Bayonne Planning Board approves 18-story Silk Lofts tower

A six-story building was also approved across the street

Bayonne has approved two major mixed-used residential and commercial buildings to be constructed as the next part of the Silk Lofts redevelopment. The Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the application to construct the redevelopments at its August 10 meeting.

AMS Equities, LLC is the redeveloper for the site, located at 132, 140, 154, 157-163 Avenue E. The applicant was granted preliminary and major final site plan as well as a minor subdivision.

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The plans envision two mixed-use residential and commercial buildings in close proximity to each other and adjacent to the original Silk Lofts building along the Avenue E corridor. The site also abuts the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, with the 22nd Street Station in walking distance. The Avenue E corridor has seen the redevelopment of luxury lofts right by the Light Rail.

Postponed for months

The buildings are to be constructed under the amended Silk Lofts redevelopment plan, which the City Council voted to approve in 2021. The application had been carried by the board from meeting to meeting since February at the request of the redeveloper as Mayor James Davis called for a pause on most major residential redevelopment pending the completion of a redevelopment study. It was postponed again in April, May, June, and July, but has now been approved in August as the redevelopment study is ongoing.

Meanwhile, a financial agreement ordinance to support the project was also postponed each month by the council after that but eventually died a “natural death” in June as the new City Council took control in July. At the August board meeting, the application was finally presented to the Planning Board by the attorney for the AMS Equities, Michael Miceli.

There were no variances, meaning the site fully complied with the redevelopment plan. According to Miceli, this meant the board essentially had no other choice but to approve.

“It’s an as-of-right site plan, and that carries with it legal implications,” Miceli said. “It comes with the presumption of the entitlement to approval.”

The Silk Lofts Redevelopment Zone

Considered a “landmark property,” the existing Silk Lofts multi-family residential building at 154 Avenue E is five stories tall with 85 units. The building has 102 parking spaces spread throughout three parking lots on Avenue E, with one on each side of the building and one across the street.

At the northernmost part of the site is a 20 space parking lot, just north of the terminus of East 18th Street. South of that is the Silk Lofts building at 154 Avenue E, between East 18th and East 17th Street.

Even further south is a parking lot at the terminus of East 17th Street. That borders four residences to the south of that. Across the street is another Silk Lofts parking lot, adjacent to the mural of Yoda from Star Wars that adorns the wall of a neighboring building.

As part of the project, the parking lots will be redeveloped into additional residential buildings, except for the northern 20 space parking lot. The new buildings will bring the grand total number of residential units to 371, with a total 409 parking spaces when completed.

Minor subdivision approved

Before any construction occurs, AMS Equities needed to subdivide the site to create different lots, project engineer Tiago Duarte explained. Previously, the Silk Lofts building existed in a lot that also encompasses the northern parking lot between West 18th and West 19th Street.

The larger parking lot on the southern side of the building existed in a lot that also included three residential buildings to the south of that on Avenue E. There was another residential property owned by AMS Equities that made up a third lot next to that lot. According to Duarte, across the street, the other parking lot was its own lot.

The subdivision will see the creation of a lot for the 20 space parking lot north of the existing Silk Lofts building. Another lot will encompass the existing Silk Lofts building.

The lot encompassing the southern parking lot and neighboring residential properties now includes the other aforementioned lot with the residential property. This is where the 18-story building will be constructed. The lot for the property across the street remains the same. This is where the six-story building will be constructed.

Six-story building in Subdistrict A

According to project architect Dean Marchetto: “The redevelopment plan encourages more development” to create a “subdistrict” around the adaptively re-used existing Silk Lofts building.

Dubbed in the plans as Subdistrict A, a six-story building is planned for the existing surface parking lot at 157-163 Avenue E. Located in between two three-story buildings, this site is currently home to parking for the Silk Lofts building.

This building will be home to 36 residential units. Of the 36 units, there are 4 studio units, 22 one-bedroom units, and 10 two-bedroom units. There will be 36 parking spaces for this building, however, those spaces will be in the automated parking garage in the 18-story building across the street.

