Downtown Mount Holly redevelopment could start with warehouse-to-apartments plan

Downtown Mount Holly redevelopment could start with warehouse-to-apartments plan

MOUNT HOLLY, NJ- A vacant old warehouse on Washington Street formerly used by Lakes Appliance will be converted into 36 loft-style apartments in what officials said would be the first major project in the effort to revitalize the downtown area.

Femmoor Properties LLC, of Jackson, Ocean County, is scheduled to appear before the Planning Board on March 21 for preliminary approval to build the apartments in the three-story warehouse, according to the company’s legal counsel, Lew Kurland.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the municipal building on Washington Street.

The company, which is also developing apartments at the former Mount Holly Gardens in what is referred to as the West End Redevelopment Project, purchased the 1.3-acre site last year from Cornerstone Bank, Kurland said.

“It’s a good way to start off the redevelopment of the downtown,” he said of the proposal, pending its approval.

The developer has become familiar with Mount Holly with its project off Levis Drive and the Route 541 Bypass constructed as part of the Gardens redevelopment. Kurland said he sees the Washington Street project as a good opportunity for the company.

If approved, the development would be called Mi-Place at the Turbine Lofts. Femmoor’s development off Levis Drive and the bypass is called Mi-Place at West Rancocas.

As proposed, Femmoor would gut the warehouse and make landscaping improvements, company officials said. The dilapidated warehouse has been vacant for several years.

It is one of the eyesores that officials have targeted for redevelopment in an effort to revitalize the downtown.

“We need more density downtown to support our businesses and to take our vacant properties and tum them into tax ratables,” Deputy Mayor Rich DiFolco said. “The Town Council has been talking about revitalizing the downtown, and this is just one part of that effort…. This is the first one. I am more than certain that after this starts more will follow.”

Carol Gephart, director of sales and marketing for Femmoor, said final details are still being worked out, including parking. An adjacent parking lot will be used in the plans, but Gephart was not yet certain how many parking spaces will be provided.

“We’re very excited about the possibilities,” she said. “It’s a great building….We’re excited about what the potential is for redevelopment of downtown Mount Holly as well.”

The town offers a “great location” close to major highways and travel to Princeton, New York, Philadelphia and the shore, Gephart said.

The proposal includes 23 one-bedroom apartments, two with lofts; five two-bedroom units; and eight studio apartments on the first floor. The apartments would have an industrial feel, with most being about 700 to 800 square feet and seven being over 1,000 square feet, she said. Landscaping upgrades would be included; the property is next to a small branch of the Rancocas Creek.

None of the apartments are slated as affordable units, and rental amounts are not yet available, Gephart said. If approved, the project could possibly be constructed in 2017, she said.

Although the legal notice was submitted for preliminary and final subdivision approval, the company will likely seek only preliminary approval on March 21, Kurland said. A use variance is needed because an apartment building is not a permitted zoning use for the site.

The property is in a 30-acre part of downtown that the Township Council has declared in need of redevelopment. Under state law, an area in need of redevelopment can be eligible for certain funding, tax abatements, and different treatment under planning regulations.

DiFolco said that section of Washington Street has been a concern with all its vacant industrial buildings.

“That was always an eyesore, that whole piece,” he said. “I’m so happy it’s finally moving along.”

DiFolco said he believes the project would attract young professionals as tenants and boost downtown businesses and the overall appearance of the area.

He also said the township received state money last year totaling $580,000 to go toward projects such as improving sidewalks and streets downtown and working with developers to rehabilitate vacant buildings.

“We’re happy to be able to finally see progress on the redevelopment of downtown,” DiFolco said, adding that the aim is to attract projects that can improve the community and help businesses.

By Rose Krebs, staff writer I Posted: Monday, March 14, 2016 5:45 am