Monday, November 27, 2006

North Avenue Developer Expects Extension

A developer whose 90-day conditional designation is up for the North Avenue tract said Monday (Nov. 27, 2006) he expects it will be extended.

Frank Cretella, president of Landmark Developers in Jersey City, said he is in the process of working out a written agreement with the city and the Union County Improvement Authority. The conditional designation, approved Aug. 23 by the City Council, called for an agreement within 90 days among the three parties, but did allow for an extension. The council met last week but took no action on the Landmark matter or AST Development Corp., which had a conditional designation for the Marino’s property that was also up in 90 days.

Asked about a newspaper report that seven- and 10-story buildings were part of the redevelopment plan for the tract by the main train station, Cretella said development will be phased and he expects the taller buildings to follow renovation of existing buildings.

North Avenue between Park and Watchung avenues was the city’s original business district and has many handsome Victorian facades facing the train station.

“The cost would be much greater if we were to start out of the box with a 10-story,” he said.

In a presentation Aug. 21, Cretella projected 415 residential units and 130,000 square feet of retail space in the project. He also envisioned an entertainment center that would draw visitors to the site.

Besides the historic architecture, the district contains some modern buildings that could be altered or replaced without taking away the 1880s character of the site. Cretella said he is trying to acquire two of those buildings. He also recognized the fact that the district has seen an influx of new businesses, mostly Latino-owned, which have flourished.

“My intent is not to target those stores that are doing well,” he said.

But he will offer written contracts to those that are not doing well, he said.

“Our development will have a big, big impact on Plainfield,” Cretella said Monday, calling the city “a diamond that has lost its luster.”

Plans to expand the North Avenue redevelopment area have not yet been backed up by the necessary changes in the redevelopment plan, but the City Council has authorized a study of the proposed expansion.

Cretella owns the Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City and is also the designated developer for a $25 million residential and commercial project approved there in January 2005, according to press reports.

Cretella said things are “going good” with the Jersey City project. All the legal work has been done and an amendment to the redevelopment plan has been passed. After the first of the year, he said, architectural and engineering work will begin for the project.

--Bernice Paglia


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