A rendering of Avalon Somerville, a 374-unit apartment community by AvalonBay Communities Inc., part of a sprawling redevelopment in downtown Somerville by Somerset Development — Courtesy: AvalonBay
By Joshua Burd
Somerset Development has completed the sale of 15 acres in downtown Somerville to AvalonBay Communities Inc., paving the way for the construction of 374 apartments and other uses that will anchor a long-awaited redevelopment project.
With the acquisition, AvalonBay is set to break ground on the rental property as well as a new civic center, street-level retail, a public plaza and NJ Transit parking facilities, according to a news release. The project will be adjacent to the borough’s train station, part of what is the largest mixed-use development ever approved by the municipality.
“AvalonBay is very pleased to be developing another TOD rental community at the Somerville train station within walking distance from the vibrant Somerville downtown,” said Ludivine O’Toole, development director at AvalonBay. She added that Avalon Somerville will have layouts ranging from studios to three bedrooms, with amenities such as a large fitness center, co-working space, a lounge, a heated outdoor pool and others.
The milestone follows Somerset Development’s acquisition of 31 acres in the downtown from NJ Transit, which closed in summer 2019. The project, known as Somerville Station, is more than a decade in the making and will serve to redevelop a piece of an 80-acre former landfill site bounded by NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley line, South Bridge Street and Route 206.
Plans for the site also call for 156 townhomes by PulteGroup, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, with sizes ranging from 1,004 to 1,930 square feet. Construction is already underway, the developers said, noting that the first homes are expected to close in early 2021.
“We are thrilled to partner with Somerset Development and AvalonBay to bring this long-anticipated redevelopment to life,” PulteGroup Vice President of Acquisitions Corey Wescoe said. “This contemporary townhome community will feature innovative floorplans at the foot of the Somerville train station, while also providing residents with direct walkability to Somerville’s vibrant main street business district.”
Somerset previously partnered with both AvalonBay and Pulte in its high-profile Wesmont Station project, a redevelopment of a 67-acre former Curtiss-Wright aircraft plant in Wood-Ridge. The firm secured approvals for the Somerville project in May 2018, drawing broad support for the transit-oriented redevelopment plan.
“This project is the product of more than 30 years of complex planning and collaboration among the borough, NJ Transit and various stakeholders,” said Ken Gold, vice president of acquisitions and development for Somerset Development. “AvalonBay’s land acquisition means that the vision for this site is finally coming to fruition — something that will be celebrated throughout the entire Somerville community.
“In addition to providing high-quality housing within steps of public transit, Somerville Station will create a gateway to the borough’s downtown, further invigorating what is already one of the state’s most desirable places to live.”
In a news release, the developer noted that the shared parking structure will replace the existing NJ Transit commuter parking lot, allowing commuters to access the train station uninterrupted throughout construction. Meanwhile, the new 4,000-square-foot civic center will provide needed space for future borough council and municipal boards meetings.
“After many years of planning the redevelopment of the whole landfill site, the borough council and I are happy to see the various elements of this exciting project starting to be built,” Somerville Mayor Dennis Sullivan said. “With its variety of housing options, as well as new civic and community space, this project will further enhance the walkable lifestyle we promote throughout the borough. Somerset Development and its partners have been sensitive to Somerville’s current and future needs by incorporating these elements into its design.”