups, including the Summit Housing Authority, Summit Free Public Library, Summit Area YMCA and Summit Downtown Inc.

“There’s two rounds of solicitations and three interviews per solicitation,” she said. “The team was vetted and chosen as the one most likely and most able to meet the vision of the redevelopment plan.

“In December 2019, they were designated,” continued Hindenlang. “What that means is that the city formally recognized that they would be negotiating and working with this development team exclusively, over a certain period of time, to investigate, develop a concept plan and hopefully, a redevelopment project that is suitable for the public. Today, that is what we’re looking at, and it’s the first day of that concept plan.”

Hindenburg explained that their efforts had been set back a little because of COVID-19, but, throughout 2020 and earlier this year, there had been significant design analysis, financial analysis and parking analysis, as well as a lot of back and forth between a steering committee comprising elected officials, Planning Board members, directors and members of the public. They helped guide this process, and now they were here to present those draft concept plans.

“There are many details to come,” she said. “Once we know that, generally, the public is good with the programmatic designs that they see, then we’ll start doing further analysis to get very specific numbers. Hopefully, September is what we’re working toward.”

Summit has been working toward relocating the Summit Fire Department, which is currently in a firehouse on Broad Street, to a new facility, as well as potentially relocating parking between the Summit Area YMCA and the Summit Free Public Library, across from the Housing Authority on Springfield Avenue and in the Chestnut Street parking lot.

“This redevelopment area is going to be a key catalyst for expanding and supporting the downtown,” Hindenlang said, “opening up different and new markets that maybe aren’t available already, whether it’s a type of retail or residential unit, and having an area that is centrally and strategically located next to the train station and has a great opportunity for reinvestment and to capitalize on those opportunities.

The redevelopment plan will also be broken down into four subdistricts. Subdistrict 1 includes the Summit Post Office; subdistrict 2 includes the Summit Area YMCA and the Summit Free Public Library; subdistrict 3 includes the firehouse; and subdistrict 4 includes Summit City Hall, where no development has been considered. Although there are plans for all four subdistricts, only subdistricts 2 and 3 were discussed at the virtual meeting.

According to the presentation, early summer is when traffic and financial analysis is planned; late summer is for a draft redevelopment agreement; September would be for an information session addressing Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreements and potential subdistrict 1 concept plans; October is for a public hearing addressing a redevelopment agreement and the potential introduction of a financial agreement; November is for the potential adoption of the financial agreement and the earliest possible Planning Board site plan application is scheduled for December.

“Each of the districts had its own vision,” Hindenlang said. “For subdistrict 1, it’s very important that it’s a visual access point and something that attracts and encourages movement between the downtown and the redevelopment area itself. It’s seeking commercial space and structured parking, to better manage all the parking that is in the area and create some new opportunities.

“Subdistrict 2, which is where the YMCA and library are, is to keep, maintain and enhance an attractive corridor along Maple Street,” she continued. “You have two great civic institutions there, and we will find a way to fill in that space between them that supports and enhances what’s already there and is considered of the architecture around it. Lastly, again, because subdistrict 4 is not being contemplated at this point, subdistrict 3 is seen as the center or the hub of this new neighborhood that generates activity and creates new experiences and opportunities that currently aren’t available throughout Summit.”