The Town Council held a special meeting Monday night to introduce the community to the developers who will turn the site currently occupied by Spectrum360 into luxury housing that will help Verona meet its affordable housing requirements.
The development team is a partnership of BNE Real Estate Group of Livingston and Canoe Brook of Roseland, both of which are well established in the luxury housing space. The firms, which will be operating on the Verona project as BNE Canoe Brook, spoke briefly of their work in this area, which includes the Highlands at Hilltop apartment complex on Verona’s western ridge.
BNE Canoe Brook presented drawings of a four-story 200-apartment building that would cover more of the site than the current building, which was an office for a pharmaceutical company before being turned into a school for children on the autism spectrum. Spectrum360, which had been rebuffed in previous efforts to expand in Verona, will instead enlarge its campus in Livingston.
The proposed design would wrap apartments around a parking garage that would allow residents to park on the same floor as their apartment. There would also be three open areas for outdoor amenities, which would include a pool, barbecue station and lounge area. The developers said the interior would contain a clubhouse that residents could use for gatherings and a package concierge station, but did not show proposed apartment interiors.
Although the Spectrum360 site includes acreage in both Verona and Montclair, the construction would only be on the larger Verona part of the property. Mayor Jack McEvoy explained that by doing so, the project would only need approval from Verona’s Planning Board. While the planned building would be all market-rate luxury housing, the developers will be paying Verona $6.25 million, which the town would use to finance the construction of a separate, 100% affordable housing development on the Cameco property.
If the BNE Canoe Brook project fails to get Planning Board approval, that payment would not be made and a key component of Verona’s court-mandated affordable housing plan would be in jeopardy. That could open Verona to a so-called builder’s remedy lawsuit by other developers with property here, which could add many more units of housing than Verona’s infrastructure or schools could handle. Despite that explanation, many of those who got up to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting kept trying to push the BNE Canoe Brook building closer to or over the Montclair line so that it would be further away from the homes on Sunset and Afterglow avenues.
The BNE Canoe Brook principals, Jonathan Schwarz and Jack Tycher stressed that the plans that they were showing were concept drawings only and that they are “open to suggestions” about the final look and layout. They said, in response to a question later, that they would consider relocating some of the units on the south side of the building to increase the buffer between it and Afterglow Avenue. The concept plans also do not show landscaping.
The next step for the project would be a presentation to the Planning Board, which would include landscaping plans, a traffic study, a school impact study and more. Schwarz and Tycher said they expected that it would be three or four years until the building would be ready for occupancy.
You can watch the full meeting in the video below.