Burlington unveils residential project to support downtown revitalization

Jessica Perry//August 27, 2014

Conceptual artwork of the Pearl Pointe project.

Conceptual artwork of the Pearl Pointe project.

Burlington unveils residential project to support downtown revitalization

Jessica Perry//August 27, 2014

Burlington Mayor James Fazzone recalls a recent conversation with his son, an upwardly mobile 30-something with a Ph.D. in molecular biology.“He said, ‘Dad, I’m moving to Robbinsville … you don’t have any apartments here for millennials,’ ” he said. “And he loves Burlington. He’d love to stay here.”

Fazzone tells the story with a laugh, but he knows it speaks to a serious need. The South Jersey city has long been without the type of modern, high-end housing that can attract young professionals who bring their streets to life. And its absence has become more glaring amid Burlington’s recent strides to spruce up the other parts of its downtown.

But that missing piece is finally on the horizon, Fazzone said. On Tuesday, city officials formally unveiled plans for a new 183-unit residential community near the Delaware River, one that will help fill a void in a redevelopment effort years in the making.

The project by Peron Development calls for two buildings on what are now empty lots at High Street and Pearl Boulevard, placing tenants a few blocks from NJ Transit’s River Line light rail. The property, known as Pearl Pointe, also will have 8,000 square feet of retail space.

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“We’re really looking forward to having them get started as soon as they possibly can because they’ll round out the entire redevelopment that’s taking place right now,” Fazzone said. “You’re going to see huge changes within 18 months.”

Efforts to redevelop Burlington, a city of about 10,000, go back several years. Capitalizing on its history and appeal as a tourism destination — it goes back to the colonial days, with ties to the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Ulysses Grant — local officials have focused on beautifying its waterfront and creating a restaurant district. The restaurant group that operates Porta in Asbury Park is planning to open a location there.

But Burlington’s redevelopment team has since turned to residential projects, which have been hard to come by in past years. John Callahan, a representative for the developer, said “the type of product that we’re going to build in Pearl Pointe doesn’t really exist” in Burlington, but the team thinks it will appeal to both millennials and empty-nesters seeking to downsize.

“It’s important to get people living in the downtown with discretionary income and feet on the street, which is going to then in turn help the restaurants and help the retail district, in particular, along High Street,” said Callahan, director of business development for the law firm Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader.

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Pearl Pointe is not the only new residential construction coming to Burlington. In May, developer Ingerman broke ground on a 65-unit affordable housing complex at the site of an underused mill structure.

And Jim Kennedy, the city’s redevelopment consultant, said a developer will soon present a plan for 70 units of live-work housing for artists near the downtown. All told, he believes Burlington’s infrastructure could support 1,000 to 1,200 new units.

The team also notes that Pearl Pointe will offer modern living, but with a design that fits Burlington’s historic fabric. Callahan said that includes brick exteriors that match the texture of the downtown and exterior doors that give the units more of a townhome feel.

For Kennedy, who led similar redevelopment effort as Rahway’s mayor over 20 years, the complex will capitalize on the “jewel” of the Delaware River. It’s designed so that it doesn’t appear to have a rear side, “so there’s not a bad view of the buildings.”

“The Pearl Pointe project actually turns out to be the perfect fit for the city of Burlington,” Kennedy said. “It’s kind of what I imagined in the beginning of what would look perfect on that waterfront.”


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