Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Plan for 352 Condos Unveiled

The public got its first glimpse Monday at what may arise on the East Third/Richmond redevelopment site.

General Counsel Rosario “Sam” Presti Jr. and architect Genaro Salierno, representing Capodagli Property Company LLC of Pompton Plains, presented a conceptual plan that included 352 residential units in five residential structures. The 268 one-bedroom and 84 two-bedroom units would be built on four floors above 700 ground-level parking spaces. The ground floor would also include utilities such as laundry rooms, trash disposal and other service functions. Sale prices for the units would range from $300,000 to $350,000.

Density on the 4.26 acre site would be just under the 84-unit maximum density set out in a redevelopment plan for the site. The redevelopment plan that was passed by the Planning Board is up for second reading and final passage at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The project is a bit shy of the quarter-mile limit for “transit villages” near train stations, but Public Works & Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson Maier said the site was just a bike-ride away from the North Avenue and Netherwood train stations.

Salierno said the rendering of one building in a “renaissance of Georgian style” was the example that would be used for all five buildings. He called it part of a movement toward “roots,” citing the PT Cruiser and the Ford Thunderbird as design examples.

Even though the presentation was the first public indication of the proposal, Salierno told the council it was “the fruits of your efforts as to what your vision is” for the redevelopment site.

On the same agenda, the council was asked to agree to vote Wednesday on a resolution that would give conditional designation to Capodagli as developer, with 90 days for the company to work out a developer’s agreement with the city and the Union County Improvement Authority.

A rdevelopment study found the site to be full of dilapidated properties. But challengers have questioned why only the east end of the industrial and commercial blocks off Richmond Avenue have been targeted.

In public comment, Larry Thul asked the same question. The Thul family has a machine shop on the site and has a network of auto supply stores.

Thul asked what will happen if high-density residential uses are placed at the end of a block that is mainly industrial and commercial.

He also had a personal issue.

“It took my family 93 years to build the business, and in one fell swoop, you may put my family out of business,” he said.

In approving the redevelopment plan, planners had asked for some consideration of uses on the rest of the blocks in question and also wanted the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority to have some say on the project, because the authority had been planning to use the site as a base for its administrative and operational functions.

The PMUA has not responded to Plaintalker’s calls about the Authority’s concerns for the site.

The proposal has many steps yet to go, including approvals by land use boards for specific details of the project. Given that it projects sales of $300,000 to $350,000 per unit, it is in line with other recent redevelopment proposals. But City Council members are becoming more adamant about requesting market studies to prove the economic viability of these projects. Councilman Rashid Burney pointed out Monday that a three-bedroom home off Woodland Avenue is priced to sell at $319,000, but has not attracted a buyer.

"If you build it, will they come?" he asked Presti.

"This project is a vision of the city," Presti replied, saying it would complement the city and introduce people to the city.

--Bernice Paglia


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