Planning Board Hearing on Easton Avenue Apartment Proposal

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—More than ten years after a fire destroyed two buildings on Easton Avenue, the property owner is formally asking to build a four-story mixed-use structure in their place.

If the plans are approved by the city's Planning Board at their February 26 meeting, David Abisleiman would be permitted to build an 18-unit apartment building with two storefronts on the ground level on the 9,500 square foot piece of prime real estate, along the busy street.

The variance application is the only item on the agenda for the board's 7:30pm meeting, which will be held on the top floor of City Hall. The hearing is open to the public, and anyone is permitted to ask questions or make comments about the proposal.

Abisleiman is asking the board for permission to build a four-story apartment building on the site of a former restaurant (Teresa's) and coffee shop (Cafe 52) that were badly damaged in the March 2004 fire.

New Brunswick officials ordered the buildings be demolished after the blaze and since then the site has sat vacant. 

For years, the land has been in the Abisleiman family, which has operated the popular restaurant Evelyn's for decades.  According to property records, it was sold to David, a Somerset resident, for $1 in 2007.

The hearing, and a vote of the board, are required because the project needs four variances, including Parking, Loading, Building Height, and Accessory Structure Height.

The new building would be located in between Kati Roll and a former New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA) lot that has served as a construction staging area for the development of a 16-story highrise fronted on Somerset Street.

The developer of the neighboring highrise, Boraie Development, actually fought against Abisleiman's proposal, forcing the Planning Board to delay a scheduled hearing on the application in September due to litigation between the two property owners.

That litigation has now been settled, according to Peter Lanfrit, who represents Abisleiman.

The board, which has been occupied for months with a controversial application to build a four-story building on Mine Street, scheduled the extra meeting to accomodate Abisleiman's application for the required variances.

Unlike the Mine Street proposal, the plans for 50 Easton Avenue include no on-site parking, even though the city's zoning ordinance would normally require 59.3 spaces for the residents and visitors to the building.

But Lanfrit said future residents will know when they sign up to live there that parking is not available at the site.

Mitch Karon, the NBPA's Executive Director, confirmed that the city agency will offer "up to 18 non – exclusive spaces in either Gateway or Wellness garages depending on availability at the time the project is completed."

"The users would pay market rate that is in effect when needed," said Karon.

Lanfrit said he also thinks his client's "target market" would include many people who don't need cars, including local workers, people who would take the train to New York City, and Rutgers University students. 

Though the building height variance is required because the elevator shaft protrudes above the building's roof, original plans called for an even taller building.

"We originally started with a six-story building," said Lanfrit.

Lanfrit said the apartments will include a mix of 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom units.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.