'Failed' Office Park Could Become Residences
Developer wants 'in need of rehabilitation' status to build multi-family residences; council members concerned about prospect of more rentals.
A developer wants to change the Inter Park office buildings behind the Blackthorn Irish Pub & Restaurant into a 287-unit multi-family residence development.
Representing Commercial Land Development Inc., attorney Joseph O’Neill was present at the Parsippany Town Council’s Thursday agenda meeting to request that the case be referred to the Planning Board so that either allowed uses for the property are expanded or the area is designated as being “in need of rehabilitation.”
Developer James Jones told the council that the site, which was readied for use in 2008, has not been leased for office use after four years of trying.
“Today, the project is considered to be a failure in the marketplace,” Jones said. “We have been told by brokers that it will not lease commercially in the forseeable future.”
O’Neill argued that one of the main reasons the office space has not leased is due to access to the site, complicated by the intersection of Vail Road and Route 46. However, he said the tough access could actually be a boon for a residential site.
“You can’t make a left turn [on Route 46] without driving all the way down to Baldwin Road and turning back around,” O’Neill said. “It’s negative for commercial but positive for residential because you don’t want a lot of traffic. Isolation makes it positive and very desirable for residential use.”
Although both men said there is no official plan yet—just suggested outlines that will allow them to present to the Planning Board—the project would call for 287 units across two buildings. The buildings would consist of a three-acre structure that already exists and a nearly four-acre site that is currently just foundation.
Council members agreed that the current office space project has been unsuccessful. Councilman Jonathan Nelson deemed it “the biggest failure in Parsippany.”
However, most of the members expressed numerous concerns.
Council member Michael dePierro questioned exactly what type of residential units would be there, saying he would look more favorably upon condominiums than rental units.
“We have 7,000 rental units in Parsippany already,” dePierro said. “I don’t want rental units in Parsippany anymore.”
Councilman Paul Carifi Jr. agreed and asked if there is a market for people to purchase housing units.
“In Morris County today, there is a considerable demand for multi-family housing, both rental and for sale,” Jones said, explaining that there was only a four percent vacancy in multi-family housing the last time he checked.
DePierro said he was concerned because the Planning Board cannot legally dictate that the units be condominiums instead of rentals.
While concurring, Township Attorney John Inglesino advised that the town can retain some control by deeming the area “in need of rehabilitation.” Parsippany can then enact a redevelopment plan that can be specific about various facets of the project, such as fixtures and furnishings, that would represent a for-sale product instead of a rental.
“The developer would have to expend so much money on developing the plan, they couldn’t charge a high enough rent,” Inglesino said. “They’d have to sell the units.”
O’Neill explained that the developer had not decided whether the units would be rented or sold. He said that matter would be open for discussion with the Planning Board.
Council members also expressed concern over Jones’ tax revenue claims. Jones explained that the vacant property currently generates an “unsustainable position” of $183,963 a year in revenue for Parsippany.
“If it were to be redeveloped using today’s values of about $285,000 per residential unit, it would generate tax revenues of approximately $1.325 million, which is an increase of about 621 percent over its current state,” Jones said.
However, both Nelson and dePierro argued that apartments and condominiums are taxed differently; therefore, it is difficult to make tax revenue claims without first making that distinction.
The other major concern raised was the density of the units.
“If you have 287 units per seven [total] acres, that comes to about 40 units per acre,” dePierro said. “We don’t have anything in Parsippany near that density.”
O’Neill and Jones explained the residences will all be either single bedrooms or studio apartments aimed at young professionals. Additionally, the units would be spread across five floors in one building and four floors in the other, with about 26 per floor and fewer on the ground floors.
In addition to the residences, both buildings would have subterranean parking that would reduce parking spots. Reducing paved areas, Jones said, would allow for more “green” and amenities, such as pools and fitness areas.
Before the council granted a referral to the Planning Board, O’Neill promised that he and Jones would think seriously about all of the concerns raised, especially regarding the choice between rental apartments or condominium units.
“We are asking for the opportunity to start the process and for the town to finally take this property off of the dead-letter section of the books and make it into a viable property,” he said.