On June 21, 2023, a new multifamily redevelopment project representing over $73 million was approved for support last week by the Board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). It will help revitalize an underserved downtown Trenton, New Jersey neighborhood.
Situated on a 1.35-acre site at 150-170 Broad Street in downtown Trenton on the edge of the city’s Mill Hill neighborhood, next to Mill Hill Park, the project will offer 120 new, energy efficient, one- to three-bedroom housing units.
Of those, 70 will be market rate, 48 will be affordable, and two will be rent-free superintendent’s units.
The new, five-story building will preserve iconic elements, such as the façade, of the original Van Sciver Building, currently located at the project site.
Aspire is a place-based economic development program created under the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (ERA), signed by Governor Phil Murphy in January 2021.
The Aspire program supports mixed-use, transit-oriented development by providing tax credits to commercial and residential real estate development projects that have financing gaps.
RPM Development is the Lead Development Entity. Services that directly benefit residents of the project will be offered by co-applicant Life Management, Inc. (LMI), a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
The applicants will collaborate to develop a social services plan that best meets the needs of senior, developmentally disabled, and formerly homeless residents. LMI’s services will enable additional staffing support and provide connections to additional relevant resources.
“One of Governor Murphy’s objectives when signing the ERA was to provide high quality, transit-oriented, mixed-use housing options for families at all income levels. Today’s approval demonstrates the ability of the Aspire program to catalyze investment in communities that need it most,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan.
“This new construction project will provide a support system to help residents sustain quality of life in line with the standards for a stronger and fairer economy on which the Aspire program is based, while also helping to preserve the City’s history and reinvigorate the Broad Street business corridor,” he added.
The proposed residential amenities include a top floor resident lounge, wi-fi connected workstations, laundry rooms, a fitness center, an amenity terrace on the second floor, a roof deck overlooking the historic Assunpink Creek on the fourth floor, electric car charging, bike storage, and two levels of parking with 168 spaces.
Also included is a 7,500-square-foot retail plaza overlooking a creek across from the Mercer County Courthouse. Two smaller commercial spaces will incorporate retail such as a coffee shop, and a larger corner space will be marketed as a restaurant.
“When we created the Aspire Program it was with the intention of facilitating greater investment in our communities, with a focus on creating more affordable housing,” said Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex).
“This project will do just that, developing both affordable and market rate housing, in addition to retail space. As we face housing shortages and rising rents, projects like this are critical to uplifting our communities and ensuring families have suitable places to live within their budgets,” she continued.
The project was approved for up to $29.13 million in Aspire tax credits, which represents 45 percent of eligible project costs of $64.75 million.
Financing for the project also includes a $10 million loan from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, and federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit proceeds in the amount of $20.9 million, provided through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
The amount of Aspire tax credits a project is eligible to receive is a percentage of the project’s eligible costs, subject to a cap that is determined by the project’s location, other financing available, and other aspects of the project.
Most projects are eligible for tax credits up to $42 million, but projects that meet specific criteria may receive tax credits up to $60 million. Projects that meet certain parameters can qualify as “transformative projects,” which may receive tax credits up to $350 million.
To be eligible for Aspire program tax credits, a project must be located in an eligible incentive location, which may include: Planning Area 1, Aviation District, Port District, or Planning Area 2 or other Designated Center that is within a half mile of a rail transit station or a high frequency bus stop. Film production projects may be located anywhere in the State.
“The Aspire Program was specifically designed to breathe life into our underserved cities by supporting the construction of mixed-use and affordable housing developments. The project approved in Trenton will be an economic driver for our State capital, revitalizing the area with commercial spaces and housing options for residents of all income levels,” said Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee.
“At a time when people in New Jersey need access to affordable housing, this is a truly worthwhile investment into the city of Trenton. These transformative redevelopment projects will uplift and benefit the whole community,” she explained.
Projects must also meet minimum size and cost thresholds. Notably, program rules also include requirements to ensure that communities where projects are located benefit from the economic growth the project generates.
Additionally, projects with an eligible project cost equaling or exceeding $10 million must also enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with the Authority and municipality or county in which the project is located.
“We’re so thankful to NJEDA for their ongoing collaboration and investment in the Capital City. I know that Trentonians will be excited to hear about the approval of Aspire tax credits for the residential project at the old Van Sciver site, which will help move forward the redevelopment of this historic parcel and community space,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.
In line with Governor Murphy and the NJEDA’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and transparency, the Aspire program rules include provisions, such as a gap financing review, excess revenue sharing requirements, and a net positive economic benefit test for most projects, to ensure tax credits are awarded responsibly.
Image courtesy of Google Maps.