Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

New Residents Help Revitalize an Older Suburb

SGA2016_win_button_F1_smProject Name: Avalon Bloomfield Station, Bloomfield
Transit-oriented development converting surface parking lots and largely vacant properties into a 24-hour hub with new residents, retail, restaurants, offices and shared parking.

Partners: AvalonBay Communities Inc.; Bloomfield Center Urban Renewal; Township of Bloomfield/Bloomfield Parking Authority; Michels & Waldron Associates


The township of Bloomfield reflects what is seen in many of New Jersey’s older, inner-ring suburbs, which after decades of outmigration and disinvestment, are just beginning to recover their luster as more and more people trade exurban living and driving for in-town living and transit. Before Avalon at Bloomfield Station was built, the real estate closest to the Bloomfield train station included a run-down surface parking lot and some small commercial buildings, largely vacant and disused. But the growing demand for more compact, walkable communities with access to transit, combined with the relatively quick transit access from Bloomfield to employment centers in New York and Newark, presented a significant opportunity to redevelop this land and capitalize on its adjacency to a key transit asset.

The challenge was to assemble the more than 20 parcels into one contiguous property, which was done through a series of purchases and land swaps; then to secure the property’s designation as an area in need of redevelopment, which would allow for greater financing options; and then for the three entities involved — AvalonBay, which would own and develop the residential portion of the project, Bloomfield Center Urban Renewal, which would own and develop the retail, and the township of Bloomfield and the Bloomfield Parking Authority, which would construct a municipally-owned shared-parking structure — to put together the complex financial and ownership structure that would allow each entity to operate its portion of the project independently.

Avalon Bloomfield StationSecuring the redevelopment designation enabled the township to issue Redevelopment Area Bonds to construct the parking garage, a vital amenity for both commuters and future residents. The township secured the bonds with a PILOT negotiated with both developers and a long-term lease negotiated with AvalonBay for resident parking. The result is a building with 224 rental residences and 60,000 square feet of retail space, plus the new 568-space parking facility. Because of the project’s adjacency to transit, the overall parking requirements are lower, allowing more productive use of the land: The staff and residents combined are using approximately 1.25 spaces per apartment compared to the 2.0 spaces that would otherwise have been required. And because so many of the residents commute via transit, their automobile usage is lower, with the attendant reductions in road congestion and carbon emissions. The required parking is further reduced through the concept of sharing, allowing different users access to the same spaces at different times of the day.

Each section of the project continues to be owned separately, and extra efforts were made during the design phase to maximize security and ease of resident access to the garage, and to minimize “back of the house” interactions — deliveries and garbage pickup, for example — between the uses.

The apartments are now 97 percent occupied. The retail is mostly leased to a variety of stores, amenities and restaurants, including businesses that had been there before the project began and are now being rewarded for their patience with hundreds of new potential patrons. There is new activity on the street from both residents and visitors, and a newly activated skyline. And the completion of Avalon Bloomfield Station has sparked the rebirth of the surrounding neighborhood, where several new projects are either in planning or starting construction.

Supporting partners: McGowan Engineering; McManimon, Scotland & Baumann

Videos produced by Lori H. Ersolmaz, Voices of Hope Productions, LLC. © 2016 All rights reserved.

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