New ‘Buster’ Soaries Project Among Two Heard By Zoning Board

The Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries listens to a question from his attorney, Peter Lanfrit, during the Oct. 5 Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment on Oct. 5 heard details of two more mixed-use developments targeted for the Hamilton Street Business District zone.

No action was taken on either application because both needed what planners and the attorney called tweaking of the architectural plans. Both applications are expected to be voted upon at the board’s Oct. 19 meeting.

One applicati0n is actually a modification of a plan that was approved by the Planning Board last year. The second was a new project that has been in development for a while.

The first application heard was for a project at 745 Hamilton Street, at the corner of Dewald Avenue, which was previously approved by the Planning Board as a three-story mixed-use development with three single-family homes at the rear of the property.

The new project – with a new developer – retains the retail element on the first floor but eliminates the three single-family homes, increases the number of floors to four and ups the number of apartments in the project from the original 30 to 61.

Architect Kurt Ludwig tells the board about modifications to a previously approved project on Hamilton Street.

The developer, CC Hamilton, needs Zoning Board approval because while the bulk of the project lies in the Hamilton Street Business District zone, part of it stretches into the R-7 residential zone, where these developments are not permitted.

The apartment breakdown is 21 one-bedroom and 40 two-bedroom, Kurt Ludwig, the project’s architect, told the board.

The first-floor retail shops will have access both from Hamilton Street and from the parking lot which will be located behind the building, he said.

Access to the site will be from Hamilton Street and Dewald Avenue, Ron Sadowski, the project’s engineer, testified.

There will be 120 parking spaces behind the “L”-shaped building, and the developer is counting on using six street parking spaces on Hamilton and two on Dewald.

Jay Troutman, the developer’s traffic engineer, said the addition of 31 apartments, with the elimination of the three single-family homes, would not have an adverse affect on overall traffic at the site.

The other application that was heard was by the Corporate Community Connection Corp., run by the Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

Soaries owns property on Franklin Boulevard – the former Somerset County Board of Social Services building at 610 Franklin Blvd. – that he wants to convert into a four-story mixed-use development consisting of two floors of office space and two floors of affordable-income apartments.

A bit of the building will front on Franklin Blvd., but most of it will lie along Martin Street, while the parking lot will front on Lewis Street.

The first two stories, Soaries said, would be offices for the First Baptist Church and “related non-profit organizations” that currently lease space at 727 Franklin Blvd.

The third and fourth floors would hold a total of 22 apartments, 20 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom, he said.

He said there would be about 40 employees in the offices, who would only be there from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.

“Evening and weekend activities occur at the church,” he said.

The one-bedroom apartments will be about 700 square feet and the two-bedroom apartments will be about 1,100 square feet, said Harry Zawada, the project’s architect.

There will be one driveway to the 52-space parking lot each on Martin and Lewis streets, said Michael Ford, the project’s engineer.

Elizabeth Dolan, the project’s traffic engineer, said the building’s estimated 43 car trips during peak business hours “aren’t going to change the operational characteristics of the adjoining intersections. We’re taking off driveways that were on the busier highway, and taking advantage” of the less intense traffic on side streets.


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