The District: A New Year Brings Us Closer to a New Look for Metuchen



Siteplan.jpegDistrict at Metuchen developers, Renaissance Properties, went before the Planning Board last month with slight changes and enrichments to their master plan. 


1)  The single-story bank portion of Building D, the building that will provide the new space for Boro Hardware as well as a bank and luxury condominiums, will now be a full 4-story structure, replacing earlier plans for a cantilevered bank drive-through corner. In addition to providing additional living space, the design team felt the original plan was not visually appealing.


2)  A 3rd story walkway will connect the residences in Building D to the parking deck within Building A.


3)  The office space originally planned for Building B has been re-worked into work/live space; residential units with at-home office space included.


4)   A landscape architect, Tom Bauer, has been brought on-board to give the courtyard area, the outdoor parking area/plaza which will host community events, a "WOW" factor; beauty, shade, maximum use and comfort features with priority given to pedestrians.  

Building D will be the first built.  The bulkiest of all four, the developer wants the public to know that the later three will be architecturally more interesting and diverse. 


But that doesn't mean a lot of thought hasn't been given to all four design plans.  Project architect Dave Minno gave testimony that provided great detail as to what each of the four buildings, even the backs, will look like.  Image boards of similar architectural elements as well as samples of materials representing the colors and textures he has in mind were on display.


"The design intent is to make the buildings look as though they've been developed over time" he explained.  As you might see in a quaint European village square where construction was on-going and evolved over time, different but complimentary brick colors and roofing materials, along with Romeo and Juliet balconies, strong, variegated cornice lines, roofs adorned with charming dormers, and steep, sloped awnings of dark primary colors against masonry shades of deep reds, grays, and chocolate browns are planned.  The back side of the retail spaces, where loading docks are a necessity, have been designed to blend industrial loading doors with indents and awnings to mirror the windows above.    


Possible plans for the corner of Lake and Middlesex include a small, covered amphitheater with an art-filled covered walkway into the central parking area.  But landscape architect Tom Bauer has much more than parking in mind.  "The team has created a magnificent and special space" he said, referring to the central courtyard or plaza.  Designed with varied components of color and texture, "a place people will enjoy being in and looking down upon, the plaza is designed to be pedestrian friendly and able to hold great events" explained Bauer.  "We're trying to downplay the automobile and highlight the pedestrian" he said. 


Underground power lines and curb-free barriers to the outdoor strolling and eating areas are meant to create a welcome and peaceful feel.  Interior shade trees and decorative lights to hold banners and strings of cable lighting are intended to provide a soft and festive look and feel to the space.  Plans for Central Avenue, which will run in-between the two plaza spaces, include a crescent shaped traffic-calming center with a sculpture or other featured piece.  Bike racks and resting benches will be available as well. 


The developer petitioned PSE&G, "up through every level" to have the utility lines that run from Middlesex Avenue moved underground but had no luck.  So, plan B - bump outs for utility poles flanked by trees - is on tap. But only on the Middlesex Avenue side of the development.  Interior utility lines will not be visible.    


In addition to plans for a new, larger Boro Hardware complete with a greenhouse, the District will include space for a food market, retail stores, cafes and restaurants, and 141 residential units; twenty-something of which will be dedicated as affordable housing units.


The planning board had questions regarding snow removal; would there be space provided for plowed snow or would it be carted away?  And members wanted to ensure access from the parking deck to upper residential units would be secure.  However, overall sentiment was very favorable. 


No construction start-date was set at this time.     

Image board examples:



The guy at the old bike shop was not exactly warm and fuzzy, but it was convenient. The former Highland Park bike shop has moved closer to Metuchen on Rt 27 in south Edison, on the right if you're going "south," near McDonald's.

The new guy at Variety Village is nice and also friendly. Not sure why he's moving toward being just another convenience store, though.

I like the cigar store, too, it is an interesting place; it has lots of character.

Cigar store is awesome, hope he stays a long time

Do my best to support it

it will help meet our COHA requirements because 20% will be set as affordable units.

Main Street Metuchen is special because of its local mom and pop stores. They might be dingy or have not been renovated for half a century, but it is exactly this down-to-earthness that makes you feel comfortable here in Metuchen. Imagine getting off the train after a whole day of madness in the city. Walking into the local shops could be a real relief.

Agreed. With the ownership change at Variety Village, the closure of the bike shop, and Duchess Diner, Metuchen is not quite the same as before.

My dad likes the cigar store, no high school kids are going to want to go there.

