Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In mid-2005, the city had more than a dozen redevelopment studies or plans in the works. After the administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs took over in 2006, several more were added along with the notion of clustering development around city train stations.

On Tuesday (Feb. 20, 2007, Councilman Cory Storch reported on the work of a new Economic Growth Review Committee that will track all the proposals in their various stages, report to the full governing body and cooperate with the administration to name priorities and iron out hindrances to progress.

The committee, which includes Councilmen Don Davis and Rashid Burney, will also make recommendations regarding initiatives such as transit-oriented development, attracting new businesses to Plainfield and “strategic alignment” of business organizations with the city.

Other issues the committee will address include parking, traffic circulation, “pedestrian friendliness” and transit strategies.

Storch said the committee hopes to review proposed Zoning Ordinance updates for their impact on development in the city and will help draft and review all resolutions and ordinances as they pertain to economic development.

New City Administrator Marc Dashield is putting together the “big picture” on redevelopment and will bring it back to the committee and the council, Storch said.

Plaintalker has been attempting a similar overview of all the redevelopment studies and plans on the books, but the challenge is to describe them all without having the readers snooze off. The projects range from hundreds of condos to dozens to exactly one dozen on a vacant lot on Madison Avenue. Unless the plan affects one’s neighborhood, it’s hard to pay attention.

The new transit-oriented development thrust confounds the question of what’s happening where, as the “transit villages” overlap redevelopment plans already underway.

The council was supposed to consider a new Union County Improvement Authority deal Tuesday that would have given the UCIA power to conduct needs studies and make redevelopment plans for areas in one-quarter mile and one-half mile radii from the two existing and two defunct train stations. But that was put off until March. Plaintalker’s quick stab at mapping showed the quarter-mile and half-mile to encompass an awful lot of the six-square-mile Queen City. The new concept would seem to overlap a bunch of the redevelopment studies and plans already on the books.

Of all the proposals, only Dornoch Plainfield’s plan for a new senior center and 63 condos has neared the possibility of construction. The viability of others remains to be seen.

--Bernice Paglia


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