Highland Park Engaged in Development – For Better or For Worse?

Oct. 31 update to story that first appeared on Oct. 29:

The Highland Park Planning Board will convene a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. in the borough municipal building. The purpose is to discuss and have a public hearing about the proposed changes in the Master Plan that would be necessary to accommodate the American Properties’ Builder’s Remedy lawsuit settlement being considered by the Highland Park Borough Council and Planning Board.

October, 29, 2014
Highland Park, NJ, is about to experience a growth spurt in residential development. By 2024, the community could have over 500 new residential units bringing as many as 1,000 new residents, along with new traffic and an undetermined number of school students. However, the new development also could bring more vibrancy and economic benefits to the downtown and more dollars to the municipal coffers. The mix of positive and negative attributes depends on the specifics of each development, including its location relative to the downtown, size, design, assessed valuation, and any other subsidies or benefits that go to, or come from, the developer. In addition, the new projects would include about 50 affordable units to serve low-and-moderate income individuals.

However, it is noteworthy that two of the projects – Pulte’s The Crossings (under construction) and the American Properties Cleveland Avenue (seeking approvals) – are the products of developer “builder’s remedy” lawsuits brought against the municipality for its failure to comply in a timely manner with the State of New Jersey affordable housing mandates.  If a municipality is not in compliance with State law regarding the provision of affordable housing, a developer has the right to sue and build a development that is not in compliance with the local zoning (particularly the density) , as long as the development includes a significant amount of affordable housing. Complicating the settlement agreements is the fact that after the suits were filed it was determined that the town actually met New Jersey’s mandates for the provision of affordable units, but simply failed to file its plan in a timely manner.

The development projects are at different stages of completion, as indicated below, such as under construction, recently in receipt of site plan approval, seeking site plan approval, and seeking zoning changes to allow the project to proceed.

Over the next several weeks Highland Park Planet will be examining these new development proposals in detail, along with the efforts of the citizens and elected officials to make sure that the growth occurs in a way that benefits the entire community. We begin the series with a simple overview of the various developments – what is being proposed, where, and by whom?

The map below shows the locations of the new development. The size of the circles corresponds to the relative number of new residential units being constructed.  However, two of these projects – The Halpern/YMHA site and The American Properties development have not yet received final approval, even though Halpern is much further along in the process.



The Crossings

  • 812 North Second Avenue.
  • 82 Townhomes; 12 single family homes; 5 affordable units.
  • Developer -Pulte Homes, a subsidiary of PulteGroup. According to its website, PulteGroup Inc. is a leader in energy-efficient homebuilding that has won more awards for customer satisfaction than any other homebuilder.
  • Project has all approvals and is under construction. The residences are now pre-selling for $334,990 – $639,990.

The Merriewold at Highland Park/ “The Castle”

  • 433 River Road.
  • 196 apartments; 30 affordable units.
  • Developer – Kaplan Companies. According to its website, “the Kaplan name has become synonymous with top quality homes and long-term value in today’s residential market….making the American Dream a reality….”
  • Not yet under construction, received preliminary and final site plan approval at the Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2014 Planning Board meeting.

YMHA Site Redevelopment Project

  • Along the Raritan River, Adelaide Avenue, former YMHA site on south side of Raritan Avenue
  • 24 townhomes, two affordable units.
  • Developer – JMH Development/Halpern. According to its website, JMH is a leading, full-service real estate development company…an innovative approach to creating distinctive properties in the luxury category…well known in the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Miami Beach markets…(with a) focus on adaptive reuse projects and restoration of historic properties.
  • Preliminary site plan approval, no final site plan approval and not yet scheduled for a final site plan review. Halpern agreed to be responsible for dealing with the NJ Department of Transportation to improve the appearance of “the Wall” along the Raritan Avenue Bridge that welcomes vehicles to the South Side Highland Park.

American Properties Site

  • Cleveland Avenue on North Side of town
  • 100 -110 units, for rent and/or for sale depending upon the terms of an Affordable Housing agreement; five to seven affordable units. The size of the tract of land is 7.5 acres. The density would be 14.5 units per acre.
  • Developer – American Properties. According to its website, American properties has a “40-year tradition of delivering excellent quality, convenient locations and affordable pricing for New Jersey homebuyers…..one of the first luxury green homebuilders in the Garden State.”
  • Project has no approvals yet; the site is not yet zoned for housing, it is currently zoned as light industrial. It has been tied up in an affordable housing lawsuit for the past five years, a lawsuit that was filed by American Properties against Borough Council and the Planning Board for the town’s failure to fulfill its state-mandated affordable housing obligation. Further discussion of the lawsuit and settlement will take place at the Wednesday Nov. 12 Council meeting (Note this meeting was rescheduled from Council’s usual meeting night because of the Election.)

5 thoughts on “Highland Park Engaged in Development – For Better or For Worse?

  1. Pingback: Local Beat: Highland Park Planet Digs In, and a Funeral Director’s Funeral | NJ News Commons

  2. I would be interested in knowing the square footage of the townhouses and how many bedrooms they have.