Friday, December 07, 2007

Netherwood Tract "In Need of Redevelopment"

The Planning Board Thursday (Dec. 6, 2007) found 15 properties between Richmond and Berckman streets in need of redevelopment.

NB: Plaintalker has consistently reported the number as 16 parcels, which is wrong! It is 15!

The decision came after a detailed presentation by Union County Improvement Authority attorney Edward Boccher and Remington &Vernick planner George Stevenson.

The board will now recommend to the City Council that a redevelopment plan be made for the target properties.

The properties include large industrial tracts, a few homes and the city’s Public Works yard.

A draft redevelopment plan obtained by Plaintalker Thursday calls for five-story residential development on the parcels, which are dominated by industrial buildings that are now considered obsolete since the decline of freight usages along the Raritan Valley railroad line.

Many of the buildings are vacant or up for sale, including the former Edward Paul and Royal Apex buildings and the defunct Sunrise Club.

Some Planning Board members reacted to the reasons given for redevelopment by saying they needed to know more about the future plans in order to give context to the findings on the present uses, but Boccher said the board could only address the study, not any possible plans for the area.

But the existence of a draft plan seemed to indicate a fast-forward determination of redevelopment plans, just as happened when Stevenson once previously inadvertently flashed a slide noting a full plan when the board was only at the stage of approving an “in need” study.

The city currently has about 20 redevelopment proposals in various stages of approval, most tied to the newly popular concept of “transit village” development.

Planning Board members and others have voiced suspicions that the present redevelopment proposals are driven more by developers’ schemes than by the wishes of the community. The current target area on North and South avenues is outside the optimum quarter-mile radius of both the main train station on North Avenue and the Netherwood station, but was described as being “in walking distance” of both.

The specter of a challenge to redevelopment around the main train station was in the air Wednesday.

Boccher downplayed the challenge voiced to the City Council Wednesday by Princeton Peter D. Dickson, who successfully argued the Gallenthin vs. Paulsboro case. In that case, a property owner challenged the borough’s planner’s findings that the property was in need of redevelopment based on certain criteria. After the Supreme Court decision in June, several other towns backed off on plans to take property by eminent domain.

The Paulsboro planner was the same George Stevenson of Remington & Vernick who is now handling redevelopment studies for Plainfield. The North Avenue study was revised after the decision and the Netherwood study area was reduced from 93 parcels to 15.

Boccher took the proposed legal challenge as a good sign, indicating redevelopment was going to happen in Plainfield.

“You’re going to find a lot of lawyers crawling out of the woodwork,” Boccher said.

He said it was not necessarily a bad thing.

“They want to make money,” he said, but assured the board that the North Avenue study was “very solid.”

There are eight criteria that may be applied in determining a need for redevelopment. Boccher said, “Since Gallenthin, some of the standards have focused more and more on the detriment to the public, criteria e.”

Boccher invoked the theories of Jane Jacobs, author of “Death and Life in American Cities,” asking Planning Division Director Bill Nierstedt to describe them. Nierstedt cited two aspects, the presence of short block and mixed uses, that result in people interacting. Boccher said the tract in question, where former industrial uses have declined, has no “eyes on the street” and is no longer vibrant.

The tract between Berckman and Richmond streets is close to another proposed redevelopment area, the East Third & Richmond tract where Capodagli Property Company proposes 352 residential units in five buildings at East Third and Richmond streets, with 700 parking spaces at ground level. The Pompton Plains company plans to phase in development, starting with the former Cozzoli Machinery site.

At the time that plan was under discussion, Public Works & Urban Development Director Jennifer Wenson Maier said the new residents could ride bicycles to the train station, which was just out of optimum walking distance.

--Bernice Paglia


Post a Comment

<< Home