First off, I'm a native New Yorker. I'd love to see high end housing and shops in Metuchen. We don't need another nail salon. As for Main Street, it's just not the same since the former owners of Variety Village are no longer here. Also, restaurants and other retail shops have gone out of business. WHY NOT THE CIGAR store? What's up with that? Is that the kind of store everyone WANTS in Metuchen?? I'm a parent of three kids, two of whom are in high school. We can skip the tobacco retailers please!

I'd rather have commercial ratables than "new cool people," whatever that is supposed to mean.

Your revisionist history clouds your vision. You are incorrect saying a grocery store didn't want to build in Metuchen. You probably haven't even lived here 10 years. Edwards (Foodtown/Stop and Shop) very much wanted to build in town but short sighted, politically charged people chased them out with pitch forks and torches. So they moved to our borders and now pay their taxes to Edison while we sit with blight. It was a self inflicted wound by people who now say the only solution is to build super dense residential as high as allowable under the revised laws. I agree that Franklin has brought in new cool people but the demand for municipal services is higher than a business. You can't argue that fact.

Theres not a single food chain out that wanted to build on that site. Not a one. This area is saturated. Especially with little to no growth in population.

Looks like the web site is still on standard time.

Some people would rather spend their money in Metuchen and support a business that pays taxes to Metuchen.

Franklin Square is a gold mine for the town. Town takes in way more then it spends in regards to those developments. also brought in alot of really cool folks.

Also made it easier or younger couples to actually live in Metuchen.

Is it that hard for you to get to A&P/Foodtown?Shp Rte/Wegmans/Target/Walmart to buy food?


We already have huge tractor trailers clogging our roads. We have businesses on Liberty Street that use tractor trailers. We have tractor trailers cutting through Metuchen to get to supermarkets on Oak Tree Road. We have tractor trailers making deliveries to some of our restaurants (Roma Foods).

Metuchen was a destination town when it had a wide variety of stores and there were places to shop, not just places to eat and get your hair and nails done.

People fought the supermarket proposed for the EFCO propoerty, and guess what, traffic in Metuchen got worse anyway, without the increase in tax revenue (and lack of additional schoolchildren) that would have come from a supermarket. There were very few residences in that area before Central and Franklin Squares were built. Seemed like the ideal spot for commercial development.

According to a member of the zoning board, the best recent development in Metuchen was the self storage place, which added ratables, no schoolchildren, and very little traffic.

Hooray. But wait, don't you want to keep things as they are? Rotting, vacant buildings? Hey, let's add signs that say "No new kids allowed. And keep out you families with enough income to maybe keep our town businesses alive. Just give us the folks waiting at the bus stop who need a can of soda and slice of pizza and families approaching retirement." Then in 10 years the bulldozers can just come level the place. Change is good. What we have right now isn't working and it hasn't been working for a while. We can't even blame the downturn in the economy. Many people drive through but few people stop. Metuchen used to be a destination town and we've lost that. It's not just the new neighbors who want change.

Ummm, yes, there is a small grocery story planned for Franklin Square.

How many more freakin food stores do we need around here? A&P, ShopRite, Wegmans, WalMart, Target.....the list goes on. Nobody I know in town is having problems getting food.

Yeah, supermarket is the answer, you must be joking. Huge tractor trailor clogging the roads with food deliveries, thats what we need.

And what is your beef with Franklin Square? Nice development, good tax revenues to the town, NICE PEOPLE.

No food store is planned. This is too dense for Metuchen. This project is developer driven and also driven by the residenst of Franklin Square. Newcommers to Metuchen who want everything their way. There are other area of Metuchen than Franklin Square. No children, look closer at Franklin Square, many children, and a new playground. There will be children at the District as well, don't be fooled. Granted this section of town is horrible and needs to be fixed up, a supermarket is the answer. Most Metuchenites desire a supermarket. The politicians don't want a supermarket.

they changed the start date to fall 2009 depending on market conditions-whatever that means

"nothing in Metuchen is within 10 mins. during most of the day"

That's why pedestrian friendly projects like this are so important. If we put in an A&P or Shop-Rite, like some residents wanted the traffic would just get worse.

Didn't say this project was like NYC, I was responding to the person who posted that high density is the wave of the future.

Oh, and nothing in Metuchen is within 10 mins. during most of the day.

I'd much rather higher density than more McMansions. Plus here the developer has created a very pedestrian friendly plan. What's the other option there? A food store? You've got about ten within ten minutes and we wouldn't even get something good like Wegmans so why bother.

They came with a good plan and they need the housing to make it work financially.

This project is like NYC? What the heck are you smoking? I could use a hit of that.

