Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dornoch Leads 2007 Development

A plan to build 63 condos over a new senior center took shape rapidly in 2007, while a raft of other proposals remained in early stages.

In January, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs signed a contract with Dornoch Plainfield for the new senior center/condo complex and happy seniors celebrated a ground-breaking in July. Construction is underway, with developer Glen Fishman footing the $15 million bill and donating the center at no cost to the city. Seniors receive monthly updates from project manager Isaac Kirzner.

The privately-funded project is the first of many condo proposals linked to transit hubs in the city. The others are all being shepherded through the redevelopment process by the Union County Improvement Authority. The process calls for “in need of redevelopment” studies of each project area, followed by redevelopment plans. Both the City Council and Planning Board must approve the steps.

One major proposal that has reached the stage of a contractual agreement with the city and the authority is Landmark Developers’ plan to build 415 residential units and 130,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, with buildings as high as eight to 10 stories, on blocks around the main train station on North Avenue. However, an expansion of the redevelopment area is under consideration, including replacing a current city parking lot with a six-story parking garage. Merchants have hired a prominent eminent domain attorney to challenge the plan.

Eminent domain court decisions last summer have led to the city backing off on a study of 93 properties around the Netherwood train station. Now just 15 properties midway between the Netherwood and main stations are under consideration for redevelopment.

A developer for the Marino’s site on West Front Street is still working on financing for the project, which is expected to include a major supermarket.

Not much has been heard lately about a five-phase condo project at East Richmond and Third streets. That one was supposed to start with the former Cozzoli property.

All these and more have been reported on the blog. In all, there are nearly 20 proposals in various stages, too many to rehash yet again while awaiting progress. Suffice it to say that the Gallenthin vs. Paulsboro decision on eminent domain and uncertain market conditions have slowed things down.

All the studies, plans and agreements achieved so far are also on file in the Planning Division, for those who want more details. The Dornoch project is to include solar panels and a roof garden. Planning and Zoning board members have made it a point to ask developers to make energy efficiency a priority in any new construction or adaptive re-use.
--Bernice Paglia


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