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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Juliano Seeks 432 Senior Units In Rio Grande

By Al Campbell

The tantalizing smorgasbord of housing would be packaged in nine, five-story buildings with club house and botanical garden for peaceful strolling. Parking would be enclosed and on the ground floor with elevators to whisk residents to their suites.
All that would replace one of the township’s ugliest, unused industrial parcels, the former Rio Grande Concrete plant. Zoning there is Regional General Business (RGB) and Restricted Industrial (RI), for which Juliano seeks a use variance.
That vacant plant has been the site of numerous fires and other vandalism. It was deemed blight by at least one neighbor, Michael Mastalski, who voiced concern for safety of youths who frequent the tract.
But, the 11 p.m. bewitching hour, when the board quits taking testimony, stalled Juliano’s presentation until Feb. 9.
At 10:54 p.m., Juliano seized the moment to plant ideas in the board’s collective mind.
He said a $1-million bypass road he’ll fund around Wal-Mart onto Railroad Avenue will alleviate much of the congestion at Routes 9 and 47. Half the cost of that project, Juliano said, will be “for signalization across a railroad that is hardly ever used.”
He termed it a “Cadillac of civilization putting in a $1 million road and other improvement to Route 9 and 47.”
“It was my idea to take traffic and not have an entrance (to the project) on Route 47,” said Juliano, indicating the entry will be “1,200 feet from Route 47.”
As he pointed to an architect’s rendering of the project, Juliano said, “I have proven to the board and township we have a successful project that is beneficial to everybody. The Grande Center (shopping center) is a great success.”
Bed Bath and Beyond “had its third biggest opening” there, and Famous Footwear is the fifth busiest of 900 stores, he said.
 “We have a big investment here,” said Juliano. “I would like to do this project (Rio Victorian Village).”
The height and density, he said, would be needed to make the project economically feasible.
He cited “high land cost and high demolition cost, upward of $1.5 million to $2 million.”
Juliano recapped a recent day when he drove in a Cherry Hill Township project, almost similar to his planned project, being built at the former Garden State Park by “developer D.B. Horton Co., the third biggest builder in the country.”
Showing photos of the Cherry Hill project, he said the local project would bear a strong resemblance There, on 32 acres would be 608 units for seniors, he said, or 19 units per acre.
“I knew nothing about that, and we have 19 units per acre (on 22 acres),” he said.
Residents of the apartments, he said, would be “paying school tax without kids.”
“By the way, Mr. Vendrasco said he was entertaining reopening the property as a concrete facility,” Juliano said. “He closed it because there was no boom; now there is a building boom.”
“I understand the density concerns,” he said.
Board Chairman James McLaughlin Jr. told Juliano, “I give you the fact that the state is forcing infill in redevelopment because they don’t want the sprawl. Greater density is being forced on every town in the state. The powers that be are forcing it.”
Some board members had expressed concern about the project’s height, which would place a burden on the Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Co., since none of its equipment could reach the top floors.
“I’m not concerned with the fire department. Whatever I have to do I’ll do to make it right,” Juliano said.
He said the units would have “double sprinklers.”
“If they need a truck, I will get them a truck. We are going to be there. We already had a meeting with them,” Juliano said.
McLaughlin termed Juliano’s projects, “almost like a marriage for a long time. All you’ve done here is a great improvement.”
“Almost five years,” Juliano replied.
Such senior housing units bring much-needed state credits toward meeting affordable housing goals, but Juliano didn’t mention that aspect.
Contact Campbell at: al.c@cmcherald.com

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