Cenrose, the real estate company currently developing a 24-acre Hilltop parcel in Verona, will not build the age-restricted units specified in the Hilltop development plan, according to township manager Joseph Martin. The reason for the change, he says, is that the market for age-restricted housing is “saturated or moribund.”
The development company, a joint venture between Century 21 and Roseland Property Company, just completed the first of two buildings on the site, called The Highlands at Hilltop, containing 95 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments. Cenrose still plans to build the second building, which will contain 100 one- and two-bedroom apartments, but these units will not be age-restricted. Instead, like those in the completed building, they will be “market-rate rentals,” a category which is “thriving,” according to Mr. Martin. A Cenrose representative will present the proposal at this Thursday’s joint meeting of the Verona Planning Board and Verona Town Council.
During negotiations over the development of the Hilltop years ago, Verona officials lobbied for the inclusion of age-restricted housing, since an older population does not put an additional burden on the schools and has a negligible effect on traffic.
Still, Mr. Martin is sanguine about the situation. While the units will not be age-restricted, they will be “age-targeted,” he says, at young professionals and empty-nesters, with amenities like “a spa instead of a playground.” It’s unlikely that there will be many young families renting 1- and 2- bedroom luxury apartments, he says, so he doesn’t anticipate much of an impact on school enrollment.
The additional traffic is more of a concern, he says, especially during the morning commute, since older populations tend to have a later morning “peak.” One possible hot spot is the traffic light at the intersection of White Rock Road and Bloomfield Avenue. The town has commissioned a traffic study to assess the impact.
Tax-wise, the rental units will be a boon to the town, says Mr. Martin, since the favorable tax structure brokered in the original plan remains intact. In contrast with the usual property-tax formula where 50% goes to the schools, 25% goes to the county and 25% to the town, 95% of the tax revenue from these units will go to the town and 5% to the county. By giving the developer the green light to break ground soon, within a year or two Verona could be reaping “a million and a half” in revenue, instead of having the land lay idle while the developers wait for the market to improve. “It’s a great project,” says Mr. Martin. “We’re making lemons out of lemonade.”