New London Road plan moves ahead
A plan to more than triple the size of the Campus Walk student townhouse complex on New London Road moved forward earlier this month.
Despite concerns about its density and the impact it could have on traffic, the planning commission voted in favor of the project, which will need final approval from city council.
“These developments that are going in are replacing, in many instances, homes that are decrepit and falling apart and not something that we want to hang a shingle on for the city,” Planning Commissioner Frank McIntosh said. “They are making our city look a lot better.”
Developer Kevin Mayhew is proposing to remove 11 rental homes at 83-105 New
London Road, located on the west side of New London Road between St. John AUMP Church and Corbit Street.
In their place, Mayhew would build 28 townhousestyle apartments. The 12 townhouses along New London Road would have five bedrooms each, while the 16 units behind them would have four bedrooms each.
Each unit would have a two-car garage, and the plan also includes a 22-space parking lot, which exceeds the required parking.
Known as Campus Walk II, the townhouses would be adjacent to, and modeled after, the original 12-unit Campus Walk complex, which was built in 2013. The six-bedroom units at the original complex rent for $4,284 per month.
“We think this is consistent with the character,” said John Tracey, an attorney for the developer. “It certainly builds upon what you find in the Campus Walk I community and it features taking older structures and certainly bringing a more modern yet, I think, fine architectural touch to these areas.”
Also as part of the plan, Mayhew would move one of the New London Road homes to nearby Wilson Street to replace an older house there.
“We’re relocating it here because it’s actually not that old,” Tracey said. “So it makes more sense to kind of pick it up and move it and place in the location as opposed to tearing down and building another house there.”
Mayhew would donate 5,000 square feet of land bordering St. John AUMP to the church to be used for future expansion.
The property is zoned correctly, but the project requires an amendment to the comprehensive development plan to allow a higher density.
Mayhew is also requesting relief through the site plan approval process, which is an alternative to requesting individual variances. The project is non-compliant with a number of requirements, including maximum lot coverage, distance between buildings, maximum open area, parking/loading setback, exterior lot lines, minimum lot area, minimum lot width, rear yard, and side yard.
Commissioner Robert Stozek said the project has too many areas in which it is noncompliant.
“We see this over and over again,” Stozek said. “Why do we have codes when we’re constantly violating them?”
Commissioner Bob Cronin said the density concerns him.
“Higher density, yes, but I think it’s just too darn dense,” Cronin said. “I think it’s just squeezed in too much and too tight.”
Edgar Small, whose West Main Street home backs up to the project site, expressed concern about the effect on traffic and stormwater, as well as the loss of landscaping.
“I’m not against development,” Small said. “I like when things are made to look nicer in your community. I think that adds value. But I think it has to be done in the context of what the regulations are.”
Ultimately, the planning commission voted 6-1 to recommend council approve the comprehensive plan amendment. The board also voted 4-3 to recommend approval of a major subdivision with site plan approval. A date for consideration by council has not yet been set.
If approved, the project would cement Mayhew’s dominance of the student housing market on New London Road. Mayhew owns nearly the entire west side of the road between Hillside Road and the George Wilson Center, including the two Campus Walk sites as well as the Campus Side and Emily Bell Place complexes. He also owns rental homes on Wilson Street and Corbit Street.
The area is part of the historically African-American community surrounding New London Road and Cleveland Avenue. During the days of segregation, it was a safe haven for black Newarkers, who formed a tight-knit community there.
In recent years, however, developers have bought up many of the homes to rent to university students or redevelop into large student housing complexes.
As part of an agreement with the Newark Housing Authority, which sold Mayhew one of the homes he is proposing to demolish, Mayhew will install a historical marker honoring the history of the area.
Under federal law, agencies that use federal money are required to consider the impact on historic structures before selling a property. NHA, along with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, held a public meeting last year to discuss the property and ways to mitigate the impact of its sale.
Such mitigation can be as simple as installing a sign or holding a public event to commemorate the history of the area, a HUD representative said at the time.
An artist’s rendering shows the townhouses planned for New London Road.