In front of the building, the entrance to the lobby located at the corner of the structure will be set back, allowing for a 800 square foot public amenity space with landscaping in front of the entrance. There will also be a 2,015 square foot outdoor amenity space in the back yard of the building.

A rendering of the six-story building by Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects.

Other aspects of the planned building

On the ground floor, there will be 1,530 square feet of commercial space, a 1,000 square foot lobby for the residential units, 1,255 square foot indoor amenity space, a 335 square foot mail room, a 620 square foot trash room, and a 610 square foot mechanical room.

The second floor of the the building will be home to eight residential units. The floor plan changes for floors three through six, which have seven units on each floor.

A roof terrace with landscaping is planned, totaling 2,270 square feet of outdoor space. The roof will also have a 1,645 square foot indoors amenity space, and the rest will be occupied by a mechanical room.

For the ground floor commercial space, there is no tenant yet. However, when a tenant is realized, the applicants will be back before the board for signage.

18-story high-rise in Subdistrict B

Referred to as Subdistrict B, AMS Equities is also proposing an 18-story mixed-use residential and commercial building at 132 and 140 Avenue E. The building will be home to two ground floor commercial spaces and 250 units. Of the 250 residential units, there will be: 24 studio units; 118 one-bedroom units, 21 of which have dens; and 108 two-bedroom units, of which 24 have dens.

Only five percent of units total have dens. The dens have no windows or doors to ensure they will not be converted into bedrooms. All the windows in the building will have the same treatment when it comes to curtains and blinds.

The entrance to the building will be set back significantly to allow for a public plaza with landscaping for public use. While 3,000 square feet of open space is required, a 5,000 square foot plaza will be created in front of the building.

“What is a parking lot today, tomorrow will be a place that people can sit and have their coffee or just sit and hang out after work or whatever,” Miceli said.

Floor plans for the Silk Lofts tower

The ground floor will have a 9,453 square foot plaza, a 2,200 square foot lobby for the residential units, a 440 square foot mail room, a 380 square foot trash room, a 837 square foot loading room, 806 square foot transformer room, and another utility room at 210 square feet.

There will be a 1,400 square foot retail space, and a 575 square foot retail space on the ground floor. There are no tenants yet, but one of the spaces is imagined as café or coffeeshop. The rest of the ground floor footprint will be encompassed by the garage on the south side of the building.

“People will be able to have a coffee and get a sandwich and eat outside in the plaza,” Marchetto said.

The second floor will feature two residential amenty spaces, one being 3,040 and the other being 2,500 square feet. The fire and water mechanical room will encompass 1,057 square feet.

What’s on floors two to five

“There is actually an opening, so when you’re down in the lobby, you could look up and see into the amenity space,” Marchetto said.

The garage also takes up space on the second floor, and ends at the fourth floor. On floors three and four, there are 11 residential units each.

On floor five, there are nine residential units and an 3,745 square foot indoors amenity space. That leads to an outdoor amenity terrace and pool on the south side of the building. There will be a green roof area on the north side of the building on this floor too. This lines up with the roof of the existing Silk Lofts building, and the façade and building materials correspond with nearby structures.

“One of the very important things that we try to accommodate in this project is a relationship between the existing Silk Lofts building and the proposed new building,” Marchetto said. “We have a base that picks up on the height of the existing Silk Lofts building. Then the base steps back and the tower goes above that… The design of the building with punched openings and the brick color is designed to continue and make reference to the original Silk Lofts Maidenform building.”

A rendering of the 18-story building by Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects.

18-stories in downtown Bayonne

Floors six through 12 will have 16 units each. There will also be that unit count on the 13th to 18th floor, although the floor plan changes.The roof plans call for 4,097 square feet of indoors amenity space, and two amenity decks on both the north and south sides of the building. The building has a clear top, middle and bottom, according to Marchetto, and features different architectural design every 60 feet, 360 degrees around the building.

