The Ewing Township Planning Board has approved a plan to redevelop the General Motors site on Parkway Avenue with a massive mixed-use town center.
The project, called Parkway Town Center, will be developed by Atlantic Realty and calls for the construction of 1,184 residential rental units, 94,750 square feet of retail and 14,375 square feet of offices, to be built in five phases. At least 10 percent of the housing would be set aside for state-mandated low- and moderate-income housing.
The approval comes some two decades after General Motors shut down operations on the 80-acre tract, and almost two years after it was originally proposed by Lennar Corp.
In early 2014, the Ewing Township Redevelopment Agency approved a concept plan by Lennar to build the town center, but that plan never reached the planning board. Lennar opted to bow out of the deal due to changing market conditions and escalating environmental cleanup costs, said Charles Latini, planning consultant for Ewing Township.
The original plan was for Lennar to build the for-sale townhouse units and partner with Atlantic Realty to construct the multifamily properties.
Atlantic, which primarily builds and manages rental projects, expressed interest in developing the town center after Lennar’s exit, but wanted to develop the residential portion of the site with all rentals.
Latini said the township worked with Atlantic over the past year to come up with an all-rental plan that is in keeping with the township’s vision for the site. “We wanted to make sure this thing stays a town center and not a development where some developer puts a gate up and says, ‘this is ours, keep out.’”
The planning board on Sept. 14 granted preliminary approval for the entire plan and final approval for the first phase, which means that construction can start immediately. Latini said he expects that the developer will begin building structures by the spring and could start site work even sooner.
Under the first phase, Atlantic will build 164 residential dwelling units (including 22 affordable units) and a community green. The developer will also build the extension of Silvia Street, which is being funded by the township.
Atlantic must appear before the planning board in the future to get final approval for subsequent phases. Construction of retail and commercial portions of the site won’t start until the second phase. All of the commercial construction will be built at the front of the site, mostly ground floor retail along Parkway Avenue to create a main street-like atmosphere similar to the town center project in Robbinsville.
Under phase two, Atlantic plans to build 446 residential units (including 81 units above a four-story mixed use building and 59 affordable units). Also in this phase are 33,174 square feet of ground floor retail and 6,300 square feet of offices.
The third phase calls for 270 residential dwelling units (including 29 affordable units), 7,167 square feet of ground floor retail and 6,300 square feet of offices uses.
In phase four, the developer would build 192 residential units (including 110 units above a four-story, mixed-use building, 16 of which would be affordable. Also constructed would be 68,752 square feet of ground floor retail space, 32,000 square feet of storage space for the exclusive use of the residents of the center and a maintenance building.
The fifth phase calls for 90 residential dwelling units.
Atlantic has also agreed to eliminate one of the residential buildings along the train tracks near the front for construction of a new West Trenton train station if the state ever moves forward with plans to expand the line for service to run between New York and Philadelphia.
Latini, who has advocated for a town center on the property since GM announced it was closing in the 1990s, said he is pleased with the project.
“Coming from a person who’s thought about this site probably more than anybody else has thought about it, I am 95 percent happy with this development. And in my field, if I’m 60 percent happy with the way a plan gets translated on the ground it’s pretty good.”