Bringing New Life to a Former Industrial Site
For decades, Metuchen Borough in Middlesex County, New Jersey, wanted to revitalize a derelict 7-acre industrial property, making it more compatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood and adjoining wildlife preserve.
Now, through a public-private partnership, it’s working with development firm Klein Enterprises — and leveraging Bohler’s local knowledge, environmental regulatory experience, and site planning and entitlement expertise — to make it happen.
In collaboration with Metuchen Realty Advisors and Middlesex County, Metuchen Borough and Klein Enterprises developed a plan to transform the former Gulton battery warehouse and factory site into a 5-story, 272-unit apartment complex and recreational space. The project is poised to become a landmark destination that blends natural beauty, historical significance, and modern amenities, including a community garden, a dog park, more than 50 electric vehicle charging stations, six makerspace units, a pollinator garden, rooftop terraces, a pool, and ample outdoor gathering space.
Additionally, the project will include improvements to the adjoining 120-acre Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve, which contains the largest contiguous wetlands in northern Middlesex County. Per the development agreement, these improvements include a public access point to the preserve, parking spaces, walking paths, trails, recreational space, and an extension to the existing Middlesex Greenway — a 3.5-mile-long historic portion of the Lehigh Valley Railroad that is now part of the county’s ‘rails to trails’ project.
Expediting Flood Permitting
Achieving this vision on a site that adjoins an environmentally protected area has posed several challenges, the most significant of which involved a regulated stream, Dismal Brook, and its associated Flood Hazard Area (FHA). Adding complexity was the impending adoption of New Jersey’s Inland Flood Protection Rule (IFP Rule), which stated that flood elevations would increase by two feet in some areas, a change that would have significantly impacted the developable area of the site and its future development potential — if not for the Bohler’s quick action.
Upon news of the impending NJDEP regulations, our team worked swiftly to assemble the required documents for application.
— Nora Ahmed, Project Manager
The Bohler team prepared and submitted the FHA application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for FHA Verification and Individual Permit (IP). Leveraging its familiarity with the environmental permitting process, the team turned the application around in less than four weeks and submitted it to the state before the NJDEP adopted the IFP ruling in July 2023. If the permit hadn’t been secured in time, much of the site would have been undevelopable, risking the feasibility of the project.
“Upon news of the impending NJDEP regulations, our team worked swiftly to assemble the required plans, reports, and documents for the application to submit prior to the adoption of the new regulations, says Nora Ahmed, Project Manager in Bohler’s Ridgewood office. “Had this not been done, the higher flood elevations would have made it extremely difficult to achieve a zero-net fill volume condition given all the other site constraints. Upon submission of the application documents, our team’s diligence in communicating with the DEP review team was crucial to address technical comments they had during the limited 120-day permit review window.”
Addressing Environmental Challenges
The preserve isn’t the only thing impacting the site from an environmental standpoint. Home to a battery warehouse and factory that operated for nearly a century, the property required significant environmental remediation. Partners from Metuchen Realty Advisors and Klein Enterprises collaborated with an environmental team and spent more than $10 million to clean up the property, work that included dredging and remediating Dismal Brook and planting thousands of tree saplings.
“Our site engineers collaborated with the environmental team to carefully design flood storage areas close to the site’s shallow groundwater table while adhering to other pre-existing site constraints that limited changes to layout, grading, and drainage considerations,” Nora says. “Our design entirely eliminated the need for stormwater conveyance systems.
Did you know? A flood storage area is part of the mapped floodplain that identifies the natural flood storage capacity of that area of the watershed.
Based on New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) guidelines, residential developments must have a finished floor elevation (FFE) as well as circulation access into and around the site, that are completely outside of the Flood Hazard Area. To achieve this, a significant amount of fill material was required to elevate the building pad and surrounding circulation aisles along Durham Avenue, necessitating an excavation equal in earthwork volume from the landscape areas next to Dismal Brook. Because these areas had shallow groundwater, our team designed flood storage areas around this site constraint to make sure that the design still met all regulatory requirements.
Our design entirely eliminated the need for stormwater conveyance systems.
— Nora Ahmed, Project Manager
Moving Metuchen Forward
While Metuchen has an industrial history, this project is the latest example of how the borough has made great strides over the last few decades to convert its former industrial sites into plazas, squares, office spaces, and parks. Slated for completion in 2025, this project will help contribute to Metuchen’s reputation as a desirable New Jersey community.
This is an example of a public-private partnership that will be a true benefit to our community.
— Jonathan M. Busch, Metuchen Mayor
This project is “enabling us to open the largest recreational space in Metuchen, fund a variety of important infrastructure projects throughout the Borough, and help protect our environment, all while providing our community with new housing options that will give many people the freedom to stay in the very community where they grew up and open doors for new neighbors,” Metuchen Mayor Jonathan M. Busch told Real Estate NJ. “This is an example of a public-private partnership that will be a true benefit to our community.”
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