“As the building goes up higher, between the 13th and 18th floors we set the façade back to create undulations,” Marchetto said. “The upper levels have a different look than the lower levels. It creates a depth, it creates texture, and more interest in the architectural design… These buildings are attractive from all vantage points. We’ve designed it the same all the way around.”

The building will top out at 230 feet tall, making it among the tallest proposed in the city. The ceilings will also be taller on the top floor of this building for the “penthouse” vibe, featuring 13 to 14 foot ceilings instead of nine. The six-story building will feature 12 foot ceilings.

“It would be more like a penthouse unit, something to distinguish them from the floors below and make them a little special,” Marchetto said. This would best suit the units at the top that boast “wonderful, unobstructed views of Manhattan.”

Construction timeline and phasing

According to Miceli, the project will start construction with the 18-story building to account for parking. That is estimated to begin within six to 12 months as AMS Equities gets the necessary final approvals. Miceli added it will take about a year to two years to construct. Then the six-story building will be constructed, estimated to take less than a year to complete.

Of the existing 102 parking spaces spread throughout the surface lots, 20 will remain in the northern parking lot after construction finishes. While the other 82 spaces at the other lots will have the two new buildings constructed atop them, the redeveloper will be constructing 389 parking spaces in the automated garage.

“That’ll take away all the existing surface parking spaces that exist today,” Duarte said. “Those will be temporarily relocated to the parcel on the other side of Avenue E. There will be 17 surface parking spaces and 48 stacker spaces. These are different stackers than what will be in the building.”

Between the temporary automated parking, the north parking lot, and the parking lot across the street, there will be 85 spaces per the requirement. Then when the 18-story tower is constructed, all parking will be inside the automated garage.

Parking reconfiguration plan

The 389 automated parking spaces in the garage plus the 20 space surface parking lot equates to 409 parking spaces total at project completion to be shared by all buildings. While 403 parking spaces are required under the redevelopment plan, the applicant will be constructing 409 parking spaces under the application.

There will be “green screens” over where the parking garage will be located on the building instead of windows. The greenery mounted to a mesh wall aims to absorb noise and add texture to the façade as it grows.

The spaces in north surface lot will also be electric vehicle accessible. And there are provisions being made in automated garages for electric vehicle charging as well. Street parking remains the same at nine spaces. There will also be bike parking, featuring 81 spaces next to the vehicle garage.

There will be 25 parking spaces reserved for visitors, who can primarily use the north parking lot with 20 spaces. If the lot is full, visitors can use the automated parking garage through an online application.

Union labor to construct buildings

During the public comment, Patrick Callahan, President of the Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council and the Business Agent of the Plumbers Local 24, spoke in favor the project. Callahan said the building will be constructed “on time, safe” and ensure money is spent in the city to “let this city flourish again.”

“Too many projects in the city were built non-union,” Callahan said. “This building will be built safe, on-time, and make sure Bayonne men and women are on this project. We’ll have job fairs and will make sure there are opportunities.”

There were a number of questions throughout the hearing, raised by Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte, and Commissioners Thomas Maiorano, and Ramon Veloz. In response to commissioner concerns, Miceli said that AMS Equities was agreeable to various asks by the board.

In conclusion, Miceli said: “It’s legally entitled to approval, but that’s not the only reason you should approve. This is a really good project. It’s something that finishes off that Avenue E corridor and really completes that Silk Lofts redevelopment that started so many years ago.”

Project ultimately approved

Before voting in the affirmative, Fiermonte said: “This does fit within the parameters of the redevelopment plan. I think the building façade was well done. I am in favor of this project.” Commissioners Maiorano and George Becker both said they struggled with this for many reasons including height, but ultimately voted in favor of it.

Commissioners who voted in favor of the plans included: Fiermonte, Veloz, Becker, Maiorano, City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, Jack Beiro, and Ahmed Lack. Vice Chairwoman and Board of Education President Maria Valado and Commissioner Michael Quintela were absent.

When will shovels hit ground? According to Miceli: “We still have other things to get in order… If I had to guess, if we get all of our approvals, the next six to twelve months is target to start.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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