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Council OKs plan for New London Road townhouses

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City council on Monday approved a developer’s proposal to build more student-focused housing on New London Road.

The project involves a half-acre property located at the southeast corner of New London Road and Ray Street. It currently contains three two-story, four-bedroom houses, all of which are used as student rental properties and rent for $2,400 per month.

Developer Kevin Heitzenroder plans to renovate the existing houses and build two more two-story units between them, creating a five-unit townhouse complex. The additional units will have five bedrooms each.

Heitzenroder, who also redeveloped the Newark Elks Club property on Cleveland Avenue and owns a number of other rental properties around Newark, said the project will make a gateway to Newark look more aesthetically pleasing.

“I have been in business in this town for over 25 years now, and I think we have a reputation for operating a very tight ship in terms of tenant selection and expectations on behavior,” Heitzenroder said. “We’re excited that this will be new construction. We’ve also found that these types of projects have better applicants apply that want to live in these nice new units.”

The project includes the required three parking spaces per unit, and the parking lot will be accessed via Ray Street. The city’s planning department said it does not anticipate any substantial impact on traffic.

The development is in an area that was once a close-knit African-American community but has now largely been taken over by student housing projects. The site is next to Mt. Zion church and across the street from the Campus Walk student housing complex, which is currently being expanded.

The project required approval of a minor subdivision and a change in the comprehensive plan from low-density to high-density. It also required relief from several code requirements, including lot coverage, minimum lot size, building setback and side yard size.

City council, in a meeting held by teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic, approved the project without opposition. Mayor Jerry Clifton was absent.

Several council members noted they’ve heard no negative feedback about the project, which is relatively rare for a development proposal in Newark.

Councilman Jason Lawhorn, who represents many of the surrounding neighborhoods, said some residents told him they are happy to see the site get “a facelift.”

“It’s a convenient location that adds beds that hopefully continue to ease the burden on our suburban residential neighborhoods that would prefer not to have student rentals,” Lawhorn said.

Councilman James Horning Jr. added that the project makes good use of the property.

“It’s infilling useless dead space there between the homes,” Horning said.

Heitzenroder said he hopes to begin work on the project this summer, getting the bulk of construction done over the summer and finishing interior work within nine months.

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