The Town Council decided on Monday to ask Verona’s Planning Board to undertake a study that could lead to a new economic development zone and the redevelopment of the Annin flag factory as an apartment building.
The Planning Board will determine whether the Annin property, and several properties around it, could be designated as a so-called area in need of redevelopment. That would allow the town to restructure taxes on the property as a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes or PILOT, which would direct more money to the town. Instead of having to share property tax revenue–55% usually goes to the Board of Education, 20% to Essex County and just 25% to the town–the town government keeps 95% of a PILOT and sends 5% to the county. The BOE gets nothing from the PILOTs now in force in Verona.
The PILOT agreement would affect only the Annin building at 163 Bloomfield Avenue; Greg Mascera, who serves as the Planning Board’s attorney, said after the meeting that there will be no change to tax structure of properties that are not developed, even if they are within the redevelopment zone. While the boundaries of that zone are not yet established, it could extend from Miele’s Restaurant to Quality Car Care along the southern side of Bloomfield Avenue, and include the former Verona Inn site as well.
None of the homes on Mount Prospect Avenue or Douglass Place would be included in the zone. The current occupants in the commercial buildings would not be forced to move, though Joe Martin, Verona’s town manager, said the zone designation would “create an opportunity for neighboring properties to sell their properties into it.” The zone designation would give the town more control over future development in the area.
Annin, meanwhile, has begun to draw up plans to turn the building that it opened in 1919 into roughly 40 rental apartments, mostly one- and two-bedrooms, with a handful of studios. Carter Beard, the president and CEO of Annin Flagmakers and a descendent of the family that founded the company, said today that the apartments would range in size from 700 square feet to 1,200 square feet, with 12-foot ceilings and upscale features that are, he said, “more likely to be used by empty nesters”. The look of the building’s large windows would be preserved, though they would be made more energy efficient.
If the redevelopment zone is approved, Annin would likely not have to have ground-floor retail in the building, something that is now required of new development in the area. (Current zoning there mandates a 50-50 split between residential and commercial uses, something that tripped up the first plan to redevelop 176-200 Bloomfield Avenue on the opposite side of the street from Annin. )
Town Council members were all in full support of the redevelopment plan. “One of the best this about this is that they are preserving a building that has been part of Verona’s history for nearly 100 years”, Jay Sniatkowski said.
Beard said that, as Annin readies its site plan, it is also seeking landmark designation in Verona and from the National Register of Historic Places. Such designations could keep development from substantially altering the building’s exterior; the redevelopers of industrial lofts in New York often add roof-top penthouses to their new properties. “We’re sentimentally attached to the building,” Beard said of his family. “My father and uncles are still shareholders of Annin and they are excited about the potential for the building. This is a project that we thought would be good for the company and the town. We plan on using the history in marketing the building.”
Annin’s Verona factory made the American flag that was raised over Iwo Jima in 1945 and the one planted on the moon by Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969. In more recent years, its Verona employees made specialty flags and repaired significant flags made elsewhere, like the National 9/11 flag. Annin officially ended flag making in Verona on June 28, 2013. Beard said he hoped the company could start interior work on the building’s conversion in 2015.