2011-03-10 / Front Page

National String building proposed as retail, residential space

N.B. Zoning Board approves variances; full site plan application still needed
BY JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer


The former National Musical String Co., located on Georges Road in North Brunswick, will be converted into retail and residential space. The exterior will remain largely untouched because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. 
JENNIFER AMATO The former National Musical String Co., located on Georges Road in North Brunswick, will be converted into retail and residential space. The exterior will remain largely untouched because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. JENNIFER AMATO NORTH BRUNSWICK — A new song may be heard on Georges Road within the next few years.

The former National Musical String Co. building at 120 Georges Road may become a mix of residential and retail space. The township Zoning Board of Adjustment granted preliminary variances Feb. 17, although the applicant, Pioli Properties, must present a full site plan before the conversion is officially accepted.

The company, founded in 1897, became a leading manufacturer of steel musical strings for pianos and other instruments, and made harmonicas as well. It was bought by a guitar manufacturer in the 1970s but was sold and subdivided in 1979. The only location in North Brunswick to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the four-story, 40,000-square-foot building currently has its first floor occupied and top three floors vacant.

James Clarkin III, representing Pioli Properties, said the proposal is to convert the building into a bank, a beauty and nail spa, an art gallery, and a shoe or fashion shop, with 14 studio, six one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments located above the retail space.

“The project is not financially feasible without the residential component,” Clarkin said .

Clarkin said the exterior would largely remain the same, while there could be substantial internal renovations.

“We want to maintain some of the character of the historical building, but we also want to animate it,” said Jeff Venezia of Design Ideas Group of New Brunswick.

As for the second building on the lot, 360 Georges Road, the vacant building could become a variety of food and retail uses such as a restaurant, a food store, a bakery or ice cream shop, a flower shop, a wine shop and/or a seafood store. Amezzanine level will be kept within the boundaries of the height of the building.

Pioli Properties had to go before the Zoning Board to seek variances for parking spots, driveways and buffer zones. The plan is to have pedestrian connectivity between the two buildings, create a two-lane left turn onto Georges Road and provide plenty of landscaping to shield the buildings from the surrounding residential neighborhood and Bristol-Myers Squibb property.

“I think this will be a great improvement to what is there now,” said Thomas Bogdan, a licensed professional planner. “I don’t see any perceived negative impacts from this.”

However, resident Peter Lisi said he is concerned about the traffic patterns, since Georges Road from New Brunswick to North Brunswick is already vehicle-laden. He also said that the township could see problems if the residential units are not marketable or regulated in terms of who may move in, especially since the Berdine’s Corner section of town is already riddled with overcrowding issues.

Resident Tony Nastus added that there are already residential vacancies in town so no more are needed, and that adding more children to the school system is not needed either.

“As far as it staying commercial, that’s fine,” he said.

The Zoning Board unanimously approved the variances, though board member Joe Policastro said residents’ concerns must be taken into account, especially issues with traffic and additional housing.

“It bothers me, but I do know there is a need for [the development],” he said. “I know it’s not economically feasible if we don’t have the apartments … but I hope the owner would protect the integrity of the neighborhood.”

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

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