Start worrying when they start talking about high rise "luxury condos" that's when you're really in trouble.

Personally, I like the idea of having a pedestrian mall within a short walking distance from my home.

Why do some people seem to want to turn Metuchen into NYC? If you want to live there, move there. Why do they feel the need to turn everything into high density?

The last word was that they'd be breaking ground this Spring. So far there has been nothing specific to suggest this won't be the case. So here's hoping...

I'm new in town, is this actually happening? I'm with Tyreen, I would love to pull out my granny cart to go shopping.

Seems to me the biggest problem with Metuchen is the negativity. The project has been in the works for years. It might thrive, might fail, but something needs to be done with the site and high-density development is the way of the future. To me, this project will set us apart from Edison, North Brunswick, Hillsborough and other towns that necessitate cars. Rutgers' Blaustein School of Planning did a study a few years back saying that this amount and type of housing will bring a total of 19 school children. People in these condos will want a house when they've got kids. If you're lucky, Negative Nelly, maybe they'll buy yours when you're done with it.

One of the blessings of living in NJ, every other place is a Pizza joint or an Italian Restaraunt.


5 pizza places

well, the town has supported the hardware store and 3-4 pizza places.

What we really need is a 24 hour record store!!!

Main st becomes blighted and District at metuchen is built, but unfortunately will fail. This town does not support business.

Right on! Going to be nice. Not to mention the benefits to the town's bottom line.

Funny, the same folks complaining about taxes being too high were the same folks who were against this project and many other projects proposed for our town.

Seems these folks could use a little Economics 101.

And what is the story on the tree guys, little birdie told me they found out its town land and town trees. Time for these guys to pay their fines, looks like they are guilty as charged.

I live about a block away from where this will be, and I can't wait!!!! Its going to be so much better than the empty shops on main street and the run down houses and buildings that are already present.

My only wish is that they would start sooner!

Somewhere I still have my folding shopping cart from when I lived in NYC and did all my shopping on foot... maybe when this project is completed, those carts will be an item Boro Ace will want to keep in stock.

Hot Air

About walking to the grocery store, do you have one of those beach buggy carts? They are amazing - they hold so much. The perfect thing for walking to an in-town store. AND, if that road between Middlesex Ave and Durham gets built, maybe we'll see fewer trucks on Lake Ave and Central Ave.

Perhaps one of the many banks in Metuchen should step in and offer them financing.

I heard the guy who owned the Cryan's site was always planning to flip it after he got his approvals. Then changed his mind and decided to build. Then changed his mind again. Who knows?

All I know for a fact is what is in the planning board minutes. The developers wanted work/live units and a denser development than what they got approved. If you look at the comments made by the board members, you wonder how they could have given this guy such a hard time, and then approved an incredibly dense project across the street.

And if they don't build something there soon, Metuchen could lose the liquor license. They already had to apply for special permission from the ABC to keep it active.

And whatever happened to the license Key Liquors had? O'Brien made a comment years ago about it being tied up in bankruptcy court. How long do those cases take?

Even though I live fairly close, I just don't see walking to the grocery store as an attractive proposition. It's hard enough getting across Main Street alive with two bags from the health food store. I suppose we could try using the kids' old strollers. Great for Franklin Square residents, though.

Can't wait for a grocery store we can walk to again! a little exercise, less gas & emissions, AND spending my money IN town! Let's hope that really comes to fruition. Also, best wishes to Boro Ace - hope that portion of the project works out well for them, too.

The Cryans site was limited by the amount of financing the development company was able to secure. I hear they banks pulled the funding from the company, and company is failing. Good thing it didn't get started only to have the company pack it in in the middle of the project.

The Cryan's site would have provided a restaurant and catering facility. Something that is sorely needed in town, and which would attract large numbers of people to catered events, who might return to sample other restaurants in town. The "ambition" for the Cryan's property was limited by the size of the site.

Bait and switch. Classic.

$35/sq ft is not abnormal for a new development project like this. The stores that go into them are destination stores, Metuchen won't be expected to support the stores itself.

Rents back to earth, Renaissance rents are on the same scale as New York rents. $35.00 per square foot. That is a lot of manicures.

I think the difference is this project, in addition to its residential units, will hopefully make Metuchen a destination for people that live elsewhere. The Cryan's site had no such ambition. As the state of our downtown shows, the current consumer base here is not enough to support the Metuchen economy.

The more people that are attracted to Metuchen the better downtown will be in the end. Plus maybe this will help bring some of the Main St. rents back to Earth.

apples and oranges my friend

Only one section of the building - the part with the bank - was going to be one story.

