A project by Iron Ore Properties LLC will bring 39 new apartments and a group home to a one-acre site at 201 Walnut Ave. in Cranford. — Courtesy: Iron Ore
By Joshua Burd
Iron Ore Properties LLC has secured construction financing for a project that will bring 39 new apartments to downtown Cranford, in the latest piece of a four-phase redevelopment.
According to the firm, its plans at 201 Walnut Ave. include oversized, multistory brownstone-style units and large traditional apartments, as well as an outdoor terrace and a club room. The development is also slated to include a four-bed group home with its own access, plus two additional independent living units integrated into the development.
Construction is now underway at the site, which is a block from Cranford’s train station and spans one acre on Chestnut Street between Walnut Avenue and High Street, with completion slated for late 2024. At that time, the project will bring new life to a site that previously housed an abandoned bank branch, offices and large surface parking lot.
Lakeland Bank provided the financing. Iron Ore Construction LLC, an affiliate of Iron Ore Properties, is the general contractor, while BlackBird Group Architects designed the building with French & Parrello as site engineers and Dynamic Engineering as traffic engineers.
Jason Tuvel of Prime & Tuvel provided land use counsel.
“It was important for us to create a development that transitions from the single-family neighborhood to the south of us into the downtown,” said Brandon Boffard, a partner with Millburn-based Iron Ore, who spearheaded the project for the firm. “We believe the design provides that transition while also providing some of the largest apartment sizes in Union County.”
The brownstone-style units will be roughly 1,700 square feet, he said, adding: “The demand in Cranford continues to outpace supply, and 201 Walnut’s uniqueness in the marketplace will help meet that demand.”
Iron Ore is the designated redeveloper of the property as well as the entire block of South Avenue between Walnut Avenue and High Street, according to a news release. As part of its redevelopment designation, the firm is contributing $400,000 toward a major municipal flood mitigation project in the neighborhood.
The project’s first and second phases opened in 2019 and 2021, respectively. They include The Albero, a 24-unit property with more than 5,000 square feet of retail space at 109 Walnut Ave. and a 7,500-square-foot retail space at 100-104 South Ave. that now houses the successful Vine & Oak restaurant and South Avenue Dental.
The fourth phase, which is slated to include 55 apartments plus another 5,500 square feet of retail along South Avenue and curving around High Street, has all municipal approvals, the news release said. Iron Ore expects to start construction in late 2024.
In total, the redevelopment will create 118 apartments plus nearly 20,000 square feet of retail within a block of the train station.
“We designed 201 Walnut for flood resiliency — not only for our own property but also as part of Cranford’s larger plans for the neighborhood,” said Josh Sternberg, co-managing member of Iron Ore. “We are heavily invested in downtown Cranford and are long-term holders, so it was important to us and our investment to ensure we were fully coordinated with Cranford’s ambitious plans.”
A third party will operate the group home within the third phase, Iron Ore said. Including the fourth phase along South Avenue, the project has a 20 percent inclusionary set-aside for affordable housing as part of Cranford’s Fair Share Housing Center settlement.
“201 Walnut presents a rare opportunity to build a group home so close to mass transit,” Iron Ore Co-Managing Member Josh Mann said. “Building a group home near mass transit and the downtown is not only great for the residents, but important for their families as it makes visiting the residents much easier and accessible.”