Friday, November 24, 2006

Time Up For Development Deals?

A development deadline for two major projects appears to be up this week.

On Aug. 23, the City Council agreed to give conditional designation to Landmark Development Corp. of Jersey City for the North Avenue Historic District and to AST Development Corp. of Lavallette for the Marino’s tract. Each developer was to work out a redeveloper’s agreement with the city and the Union County Improvement Authority within 90 days or the designation would expire. Unless the city and the UCIA extend the time period, the resolutions adopted Aug. 23 states there will be no further obligation to the developers.

Latin American Coalition President Flor Gonzalez raised the question Wednesday of whether the deadline was up for North Avenue, but no one from the council or administration answered her. Gonzalez has been working with Latino merchants who have successful businesses on North Avenue that might be displaced through eminent domain. She has led two rallies on North Avenue in support of the merchants and a building owner whose own redevelopment plans have bogged down in the uncertainty of the district’s future.

The North Avenue Historic District is adjacent to the city’s main train station and was its original commercial district, serving the Wall Street commuters who took the train in the late 1880s. It also includes the 1788 Quaker Meeting House.

Landmark representatives made a brief presentation to the council in August, proposing a new entertainment plaza and 415 residential units while retaining the Victorian building facades. In a June agreement to put the UCIA in charge of redevelopment projects, an attached map showed an expansion of the North Avenue Historic District, but no action has yet been taken to make the changes.

AST developed the downtown Park-Madison site, where a four-story office building, parking deck and retail strip arose on a block that had been vacant for about 30 years. AST proposed a 70,000-square-foot supermarket on the Marino’s tract, a former car dealership on West Front Street.

Last month, a planning report noted that AST had not yet met all the conditions of Planning Board approval for the Park-Madison project in 2001.

Besides the North Avenue and Marino sites, the new administration has backed a plan for condo development on the newly-designated East Third/Richmond tract and supports a proposal for a new senior center on East Front Street with 63 condos above it. The council just gave approval for Dornoch Plainfield LLC to apply for the senior center project and it will be up for a Planning Board hearing at 8 p.m. Dec. 7 in City Hall Library.

The council approved an “in need of redevelopment” plan for the East Third/Richmond site, but withdrew a resolution last month that would have given conditional designation to Capodagli Property Company of Pompton Plains as the developer. Capodagli proposes 352 condos in five structures.

Another plan to demolish a South Avenue auto repair business and put up 64 condos was rejected by the Board of Adjustment in September.

--Bernice Paglia


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