Thursday, May 15, 2008

Whither Redevelopment?

Before my trip, I went downtown to take pictures, specifically to catch up with the Heartstone proposal on West Front Street. A vacant lot was all there was to be seen so far, the city having paid for demolition of an old building on the site. Oliver Brown's company, Oveter's Construction, had equipment on the site.

Clay Bonny of Heartstone Development proposed 12 market-rate condos for the site. Click here for an earlier post on Heartstone. Bonny, like many other developers who have come to Plainfield since Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs took office, has a project in Rahway. That one, according to the blog Rahway Rising, is now shifting to rentals rather than owner occupancy, due to market conditions.

This is the bug-a-boo that land use boards and the governing body here have hoped to avoid as they grant approvals.

But while my original red redevelopment folder spawned a bunch of separate folders for developers, there hasn't been much to add to any of them lately. Dornoch received permission to lease a city-owned lot for a sales office, but when I looked a couple of weeks ago, the lot was still vacant, with no trailer office in sight. Construction is proceeding on Dornoch's 63 market-rate condos on three floors over a new senior center at 400 East Front Street.

There hasn't been much news on North Avenue, Netherwood, Richmond & Third, Marino's, Downtown Station South or other proposals. Rahway has a redevelopment agency, as Plainfield once had, so Rahway Rising can do one-stop scouting for news. Those following redevelopment here must keep an eye on the Planning and Zoning boards as well as the City Council to ferret out progress. A recent summary from Planning on the myriad proposals was not much changed from a previous one, hinting at a slowdown due to market conditions. Recently the administration announced a closer focus on a few of the dozen or more proposals, perhaps those most likely to succeed.

It would be good to have an in-depth update on those projects, especially Landmark's North Avenue proposal for blocks around the main train station. That one has been expanded and is supposed to be done in phases. The Historic Preservation Commission had concerns about the project's impact on the North Avenue Commercial Historic District, the city's original business district across from the main station. Were they resolved?

Besides all the city entities involved in redevelopment, there is the Union County Improvement Authority, to which the overall responsibility for redevelopment was entrusted in 2006. The administration holds weekly meetings with attorneys and staff on redevelopment and the City Council gets updates in closed session. Even if there is nothing major to report, it would be good to have a rundown soon for the public on how things are going.

--Bernice Paglia

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice,

I just have to mention once again that Rahway is where Jenny Wenson-Maier is city council president and where she has her architecture firm. Let's follow the money and contracts and we will see that many things fall into the category of "pay to play."

11:50 AM  
Anonymous gb park said...

A run down on Professional Services, those the council knows about and those snuck in would be interesting. Follow the money [to out of town consultants ....]

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice,
I hate to say it, but I belive the people in charge of Plainfield's redevelopment are either stupid or their actions are not in Plainfield's best interst. You don't have to be a planner, an architect, a savy real estate investor, or for that matter, a successful devloper to see that that failing to have a redevelopment plan with focus on the core business district, the economic and social enhancement, that the people want will not occur. Why would the decesion makers not want that to happen? I ask you to consider what potential political & social ramifications are feared the most by those that surely will gain the most. Is it power? Is race a factor? Poor Plainfield. That's the problem folks.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This all looks like phantom re-development to me. I doubt if there were ever any real plans to embark on these projects. The consultants are making all of their money right now. Looks like they are going to cash in on Plainfield even if no physical work goes on. Smart move on the part of the politicians in charge. The suspected that their time in control would be short lived, so they moved fast to repay the debt they incurred. Good for them.....too bad for Plainfield.

10:56 AM  

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