Also, there were three very long meetings on this project, not one, but the board did not insist the developer make any changes, as they did with the Cryan's project. Instead, this developer had an ordinance tailor made for him, written by his own planner.

The Cryan's project originally included some of these work/live units but they were required to remove them from the plan! The original plan for Cryan's was criticized as too dense with too much residential. Funny how what was inappropriate for the Cryan's site is now allowed across the street.

Cool, can't wait until they start building, keeping my fingers crossed. Tough times, hard to believe anything will get built, hope they still have the financing.

Growth for the the town is good, considering how for so long we have lttile or no growth in our town (other than folks doing additions to max out size of their own homes). Population of Metuchen was higher in 1970s than it is now.

not true this project originally was for about 131 units now it is 140 units. Not all of the buildings were four stories, now they all are.

More residents,more kids in schools, This builder is trying to squeeze as much as he can onto this property, out and up. Builder seems to have carte blanche with the Borough. The Cryan's site gave up, the town busted his chops so bad he can't afford to proceed. Cryan's project took yeras to approve, Stop & Shop site one meeting. How does that work?

On story? I have not paid much attention to this but even I knew it wasn't going to be a 1 story building. What have you been looking at. Yeah, I knew there were about 140 housing units, what planet have you been visiting?

Are all of you blind? Can't you see that this will end up being nothing like what was promised? They are making a "slight change" to go from a 1 story building to 4! What's going to be on those additional 3 floors? Residential space!!!! What does that do to our COAH numbers? I know it's an eyesore, but something is not always better than nothing, especially when it's irresponsible.

I live on this side of town and anything they do will be an improvement. This area has been such an eye sore for way too long now! The thought of a nice open outdoor area for concerts, etc - LOVE IT!!!!!

Thank you Teri, your coverage of this topic is top notch and very informative on what happened at the meeting.

The Loewys of Stirling Court own the Forum

WHO OWNS THE FORUM THEATER??? Please leave a comment if you know the owner's name! Thanks!

Wrong! Who will move into these proposed new stores at $35.00 a square foot. Plus cam charges. There will be constant turnover at Renaissance. It looks pretty but that is all.

What renascence on Main St? The landowners there, with their strangle-hold on the market, rents the town and its minimal foot traffic can’t bear to support, and their dilapidated, neglected buildings that take in water and are full of rotting wood, see to it that we stay vacant and no one seems to care. We get temporary visitors, chotchkie shops and nail salons. Wake-up, the legacy of Metuchen has faded badly.

The Forum, the one venue that could possibly bring people for a night out on our town is empty and falling apart.

What does Council do to try to reel-in the crooks who killed Main Street?

This project will put us on the map again. It will be a destination location for visitors from all over. It will bring residents with money to spend. It will bring new life to town – shove it (kicking and screaming so it seems) into the future. Let the Main St slum lords watch tenants fill the new space and then try to find a reason to demand hand-outs and tax breaks for the resurrection of their tired cash cows.

Let the planners do what we’ve hired them to do. Rather than complain about the new, embrace marrying it to the charm that is our old. Are the aluminum-clad Quonset-hut facade buildings really that important to our identity? Is a plaza filled with shopping carts truly the best bet for town? A&P is less than a mile away and we have 5 convenience stores.

This project can only HELP Main Street. Bring it on!

This looks great, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it gets done. Great plan, will be great addition to town. Hardly dense at all, good mix, skip the supermarket, who wants tractor trailors coming in at all hours, there's tons of markets around.

Any word on the old Cryans location?

There's one accounted for. Read through the entire article!

This will destroy Metuchen and its Main St. Renaissance appears to be able to do whatever they want in Metuchen. This is a very dense project, the site in question needs to be developed, but this is bad. What about a supermarket?

Seriously, this is beautiful. If the right stores go in, this will totally revitalize our downtown. Nice work, Renaissance!

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Recent Comments

  • Anonymous: The guy at the old bike shop was not exactly read more
  • Anonymous: The new guy at Variety Village is nice and also read more
  • Anonymous: I like the cigar store, too, it is an interesting read more
  • Anonymous: Cigar store is awesome, hope he stays a long time read more
  • southjersey4: it will help meet our COHA requirements because 20% will read more
  • Anonymous: Main Street Metuchen is special because of its local mom read more
  • Anonymous: My dad likes the cigar store, no high school kids read more
  • marian: First off, I'm a native New Yorker. I'd love to read more
  • Anonymous: I'd rather have commercial ratables than "new cool people," whatever read more
  • Anonymous: Your revisionist history clouds your vision. You are incorrect saying read more
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