By: Christina Tatu, The Morning Call
Officials gave the public an “inside look” at the $15.5 million “Commodore” project that plans 32 high-end apartments boasting river views, a rooftop restaurant, retail and office space to Easton’s Northampton Street gateway.
The interior renderings by Bethlehem architecture company Artefact, Inc. show high ceilings, balconies overlooking the Delaware River into Phillipsburg and unique amenities like “smart thermostats” for each unit that renters can program remotely with a smartphone.
Wednesday’s event was the first time city officials and residents were given a virtual peek inside the new construction proposed for 100 Northampton St. The site was the longtime home of Kaplan Enterprises Inc., the maker of custom awnings, flags and banners that moved to the West Ward last year.
“If you build it right, then people will come. We aren’t cutting any corners, and there will be 32 people who realize that,”
said Garett Vassel, the founding president of Optima Durant Group, which is proposing the project.
This will be the New York-based developer’s first project. He expects to begin construction by the end of the year and finish by the first quarter of 2021.
Vassel hosted the event Wednesday evening to thank investors and to open the lines of communication to people who might be interested in leasing an apartment or retail space.
“I’m all for fixing this building up,” said Anthony Marraccini, the curator of Connexions Gallery on the same Northampton Street block as the former Kaplan building.
He said being a business owner on the block is sometimes challenging. It’s somewhat removed from Easton’s main hub, Centre Square.
“People will stop at Second Street and then turn around. My block is a difficult block. Hopefully something like this becomes a beacon that attracts people to this part of Northampton Street,” Marraccini said.
Ellen Shaughnessy, a Realtor with an office down the street from the proposed development, said she’s excited about the rooftop restaurant and bar.
“The riverfront is completely underutilized … Plus, this is our main entrance from Phillipsburg,” she said.
B.J. Metz, a member of the Easton Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed Easton’s waterfront needs some attention.
“Easton is known far and wide for it’s restaurant scene. These views have been neglected for a long time. I think it looks like a classy project,” he said.
Diana Schipani, chair of the Phillipsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, is hopeful the project might jump start development efforts across the river.
“Things took a while in Easton, it didn’t happen overnight,” she said, explaining that she hopes the development spurs business growth and attracts young professionals to Phillipsburg.
By Thursday morning, a website was expected to go live where tenants can get on a waiting list for apartments.
Vassel declined to say what the rents will be, but said units are going to be high-end and rent will reflect that. Plans for the project show 32 units ranging from 884 square feet to 1,232 square feet.
Each will have 14-foot-high ceilings, a point of pride with Vassel.
The smallest units will have one bedroom and one bathroom, while the majority will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There will be one three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath unit.
There also will be two ground-floor retail spaces, a rooftop restaurant, a gym for tenants and office space on the mezzanine and second levels of the building.
Vassel is in discussions with commercial tenants, including companies from New York and New Jersey, and those interested in setting up shared office space.
He said there will be 14 parking spaces in the basement level of the building and he has also secured 32 off-site spots at a lot near Genesis Bicycles.
In August, the project was awarded a $3 million state grant to fund cultural and historic improvement projects.