Friday, June 23, 2006

Deja Vu Downtown

Dear readers,
Plaintalker just reached 300 posts!
Interestingly, one in draft form from last June is very relevant right now.
The same half-block described in the story below is now under scrutiny again as part of a proposed expansion of the North Avenue Historic District redevelopment plan.
The former United National Bank block, now PNC, had previously been part of the proposed Downtown Station South redevelopment study, but is now also proposed to be added to North Avenue.
I am posting the old story "as is" just for informational purposes.

PLAINFIELD - Rejecting a redevelopment study on half a downtown block, planners called for a halt on more than a dozen other studies or plans now in the works.
At Thursday's meeting, board member Ken Robertson began by saying planners had just approved another study for another downtown block and said too many studies and plans were piling up without any indication of how they relate to the city's master plan.
The Planning Division study of seven properties off East Second Street said four - a bank and three sections of a city parking lot - were in need of redevelopment and that zoning rules would allow a five-story structure on each parcel.
But in a public hearing, merchants and residents objected, saying the parking lot is vital for businesses and the bank is one of just two left downtown, where more than half a dozen once existed.
Robertson had called for a summary of all the plans or studies and resident
Bernice Paglia: I read off a list I had compiled, ranging from two single lots to proposals affecting up to 23 blocks. I said the study of the south half of the block between Park and Watchung avenues and East Second and East Front streets did not take into account the effect on future condo residents and current business owners on the north portion. This study also needs to be correlated with two other plans near the main train station.
Lisa Cohen, whose family has owned Suburban Jewelers for decades, said the city backed establishment of a Special Improvement District that is now in operation, but members were not told of several redevelopment proposals that could affect their businesses. Her father, Irving Cohen, said he believed the city intended to put up a parking garage, which would block access to his eight parking spaces.
Other business owners said they need the lot for deliveries. Even some excluded from the recommendations spoke out. Jeff Brand of Planned Parenthood said the city could see an increase in unwanted pregnancies if his agency had to leave its Park Avenue building. A chiropractor said he had built up his business on Park Avenue over four years and it provided a livelihood for his family, including seven children.
The former Elks Club on Watchung Avenue, most recently a night club, was also excluded. At the end of the hearing, a city official in charge of development attempted to give the status of each plan or study. But with other matters yet to be heard, Planning Board Chairman Gordon Fuller asked Deputy City Administrator Pat Ballard Fox to submit a report in writing. The board will send its decision to the City Council, which can in turn accept or reject it.


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