First building approved for destroyed warehouse site

Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — A little more than a year since a massive nine-alarm fire destroyed one million square feet of warehouse space in North Brunswick, construction on the property is set to begin.

Representatives of 1600 Livingston Holdings LLC came before the North Brunswick Planning Board on Nov. 1 to discuss the first steps in approving the initial building to be rebuilt on the site.

Board members unanimously approved the site plan for a 300,000-square-foot building for the owners’ own warehouse distribution business.

Rich Cifelli, a representative of the owner, said the owner is currently operating out of a 180,000-square-foot space on Cranbury Road in South Brunswick, but hopes to move back to North Brunswick by June 2017.

He said the space cost $660,000 per year for 670,000 square feet of space prior to the fire, with a valuation of $1.4 million. The total revenue going forward is expected to be $28-$30 million.

Currently, there are nine monitoring wells located on the property, according to Cifelli, who said the original owner, Okonite, is handling the cleanup. He said within three months only one monitoring well should remain. He said the expectation was to receive footing permits within four weeks.

Operations Manager Sal DeRienzo said roughly 25-45 full- and part-time employees would be at the site on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

He said he owns two tractor trailers and three 20-footers, and that 10-15 trailers would come in and out of the site each day.

Walter Hopkin, president of WJH Engineering, discussed how the building will be 209 feet away from a series of residences at the back of the property, whereas the prior distance was 47 feet.

He also said that although 600 parking spaces are required by North Brunswick’s ordinance, the applicant is proposing 276 spaces plus another 96 land-banked spots (reserved, if needed).

Tom Geiger, president of Environmental Tactics in Matawan, testified that the noise level on Livingston Avenue should range from 63-87 decibels, based on noise measured at the facility on Cranbury Road.

“We can’t measure levels at the North Brunswick site because there’s nothing going on at the North Brunswick site,” he said.

He said the normal operation in South Brunswick measures 68 decibels so experts added 20 decibels during the day for the North Brunswick property, though the numbers are within range.

The blaze at the former DCH Collision Center at 1600 Livingston Ave. started around 1:30 a.m. on July 22, 2015, in the multi-tenanted warehouse building.

The property was originally owned by Okonite, which then sold it to U.S. Detergent, which is now owned by 1600 Livingston Holdings.

The original Studebaker factory dates to the 1930s, though the site had been most recently inhabited by tenants Achim Import, DCH Collision Center/Brunswick Toyota Body Shop, Fabian Transport, Hja Logistics, Aflex, Jordan Accessories, DMD Mechanical General Contractors and a car export company.

A joint investigation is still being conducted by the North Brunswick Fire Marshal’s Office, the North Brunswick Detective Bureau and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. There have been no status updates on the investigation.

Contact Jennifer Amato at