Third Proposal For Apartments/Retail Building On Hamilton Street Heard By Planners

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Architect’s rendering of a proposed mixed-use building at Hamilton Street and Baier Avenue.

The third of three development proposals heralding the hoped-for reinvigoration of the Hamilton Street business district was heard March 16 by the Planning Board.

The developer, Hamilton Street Management, LLC, wants to construct “Hamilton Commons,” a 4-story mixed-use building at Hamilton St. and Baier Avenue, the site of the former Millennium Bank.

The building would include about 10 medical and retail spaces on the first floor, and 62 apartments on the second, third and fourth floors, Jimmy Dumas, the project’s architect, told the board.

Of those apartments, 30 would be 1-bedroom, 30 would be 2-bedroom, and one would be a studio apartment for the building’s manager.

Parking would be provided behind the building, Dumas said.

The roughly 22,000-square-foot retail portion’s anchor tenant would be the Township Pharmacy, currently located on Hamilton Street. The pharmacy’s owners are the principals behind Hamilton Street Management.

While the board was generally supportive of the application, a discussion over the parking arrangements did get a little testy.

The Hamilton Business Development zone’s ordinance calls for 194 parking spaces; the developer is providing 134, and making an “in-lieu” payment to the township for the remaining 60 spaces.

That didn’t sit well with some board members. Board vice-chair Cecile MacIvor questioned why an underground parking garage couldn’t be provided in the project.

Dumas replied that the developer didn’t want to do that “for safety and security concerns.”

“Oh, I don’t buy that,” board chairman Michael Orsini said. “It’s not like you’ve got Fort Knox there.”

Board member Robert Thomas pointed out that the Zoning Board of Adjustment recently approved a similar project on Hamilton Street that included an underground parking garage.

Dumas then said that the surface parking was preferred because all of the retail spaces are at ground level.

Board member Alex Kharazi said that residential parking could be provided in an underground garage, and retail parking could be left at the surface level.

Township principal planner Mark Healey and Vince Dominach, the township’s senior zoning officer, reminded the board members that the application’s parking plan conformed to the zoning ordinance. They reminded the board that “in-lieu” payments are allowed.

MacIvor said that she “realize it’s legal,” adding that she was concerned about the viability of the retail stores.

“This is going to snowball,” she said of Hamilton Street development. “There’s going to be a lack of parking in the Hamilton Street area.”

Dominach said he did not think that would be the case, but, he said, if it looked like parking was becoming a problem, the board could change the zone to not allow the in-lieu payments.

Several members of the public rose to speak in support of the project.

Two of them, Pat Gianotto and Tim Kelly, are the president and vice-president, respectively, of the Hamilton Street Advisory Board. The board is charged with shepherding the redevelopment of the business district.

“I’m grateful to see this project,” Gianotto said. “It’s a great project, something we really need on Hamilton Street.”

Kelly said the proposal “is another project that Hamilton Street really needs.” He said that this may be one of the last large Hamilton Street redevelopment projects the board sees, because of the difficulty in packaging lots.

Brantley Williams of Ralph Street told the board that the business district needs projects such as the one under review.

“New business hasn’t developed in that area for quite a long time,” he said.

Gary Christman, a Hamilton Street business owner, said the project would be good for current businesses on the street.

“Every time a new business comes in on the street, it helps everyone,” he said.

The board will finish the project’s hearing at its May 4 meeting, when it will hear testimony about the project’s stormwater management plan.

In total, the three development projects heard by the planning and zoning boards in March would bring 176 apartments and more than 37,000 square feet of retail space to Hamilton Street.

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