Monday, December 18, 2006

Council Asked To Extend Designations

Developers for the North Avenue and Marino’s tracts are in substantive talks that are advancing their plans, Union County Improvement Authority attorney Ed Boccher told the City Council Monday (Dec. 18, 2006).

Boccher urged the council to approve 60-day extensions of each developer’s 90-day conditional designations, which expired recently.

The council will vote Wednesday on the extensions.

AST Development Corp. of Lavallette had conditional designation for the Marino’s tract in the West End and Landmark Developers of Jersey City received conditional designation for the North Avenue tract around the main train station.

Boccher said AST received approval Thursday from the chief executive officer of an unnamed supermarket company to enter into a lease and the company’s in-house property acquisition arm approved the proposal on Friday. He said the lease should be entered into within seven to 10 days.

AST has also been meeting with one of the largest property owners on the site and “progress is being made,” Boccher said.

The Marino’s tract is a former car dealership on West Front Street. A supermarket has been the favored anchor for several years, but previous proposals have not come to fruition. At present, the city has no major supermarket and officials have especially hoped to locate one in the West End.

The North Avenue tract is essentially the city’s oldest commercial district by the main train station, between Park and Watchung avenues.

Boccher said Landmark has had offers accepted on three properties in the North Avenue tract and is in talks on a joint venture for another large tract.

The private negotiations could solve the problem of taking land by eminent domain, a concern in all recent development proposals.

Boccher noted that the North Avenue tract may be expanded and the developer may have a strategy to address that.

The original North Avenue redevelopment plan only included a few blocks around the main train station, but officials have suggested expansions to the north, west and south. However, none of the suggestions have materialized into amendments to the redevelopment plan. Any changes must be approved by the Planning Board and City Council.

Boccher suggested requiring each developer to set up a $15,000 escrow account to cover costs associated with the extensions.

Councilman Don Davis asked for timetables on the development proposals.

Boccher said project schedules will be included in any redevelopment agreements.

In another development matter, Councilman Cory Storch reviewed the Planning Board’s decision on an East Front Street project that includes a new ground-floor senior center and 63 market-rate condos overhead. Storch is the council’s Planning Board member.

The board approved a plan with an allotment of 93 parking spaces for all uses.

Previously, the project would have required two spaces per two-bedroom unit but a zoning amendment approved by the council on Nov. 22 allowed 1.5 parking spaces for the proposal.

The developer, Dornoch Plainfield LLC, proposed 95 spaces and was excused from two for safety reasons, leaving 93.

For past stories on development proposals, key in the developer’s name at the top of the blog and you should get all relevant stories.

--Bernice Paglia


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