Plannning Board To Meet On Spectrum360 Project

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The most recent concept plan for the luxury housing that would replace the Spectrum360 school.

The Planning Board will meet on Thursday, January 28, to review the redevelopment plan for the Spectrum360 property at the corner of Bloomfield and Sunset avenues. The meeting will be held online over Zoom, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

A development partnership created by BNE Real Estate Group of Livingston and Canoe Brook of Roseland is looking to build a four-story, 200-apartment building on the site, which has 5.5 acres in Verona and 2.5 acres in Montclair. While the planned building would be all market-rate luxury housing, the developers will pay Verona $6.25 million $3.25 million, which the town will use to finance the construction of an affordable housing development on the former Cameco property.

The Spectrum360 redevelopment has been through many twists and turns since 2018. The first concept plan could have built 300 new apartments at the site, including 60 affordable housing units. But that fell apart in January 2019 when the Verona Planning Board voted that the property, once known as The Children’s Institute, did not meet the criteria of an “area in need of redevelopment.” Verona officials then appeared to reach a new deal with Spectrum360, but just before it was to come to a vote before the Town Council in May 2019,  Spectrum360 demanded Verona backstop the primary agreement. If Verona failed to deliver unappealable governmental approvals, it risked being forced into a so-called builder’s remedy lawsuit that would impose hundreds more housing units on town.  Officials agreed, albeit reluctantly, and the Planning Board voted in August 2019 to designate the site as an area in need of redevelopment.

Spectrum360
The Spectrum360 site at the corner of Bloomfield and Sunset avenues abuts an area of many expensive homes.

Verona, like most other municipalities in New Jersey, has been under pressure to build more affordable housing, a residence that a household can afford by paying 30% of its income, or less, on rent or a mortgage. The Cameco development on the west side of town will enable Verona to meet its current affordable housing obligations, but it has been costly: Because of the collapse of an orderly state process under former Governor Christie, Verona has spent $18 million to buy properties to develop as affordable housing or keep out of development.  On Monday, the Town Council approved a resolution to demand that the state legislature assume responsibility for providing affordable housing and not individual towns.

At the same Council meeting, Township Manager Matthew Cavallo urged residents to attend to Planning Board meeting, but he cautioned that rumors about the project have been circulated. “We recognize that this project is going to change the visual appearance of the property, alter traffic patterns, alter the landscaping and make changes in the appearance and function of the property,” Cavallo said, “but I can assure you that the township has spent an extraordinary amount of time working tirelessly with our professionals to address all of these concerns. Furthermore, the township will be continuing to work on this matter and take every opportunity that presents itself to further address the concerns brought by the public.” After the Planning Board completes its review, there will be another hearing in front of the Town Council, likely in early March.

In addition to the Zoom link, residents can also join the meeting by phone at 1(312)626-6799 or 1(646)558-8656. Use Zoom Meeting ID: 978-1430-2826, when prompted for a Participant ID, press #. Documents for the meeting can be viewed at www.VeronaNJ.org/planningboarddocuments.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mis-stated the developer payment to Verona. It was reduced to $3.25 million when the project was scaled down to 200 apartments from 300.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

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