Housing development under construction

VERNON. The three-story building will contain 55 one-bedroom units for those age 55 and older.

| 15 May 2024 | 07:01

Construction has begun on a housing development for those age 55 and older on Theta Drive in Vernon.

The three-story building will contain 55 one-bedroom units with parking under it.

The work began in mid-April. It will take about 18 months to complete.

Preleasing of the units will begin about six months before the building is complete.

Vernon officials celebrated the project with executives of the developer at a ceremonial ground-breaking Wednesday, May 8.

PILOT approved

At its meeting March 25, the Township Council unanimously approved a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the development.

Council members were told that the property has been generating about $21,000 a year in real estate taxes. When the project is complete, it would generate an initial annual service charge of about $160,000 and total annual service charges of about $9.3 million during the 30-year PILOT.

Lauran O’Neill, general counsel at OneKey and the developer, the O’Neill Group, said the PILOT made the project possible.

The developer has been working through the economics, lending and underwriting of the project for a year and a half. The project is financed by Amboy Bank.

”We’re lucky to have good relationships with these community banks ... (which are) willing to go new places with you even if it doesn’t fit exactly their criteria,” she said.

She also praised Vernon’s administration. “Mayor Burrell was always ready to sit and talk with us. The new mayor same thing. They’re willing to work with you.

“We’re all figuring out how we can make development work together.”

Several years of work

Former Mayor Howard Burrell said he had been working for several years with OneKey, which bought several properties on Theta Drive.

”They are the kind of people that we really want in Vernon Township. ... I think they are going to be key in the development of our town center. We’re lucky to have them.”

Both Burrell and Mayor Anthony Rossi, who was elected in November, pointed to the need for housing for Vernon residents who no longer want to care for houses but want to remain in the area.

”More and more people are choosing to stay up East as opposed to going down South because their grandkids are here,” Burrell said.

Rossi said, “This is a great addition to Vernon. This is a much needed (development).”

Lauran O’Neill said the company also has developed Soldier Hill Commons in Paramus and One Dutchess in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Another project, Park Terrace in Rochelle Park, is very similar to the one in Vernon, she said. It is run by Paula O’Neill, chief executive of OneKey and the O’Neill Group.

”We’re a family-owned and -operated company,” she added.

Her parents, Paula and Finbar O’Neill, started a general contracting company in the 2000s after emigrating from Ireland in the 1980s and working in construction.

“Eventually that pivoted into development, which was just kind of a natural progression. ... They truly worked their way up from the bottom.”

The company specializes in suburban markets, such as the one in Poughkeepsie. “Vernon now reminds us of Poughkeepsie when we started there. We saw a lot of potential that was being underutilized.”

The Theta Drive project is the company’s first planned development for Vernon, Lauran O’Neill said. “We would like to have more rental opportunities for people in Vernon, especially luxury-type rentals.”