Ever since the Annin Flag building closed in June 2013, there has been endless speculation on its fate. A rumor that Annin would move its executives back to the historic building proved unfounded, and then the heirs of the company’s founders pulled a plan for apartments.
Turns out, we shouldn’t have worried. The Annin property is going to be the centerpiece of a high-end loft conversion that will extend to a new building on the original Verona Inn lot.
Russo Development, a Carlstadt-based company with more than 7 million square feet of real estate work to its credit, is pairing with Dinallo Construction of Wood-Ridge, a company that has been turning the former Jersey City Medical Center into an apartment complex called The Beacon. Dinallo, which is also known as Terminal Construction, has also done work at the Izod Center, Montclair State University, and Turtleback Zoo. (If the Dinallo name rings a bell with Verona old-timers, it is because the previous generation of Dinallos built the Claridge towers.) Their joint venture, DNR Verona LLC, will be the official redeveloper.
The plans for what will be called the Annin Lofts were unveiled at the first Town Council meeting in September. The flag building, which opened in 1919, will have 51 units, including a penthouse floor with terraces added to the roof. It will be joined on the four-acre site by a new 68-unit building that will look as if it could have been there for the last century as well. The new building will have a ground-floor parking garage and four floors of apartments above. Of the 119 total units, 60% will be either studio or one-bedrooms, with the remaining 40% two-bedrooms. There will be nothing larger, which Edward Russo, the CEO of Russo Development said reflected its analysis of both current market demand and the project’s impact on Verona.
“It’s very difficult for us to show a positive fiscal impact if we have a lot of units that are going to generate a burden for the community,” Russo said. The tax payments on the property are likely to be structured as a so-called PILOT, sending 95% of what’s collected to town coffers rather than the usual large split with the Board of Education, which gets 55%, and Essex County (20%). Only 25% of regular property tax revenues go to town government. Verona’s previous town manager, Joe Martin, was opposed to splitting PILOT monies with the Board of Education, which could have been a problem had the new apartments been designed for families.
Russo said he and Donald Dinallo, president of Dinallo Construction, have been working behind the scenes on the project for about a year since the Annin property quietly went on the market. The former Verona Inn site was listed in June 2014. DNR closed on both sales in early September, but the purchase prices have not been publicly recorded. DNR has licensed the Annin name to use on the building. It has also secured an easement from Hardbodyz Fitness to allow Annin Loft residents to use the driveway from that facility to Mount Prospect Avenue, which could ease the traffic impact on Bloomfield Avenue. Hardbodyz will get 10 more parking spaces as part of the deal.
As detailed as it was, the presentation to the Town Council was a simply a precursor to those that will be made to Verona zoning authorities once the Council has completed rezoning of the south-side stretch of Bloomfield Avenue, which has been designated an area in need of redevelopment. Russo said his company would be happy to share its plans with any neighboring residents or business owners, and Mayor Kevin Ryan complimented DNR on its pro-active approach. “That will go a long way to easing any of the concerns that anyone might have,” he said.
You can watch the presentation by DNR Verona at the Town Council meeting here. It is at the beginning of the Council session. You can also see a paper copy of the concept plan simply by asking the Town Clerk when Town Hall is open.