Housing project in Wayne for William Paterson students is abandoned

WAYNE — A developer who planned to build apartments specifically for students at William Paterson University has called off the project, citing the institution’s declining enrollment.

The Harrison, New York-based limited liability company now wants to demolish vacant industrial buildings on its property at 438 Pompton Road and build a 60,060 square foot warehouse instead.

But the university, whose 407-acre campus is next to the site, has mounted opposition to the proposal.

On Monday evening, the developer’s experts presented the plan to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Jerome Vogel, lawyer for the developer, said his clients had changed their minds because there was no way a student housing complex would be lucrative.

“What they thought was a good idea turned out to be unfundable,” he said.

Brian Chasin, co-owner of the development company, said the former project’s lenders had abandoned the idea, making it even less feasible.

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The apartments would be “hard to get occupied,” Chasin said, because there is “no real market for student accommodation” there.

The zoning board approved the 71-unit housing complex on the 4.4-acre property in August.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has fallen nearly 1.3 million since the spring 2020 semester when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Statistics show a two-year drop in enrollment in New Jersey of 42,457.

William Paterson, largely a suburban school, has 9,635 enrollment.

Meanwhile, the demand for warehouses continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Newmark Group Inc., a Manhattan-based commercial real estate company that releases quarterly market data, just reported 16.2 million square feet of warehouse space in the construction pipeline in North Jersey — the “most on record “.

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No tenant has been chosen for the proposed warehouse, Chasin said.

The warehouse would include 2,857 square feet of office space. Ten loading docks on the north side of the building could accommodate tractor-trailers and there would be 26 parking spaces for employees.

The 38-foot-tall warehouse would be made of precast concrete panels in four shades of brown.

The site is surrounded by intense uses – not only the university, but also a QuickChek convenience store and gas station to the west and a future Taco Bell restaurant to the south. Three-tenths of a mile up the toll highway from Hamburg is the entrance to St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital.

The request requires a waiver of use because warehouses are not allowed in the canton’s activity zone.

Most of the Township’s industrial uses are concentrated in the 1st Ward, along the deserted tracks of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway.

But Leigh Fleming, a planner who testified on behalf of the developer, said the property was well suited for a warehouse.

Its deliveries and departures can be timed, whereas most licensed businesses in the area — a dollar store, for example — cannot control traffic that way, Fleming said. She also noted that the site has limited frontage, which would not benefit other business entities.

Warehouses rely on drivers who “know their destination,” Fleming said.

The zoning board also heard from an architect and two engineers, including Nathan Mosley, who testified about the traffic generated by the project.

Mosley said the warehouse would have “minimal impact” on local roads, estimating 31 journeys to and from the site during the morning rush hour and 34 journeys during the evening rush hour.

William Paterson, who hired a lawyer to fight the plan, did not get a chance to present his case this week. The next hearing on the application is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on September 19.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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