Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Developer Sees Potential on Park Avenue

In a conceptual hearing before the Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday, developer Frank Cretella envisioned a steakhouse in the old Courier News building and maybe a Trader Joe's in the PNC Bank building.

Cretella is the designated developer for the North Avenue Commercial Historic District, which spans the block between Park and Watchung avenues and includes other properties near the main train station. An agreement with the city and the Union County Improvement Authority spells out the developer's responsibilities and the scope of the project. Click here for a previous post on Cretella's firm, Landmark Development Corp.

His presentation Tuesday focused on the PNC Bank building and two others to the south of it, in what is an extended portion of the original North Avenue redevelopment plan. Architect Eli Dressler showed old photos depicting original features that Cretella plans to restore on the three-building strip. The developer would also add another floor to the rear of the Courier News building and the bank, with setbacks to prevent visual disparity with the main structures.

Cretella wants to create four residential units on upper floors of the middle building, with retail on the ground floor, and 12 more residential units above the former Courier News site.

Dressler declared the PNC Bank building to be in perfect shape. Cretella said he has been in contact with the Pittsburgh bank management on preserving interior details of the bank. He said he owns the two other buildings and is under contact to acquire the bank.

Commission members questioned a proposed "event space" structure on the top of the bank that some deemed too out of character for the site. Instead of a former pediment on top of what Preservationist Gail Hunton called a "Greek temple" look to the bank, the addition would rise on just one side.

Commission member Sandy Gurshman said the asymmetrical structure looked "like it landed from outer space" and was "not organic." Hunton also said the angle of the roof in the Neo-classical structure did not work. But Cretella said the structure was meant "to create some excitement."

Cretella's other plans for the PNC block call for 12,000 square feet of retail space to the rear of the bank on the block bounded by Park Avenue, West Second Street, Madison Avenue and the Raritan Valley Line train tracks.

Parking for customers and tenants would be provided on the same block, which currently has a number of unused parking spaces. After board members pointed out there is a historic building on the block, the Sutphen house, Cretella said it would be preserved.

Cretella said he hopes to go before the Planning Board for site plan approvals on Jan. 15, but HPC member Bill Michelson, a former Planning Board member, suggested that there might be a delay in the 2009 schedule while board vacancies are filled.

Although people in the room reacted audibly when Cretella mentioned Trader Joe's, he said he had last had contact with the company a while ago, before the current fiscal collapse that has affected the entire economy.

For information on another nearby Cretella proposal, click here.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...


A Trader Joe's? A steak house? In Plainfield?

Still my beating heart!!!! Too good to be true?

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am getting out my credit card as we speak! This is where I want to spend my money, and this appears to be a good start.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good...no a great start, but lets see if it ever gets past the idea stage. Three beautiful buildings that could not only be renovated instead of torn down as originally planned, but put to a use as something other than another family dollar or short lived spanish restaurant. Sounds like a plan, but it is also from the man with the great plan for North Ave by the train station. That plan seems to have disappeared. Current economy?? Feet dragging by the politicos?? Other?? Lets hope it can happen. It would be a great start to changing the ghetto to something better.

10:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home