Monday, February 23, 2009

Keep Watch on New Plans

Random image: Oxalis windowbox.

Plaintalker has written about the proposal for an office complex on the Tepper’s block and another for retail and residential development in the 200 block of Park Avenue. Although they have separate names, they are both Landmark proposals.

There is a third one that is coming up for preliminary site plan approval at the March 5 Planning Board meeting. It is the only one that is in the original North Avenue Historic District redevelopment plan. The former Romond Jeep and Budget Rent-A-Car properties are now owned by Arts Loft I, yet another Landmark subsidiary.

The applicant seeks approval to renovate a vacant two-story building and to put three additional stories on top of it. The first floor would be used for 3,737 square feet of retail space and the upper four floors would have five apartments each, for a total of 20 dwelling units, according to a legal notice.

The notice says the applicant believes no further variances or waivers are needed, but if the Planning Board says any are needed, the applicant will seek them. There is no mention of parking, either for customers or residents.

The original 2000 North Avenue redevelopment plan covered only three blocks by the main train station. Landmark received conditional designation as the redeveloper in August 2006. The redevelopment agreement wasn’t finalized until April 2007. A feasibility study for a parking deck was to have started within 30 days. Many other timelines were set forth on a chart, all with the apparent intention of redeveloping the entire three-block parcel.

The Park Avenue project is on a block that is an extension of the North Avenue redevelopment area, but according to a recent update on all the redevelopment schemes, no developer has been designated.

As previously described on the blog, the West Front Street site consists of two city-owned lots and the Appliance-Arama warehouse. The city blocks were supposed to be the site of a 12-condo development by Heartstone Development, but the plan was dropped.

So at present there is a flurry of applications by Landmark affiliates for residential and commercial construction on three different sites. The idea of comprehensive development for the three North Avenue blocks seems to be in abeyance, as is full-scale redevelopment of the PNC Bank block that is the North Avenue extension. This may be due to a court challenge by merchants to the possible taking of land by eminent domain.

There hasn’t been a public update on the status of redevelopment plans overall for some time. After months of relative dormancy, the sudden rush for approvals bears watching. It will be up to the Board of Adjustment and Planning Board as well as the public to scrutinize these plans thoroughly, both singly and collectively, for their impact on the downtown and for their relationship to previously established redevelopment goals.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Parking - smarking. Details be hung. Maybe they will be all lived in by the City Hall staff who live out of town contrary to policy.

4:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully, they will be condos and not rentals. But, really now, who wants to live in a city that has trash all over the place, leaves and limbs in the streets, and tacky signs and window designs in the downtown? Let's get our city cleaned up first. Get some ordinances as to how the businesses must look. Can't the city do something about the tacky signs that cover windows and tasteless window decorations? Window shopping in Plainfield - not yet!

8:45 AM  
Blogger Bill Hetfield said...

The parking lot to the rear of the PNC Bank on Park Avenue was used as off-street parking by shoppers for decades. It was a nominal charge parking lot. In this capacity it served a crucial component in the appeal of downtown Plainfield as a place to shop. Of course, it was good business for the bank. The proposal to develop these buildings on Park Avenue is flawed without some guarantee from PNC Bank to provide parking-that was assured for decades by United National Bank. Also, it is not conceivable that financing would be available without parking. This matter accentuates the failure of government, once again, to have in place a redevopment plan for the core downtown business area. And is another result of professional and political incompentecy or worse.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Under the agreement with the Union County Improvement Authority for Park Madison redevelopment the city and the UCIA were supposed to make the 300 car parking garage available for public parking off hours, weekends and holidays. Why hasn't that happened in 3+ years?

1:46 PM  

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