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New Security Measures, Streetscape On Tap For Hamilton Street Business District

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Architect’s rendering of a proposed retail-residential project on Hamilton Street. Township officials said this plan could be before the Planning Board in the fall.


Redevelopment projects that promise to change its streetscape and new efforts at making the area safer herald what could be a renaissance of the Hamilton Street business district.

The business district portion of Hamilton Street, which runs roughly from Franklin Boulevard to the New Brunswick border, was once the township’s “Main Street.” That changed over the past several decades with development of the municipal complex on DeMott Lane and more retail and residential development further north.

But there’s a renewed emphasis among township officials on new development and combating crime in the area. The establishment last year of a new Hamilton Street Advisory Board, a group of business owners and residents dedicated to the district’s  refurbishment, was the first step.

The creation this summer of a two-man Neighborhood Police Team by the township police department – which has already shown results – and the anticipated approval of new design standards for construction in the district – which will allow for mixed-use development – are two of the latest examples of that emphasis.

The new design standards – which allow for taller buildings to be constructed with certain conditions and are expected to be adopted by the Township Council at its Aug. 11 meeting – have already spurred interest among developers, as members of the Hamilton Street Advisory Board were told at their Aug. 3 meeting.

The board at that meeting also approved a recommendation to buy eight security cameras for the street, and was told of a request to make street lights along Hamilton brighter.

It is the proposed developments that have board members buzzing.

The one closest to coming before the Planning Board for review is for 510 Hamilton Street, which would encompass the block between Ambrose and Home streets. The properties on those streets – including Inksanity Tattoo and Body Piercing and Biagio’s Florist and a home – would be razed and in its place a four-story, mixed-use building would be constructed.

According to plans submitted to the township, the building would include an underground parking garage with 118 spaces, 9,250 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 84 apartments.

The apartment breakdown would be 34 1-bedroom units and 50 2-bedroom units which the township and developer, Recon Services LLC of Rocky Hill, hope will encourage rentals from Rutgers University students and young professionals.

Entry to the underground garage would be from Ambrose and Home streets, and there would be additional parking behind the building.

“This is the embodiment of what we’ve been talking about” concerning new design standards for the business district, Mark Healy, the township’s principal planner, told the advisory board. “The market is really responding.”

The business district streetscape will look completely different “in two to three years,” Vince Dominach,  the township’s chief zoning officer and executive director of the advisory board, said after the meeting.

Dominach told the board that Recon Services’ plan would “hopefully” be before the Planning Board in September or October.

The developer needs variances from the township’s regulations regarding building coverage, building height – the proposed building is four feet taller than allowed – and parking spaces because the proposal provides 72 fewer spaces than are required.

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A proposal for 745 Hamilton Street is promising but needs “more conversations,” the advisory board was told.


The second proposal will still need “some conversations” with the developer, Healy and Dominach told the board.

That project, 745 Hamilton Street, encompasses an area bordered by Hamilton and Martin streets and Dewald Avenue.

The developer also proposes a mixed-use building with retail and apartments, but also proposes extending Martin Street to Dewald and building four single-family homes along the new street.

The main building would hold 6,000 square feet of retail space and 16 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, with parking in the rear. The portion facing Hamilton Street would be 3 stories tall, while the portion facing Dewald would be 2 stories tall, according to the plans.

Although he acknowledged that 3-bedroom apartments are not what is envisioned for the business district, Healy told the board that “this is not a bad plan.”

“It makes sense the way they mix retail and residential.”

Dominach told the board that the developer has committed to buying more properties “if this works well for him.”

Healy and Dominach told the board they have to have more meetings with the developer to fine-tune the proposal before it goes before the Planning Board.

The board was also told that the district could have eight new security cameras installed by the winter.

Justin Heyman, the township’s director of information technology, told the board the cameras can pan about 270 degrees and can zoom to the point where a car’s license plate can be read from hundreds of feet away.

The cameras, which are expected to cost a total of $40,000, will allow police officers move them as necessary remotely, Heyman said.

The cameras will be placed on utility poles and traffic light stanchions, he said.

The township has already secured permission from Somerset County to mount the cameras on their light stanchions, and is now waiting approval from Public Service Electric & Gas for permission to put the cameras on their utility poles, he said.

Plans are for the cameras to be mounted every couple of blocks from Franklin Boulevard to Highland Avenue.

The cameras, which are encased in a dome, can record up to five days’ worth of material, Heyman said.

“This is almost the exact camera we use on the perimeter of the municipal building,” he said.

Township manager Robert Vornlocker said he would like to see the cameras in operation “by the holiday season.”

Police Sgt. Anthony Bisignano told the board that he has asked PSE&G to replace the high-pressure sodium street lights now in use in several areas along the district with modern, brighter lights.

“I’m not satisfied with the amber lights,” he said.

Bisignano said the current lights make it difficult to see down the street.

“Those lights haven’t been replaced in 18 years,” said Pat Gianotto, the board’s chairman.

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