Local officials gathered recently to celebrate the start of construction at Clark's age-restricted housing project on Terminal Avenue.
The plans include four, four-story residential buildings with a total of 329 one- or two-bedroom units, 20 percent of which will be designated lower income housing per Coalition on Affordable Housing rules. The complex will be limited to residents 55 and over, 66 and older for the COAH units. One of the buildings will contain a 4,500-square-foot community space.
The ceremony marked construction on the first building, which will contain 64 units.
Donning hard hats and shovels at the ceremony were Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso; Developer Tony DiGiovanni of Clark Developers; Senior Housing President Bill Caruso; Senior Housing Board Members Jay Schlesinger and Dee Memmer; Clark Senior Citizens Affairs Director Phyllis Cupo; and Councilmembers Frank Mazzarella, Angel Albanese, Sheila Whiting and Al Barr.
"This is the vision I had since 1996," said Caruso. "People want to be here with their children and their grandchildren. That’s the cry I heard from all the seniors – build us something so we can stay with our families. I am so delighted that we finally got to this day."
"I wouldn’t support this as just apartments," said Mayor Bonaccorso. "Bill drove this into my brain – Sal, think of the seniors of this town. He worked with Tony day and night to make this day happen."
The complex was not without controversy, as many residents attended the 2010 planning board meetings on the project to voice concerns about traffic, overdevelopment and more.
The complex was also originally planned for further down Terminal Avenue, but in an effort to keep L'Oreal in Clark by providing room for L'Oreal to expand, the project was moved to the corner location near the rail crossing on Westfield Avenue in a property swap.
"We were on verge of losing L'Oreal as one of our industrial people," said Caruso. "Having the development moved over here was a blessing and we saved L'Oreal through their efforts. If we would have lost our industrial base, none of us could afford to live here."
Caruso says many of the naysayers have now called him to have their names added to the list of those interested in purchasing units.
Bonaccorso also noted the $750,000 in taxes the project will provide the town annually.
"There's not a municipality in New Jersey that would not want to have a similar project," said Developer Tony DiGiovanni. "Clark is very highly rated. It’s obvious that people still want to live in Clark, but maybe they don’t want to live in a home."
The mayor also said how proud he was that developers chose Clark.
"We are in worst economic times ever and we’ve got a project here worth $60 million," Bonaccorso told Patch. "If that doesn’t tell you everything about this town – I mean a 60 million dollar project in worst economic times? That’s what I’m proud to see in our community – the belief in it."