A plan to build 30 apartments and additional retail space at the corner of Main Street and Tyre Avenue moved forward last week, as the planning commission recommended city council approve the plan.
The project from Lang Development Group would change the face of the one-acre property owned by Fulton Bank.
The current 2,400-square-foot bank building would be demolished and replaced with a three-story building containing 6,000 square feet of retail space and covered parking spaces on the first floor, with apartments on the second and third floors.
Fulton Bank would return to the new building, taking up about half the retail space, and it would be joined by a second, yet-to-be determined tenant. The bank would have a drive-thru window, as it does now.
Meanwhile a rear parking lot would extend into a grassy and wooded area behind several Tyre Avenue houses. That area is part of the bank property but is currently undeveloped.
“We think the project is a nice addition to the street,” developer Jeff Lang said. “It allows a long-standing commercial tenant to re-energize their branch and maintain a very visible part of the community. It allows them to really increase their customer base, we hope, and continue on as a bank here in Newark for many years to come. We also think the site fits with many of the other mixed use buildings.”
Lang said Fulton Bank has lent him money for several of his other development projects and approached him about redeveloping its property.
“We’re trying to help the bank and redevelop it and re-energize it and also add some additional components to the community,” he said.
Lang first designed a four-story building with 42 units but scaled it back after determining that he couldn’t meet the parking requirements of a larger building.
Fourteen of the 30 apartments in the current proposal would have three bedrooms, and the rest would have two, for a total of 74 bedrooms.
“We could have easily done larger units here, but we thought there’s a larger need for these two and three-bedroom units rather than four, five or six-bedroom units,” Lang said. “We’re seeing in our portfolio a huge demand for two and three-bedroom units, be it college students, graduate students or even young professionals.”
The project requires city council to rezone the property from limited business to central business district, as well as approve a comprehensive development plan amendment, major subdivision and special-use permit for apartments. However, no variances or other code relief are being sought.
The property includes the required 90 parking spaces, including five that are being rented from a nearby law office.
“We think this will be a very nice product mix for the community,” Lang said.
Several Tyre Avenue residents, however, expressed concerns about the project.
“Mr. Lang is not a good neighbor,” said Priscilla Onizuk, whose property is adjacent to Lang’s existing apartment complex at 257 E. Main St. “His ground crew blows their leaves in my yard and blows their trash in my yard.”
Onizuk also expressed concern for the animals that live in the undeveloped portion of the site, claiming she’s seen rabbits, groundhogs and even coyotes frequent the property.
“I don’t want them scattered all over my neighborhood,” she said. “I want them humanely taken care of and dispersed in another area.”
Theresa McCollum voiced concerns over lighting and security.
"I know there is going to be a lot of college students, and I’ve got to say, I’ve had problems with the college students already,” McCollum said. “They’ve stolen a couple rocking chairs from me and then they hit my garage. I need proper security from Mr. Lang and also proper lighting, because it literally butts up against my property.”
Tina Jackson, who has lived in her home for 25 years, said she wishes the new building would be set back further from the road like the current bank is.
“I love Tyre Avenue. I don’t want to be anywhere else. We like to walk up to the corner and when you get up to the corner, there’s a lot of grassy area, and it’s a nice way to end our walk,” Jackson said. “I would prefer it not be right at the edges, that it be back enough that we don’t lose the rose bushes and all the other greenery and plants that are already there.”
Lang said he will install security cameras and use LED lighting that is shielded from neighboring properties. He promised to work with neighbors to address concerns about the project and his other nearby properties.
“We’re Newark residents; we try to stand up behind the projects we do,” he said. “When you do a project adjacent to people’s residences, it’s a very significant point of concern. We need to work with all of you on our construction schedule.”
Ultimately, the planning commission endorsed the project without opposition.
“I like how it’s completing the street,” Commissioner Will Hurd said. “The current bank has always looked a little off, sitting there like a suburban bank in the middle of a parking lot on Main Street.”
Commissioner Alan Silverman said Lang’s project could do for the east end of Main Street what several recent projects have done to revive South Main Street.
“I like the extension of the central business district into this area,” Silverman said.
Commissioner Tom Wampler said he appreciated that the project is code-compliant.
“I just want to say how refreshing it is to get a project before us where we don’t have to deal with a lot of variances,” Wampler said.
The project will now move on to city council for final approval. The date of the vote has not yet been announced.