In just over one year’s time, the 10-acre stretch of dirt sandwiched between Route 208 North and Pollitt Drive will be teeming with residential tenants, businesses and commercial office occupants.
Imagined as an upscale, mixed-use development with 150 rental apartment units split between two four-story buildings and buttressed from the busy highway by a trio of buildings dedicated as retail and office space, Fair Lawn Promenade is expected to breathe new life into the lot where the Kodak film-processing plant previously stood and create a nexus between Fair Lawn’s industrial park and the state highway.
Construction crews began work on the project, located less than a quarter-mile from the Radburn train station, about six months ago.
“Our goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly destination with supreme access to transportation where people will want to live, work and shop,” said Scott Loventhal, director of development for Garden Homes Development and Garden Commercial Properties, which owns both the Promenade and the adjacent Fair Lawn Commons development. “When we ID’ed this site -- the former Kodak film-processing location -- we thought it would complement and do something different that wasn’t currently in the Fair Lawn housing stock.”
Unlike the garden-style low rises found throughout much of the community, the Promenade promises apartment dwellers more of an urban feel, characterized by swipe-card entrance into a common lobby manned by an attendant and numerous common rooms. Its target tenants are young professionals -- either singles or couples -- and empty nesters.
As such, the residential portion of the development – designed by Appel Design Group -- is not particularly family friendly. It includes neither a pool nor any sort of open play structure for children, and more than 90 percent of the units – which range in size from 900 square feet to almost 1,800 square feet -- will have one-or-two bedrooms. Rent is anticipated at $2 per square foot, or anywhere from $1,800 to $3,500 per month, not including utilities.
Between its two apartment buildings, the Promenade will feature a fitness room, card room, several general purpose rooms and an amenity deck where residents can sit and relax outdoors.
The development’s nearly 600 parking spaces are split evenly between residential and commercial use, with each apartment unit allocated two spaces, on average – at least one of which will be reserved as under-building parking.
Initially designed with 38 affordable housing units, the Promenade may ultimately make a monetary contribution to have its affordable units shifted to a senior housing project tentatively planned for the old Kem Co. property in the vicinity of River Road and Maple Avenue, adjacent to the new Advance Auto Parts store and CVS Pharmacy.
“There was an application made by an affordable housing group to place more affordable housing and transfer it from our site to that site,” Loventhal said. “That is currently pending with the governing body on whether they want to alter the plan and transfer.”
Loventhal said his group had not been a catalyst for nor an active participant in the affordable housing transfer and was only monitoring the plan’s progress.
“They approached us and asked us if we would consider, instead of actually constructing those units, making a monetary contribution that the town would utilize to acquire affordable units at [the Kem] location,” he said. “We’ll either build 38 affordable units as inclusionary or make a monetary contribution toward the township.”
Although Loventhal said it would be premature to announce what establishments would exist in either of the one-story standalone retail buldings, he said the developers were envisioning primarily national food and service-oriented retailers like a chain coffee shop, yogurt shop, burger joint or beauty salon.
With only 30,000 square feet of retail available, Loventhal said that large national grocery chains – like a Whole Foods -- are out of the question. Most shops will range in size from 1,500 to a few thousand square feet. Trader Joe’s had looked at the site, Loventhal said, but with a store already in Paramus that captures the Fair Lawn market and a footprint that would absorb two-thirds of the retail space, it wasn’t a great fit.
“We are talking to a number of really small gourmet grocers, green markets and delis that are no more than 6-to-10,000 square feet,” he said. “The configuration [of the development] gives rise to it being mostly small shops.”
The two-story office-retail combo building, considered the development’s signature building because of its visibility to motorists zooming by on Route 208, will be architecturally styled to resemble the Radburn Plaza building, minus the clock tower. The building’s first floor will house a mix of office and retail space and its second floor will be exclusively office. Loventhal said negotiations with one tenant that would take up a majority of the office space were about 90 percent complete. The remaining office space will be occupied by small tenants, he said.
Motorists will be able to access the Promenade from three points – one that connects directly to Route 208, another from Pollitt Drive and a third that affixes it to Fair Lawn Commons. Traffic signals are not proposed at any of the new intersections, but Loventhal said he was working with the county to make improvements to signal timing along Fair Lawn Avenue in an effort to improve traffic flow where the development is likely to have an impact.
Unlike the highly controversial Landmark development on Daly Field, the Promenade has generally garnered positive reactions from residents, Planning Board secretary Cathy Hochkeppel said.
“I’m amazed how few people came out for [meetings on] this, yet I have a hundred people at every meeting for the Landmark development," she said. "Except for a few neighbors, who were rightfully concerned but supportive of it, we really did not have a lot of public comments.”
The site, which has undergone both soil and groundwater remediation, has been given a green light for unrestricted – both commercial and residential – use. The soil remediation, Loventhal said, was completed in advance of construction that began earlier this year. The groundwater contamination will be monitored for years to come, but is not expected to be of any concern and will degrade on its own, he said.