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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ-State government in Trenton has been actively encouraging commercial and residential development in New Jersey’s cities in general, and around mass transit hubs in particular. It’s all part of the Garden State’s “growth management plan” aimed at curtailing sprawl in its suburban and rural areas.

That effort has just taken another step forward with the opening of Gaslight Commons, a 200-unit luxury residential community in this Essex County suburb of Newark. Gaslight Commons, which is situated on a 4.7-acre site immediately adjacent to the New Jersey Transit Sloan Street Railroad Station, was built at an estimated cost of $34.5 million by LCOR Inc., the Berwyn, NY-based real estate development and asset management firm. LCOR has a regional office in New York City.

“We feel this property sets a new standard for luxury rental development in the suburbs of New York City,” says Anthony Marchetta, LCOR vice president. “These residences offer a lifestyle that strikes a balance between convenience to Manhattan and the benefits of a small town.”

Configured in two four-story buildings totaling approximately 310,000 sf, surrounding interior courtyards, Gaslight Commons has a total of 128 one-bedroom and 72 two-bedroom units. Amenities, according to Marchetta, include an outdoor swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness center, concierge services, and Internet-related services.

Even before it opened, the property won an award related to its contribution to the statewide growth management effort. That citation came from New Jersey Future, an advocacy group, which presented LCOR and the City of South Orange with its 2002 “Smart Growth Award.” The group called the redevelopment of the former site of a car dealership “an example to communities across the state of what is possible through redevelopment and revitalization.”

As far as the transit connection, the introduction a couple of years ago by New Jersey Transit and the State of a plan to encourage development around rail stations generally drew yawns at the time. But the opening of Gaslight Commons and the recent naming of two development consortiums to redevelop 104 acres surrounding the Matawan-Aberdeen train station in Monmouth County (see earlier story RMIGTDZMA9D) seem to be signs that the plan is in high gear. Proposals are said to be pending for several other rail stations in the Garden State.

In the Matawan-Aberdeen case, the sights have been set even higher. The two development groups involved, dotted with names like Hovnanian, Mack-Cali, Grubb & Ellis, Baker Residential and Boyken International, are expected to create a residential, office, retail and hotel behemoth that will cost upwards of $750 million.

One key difference with the Matawan-Aberdeen project is that the suburban location surrounding the train station has virtually no existing commercial support for a residential component. Gaslight Commons, on the other hand, is situated in a highly developed downtown location.

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