Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Building Proposed for West Front Street

Developer Steven Eleftheriou won preliminary approval Wednesday for a three-story new building with four retail spaces and eight apartments on a West Front Street vacant lot between Liberty and New streets.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the application after about three hours of testimony and questioning. Attorney Bob Smith and a team of professional experts gave details of the application and responded to points in reports by T&M Associates and Planning Director Bill Nierstedt, along with innumerable “what-ifs” from board members. The session lived up to newly-reelected ZBA Chairman Scott Belin’s promise that every application will be thoroughly vetted during his tenure.

Eleftheriou said he hoped to have legal or accounting offices or perhaps nail or hair salons on the first floor, but said he was open to suggestions. Board members said they did not want to see late-night uses such as pool halls or taverns, in consideration of tenants in the two-bedroom apartments upstairs. But Smith said the size of the retail spaces would preclude many of the uses permitted under the mixed-use zone designation the applicant sought.

The lot is in a medium-density residential zone, but is slated to be re-zoned for mixed retail and residential use when the City Council approves a revised zoning ordinance, possibly as soon as next summer. At present, the neighborhood is in fact a combination of multi-family buildings, restaurants and other business uses.

A recurring question in the discussion was what hours of operation would be imposed on retail tenants. The board finally settled on 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Early on, Belin asked how downstairs noise would be compatible with tenants trying to put children to sleep, but expert planning witness Kevin O’Brien suggested tenants would most likely be couples who would use the second bedrooms as home offices.

The site will have 31 parking spaces, with 16 dedicated for residents.

Among the what-ifs:

What if someone came home sick from work and found their parking space taken? Spaces will be numbered and the lot will be posted with warnings that violators will be towed.

What if someone wanted to see the sky or a back yard? This after O’Brien said there would be negative impact from the project. Belin argued there could be an “esthetic detriment.”

“Some people like to see green. I would be very careful if I say there would be no detriment,” he said.

To an observer not schooled in the fine points of land use law, some of the evening’s more interesting revelations were the proposed use of solar panels, energy-efficient lighting and a plan to pump water from a detention basin to water vegetation on the site. Each apartment will have its own washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator and radiant baseboard gas heating. Common areas will have remotely-monitored surveillance cameras and solar panel-powered utilities. Balconies will provide open space.

Each 13-by-16 square foot master bedroom with a walk-in closet and one other closet, while each 11.5-by-11 square feet bedrooms will have a sliding-door closet.

Eleftheriou projected a fair market rent rate of from $1,100 to $1,400 for the apartments. Once final approvals are granted, he said, he hopes to start construction in the spring. The estimated cost for the new construction is $1.5 to $1.8 million.

At the hearing’s conclusion, board members commented favorably before voting. Melvin Cody said the proposal “brings a lot to the city of Plainfield,” while Robert Scott hailed it as “one less vacant lot” and Alex Ruiz said he was “in favor of filling in the gaps.”

Originally offered as a modern-looking structure, the building was recast with traditional architectural details, which Ruiz said gave it “character.”

Belin called it “an interesting project” before the board voted unanimous approval.
--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if they charged so much for the residential tenants to use the parking spaces that they all parked on the street anyhow? I've got an apartment building around the corner from me, on Central and 9th, that has lots of parking spaces. They sit empty and everyone parks on the street. Meanwhile their parked cars turn 9th St. into a one lane road.

4:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the what's happening in my town info. I miss chit chat with neighbors about what is new in the neighborhood in the winter.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From this and other rumblings, we are headed towards a community of renters downtown.

These projects would never be approved in Wesfield and Cranford, but in urban areas and in Plainfield, they are hailed as "progress". The same way our housing projects were 40 years ago.

Plainfield will get dumped on, over and over again and we gladly accept everyone else's refuse.

Poor, poor Plainfield.

S. Smith

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry I missed that ZBA meeting Bernice.

Is that a three story building??? Boy, it sure looks like one.

Over and over again developers/ZBA members/ and even Bill Nierstedt's former boss to be, Jennifer Wenson-Maier, told us Netherwood folks that they have to build four story and higher mixed use buildings to make it 'economically feasible' .

Ms. Wenson-Maier even suggested that it was a structural issue. After a Plainwood Square Merchant meeting last year she offered to take me back to her office and show proof to me why three story mixed use building's couldn't work.

Reelected ZBA Chairman Scott Belin's presided over many zoning board meetings last year when they approved a four story building on South Ave in the 'Netherwood' shopping district. The Netherwood Historic District begged for three stories.

Why can developers make it work with three stories in downtown Plainfield, downtown Fanwood, downtown Cranford, downtown Westfield, and in Garwood. . .but not poor ole downtown Netherwood?

I just can't seem to let it go. . . jim spear

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like nail and hair salons...what a plan.
We seem to suffer from failure of imagination
here in PlAinfield...

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its actualy a decent looking building. Looks like the old theatre building. However Schott's simple comment of 1 less empty lot is a poor reason to approve a project. Just more of the same for Plainfield. It does look nice and will have parking. No nail or hair salons though, we have enough already. And no storefront churches please.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would love to see a shoe repair, some artsy stores from Plainfield artists, maybe even a jazz club. Would be nice.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's a hair salon they better be prepared to pay the $100 fee per chair to the Health division.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$1400 rent in downtown Plainfield for a 2 bedroom apartment? Are you kidding?

Rents in downtown Jersey City, blocks from the PATH and Wall street are going for 1400-1800.

A young professional couple, working in NYC (interested in being near a train, city setting, not caring about a yard and having kids), would not pay that kind of money for Plainfield when they could pay a bit more and be 15 minutes from NYC and Wall Street.

They may get 1400 ... but you'll end up with a family of 4 living in each bedroom .. what's going on in other parts of town. Stuff that is ignored by the current administration.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paying the fee to the Health Division sounds fair to me. Where is the salon going to go? Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains? Those cities have been paying that amount, if not more, and have been doing so for several years. They are nice towns. Bet they get their money from permits and inspections that are in sync with the rest of the surrounding towns.

In case you haven't noticed, Plainfield could use that money, and could have used that money all along. Businesses have been getting a break for 15 years. Taxpayers have not. They have been subsidizing. Time for fees to be raised fairly. As I said, they can go to the other towns, but they are going to pay at least as much, if not more.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we still a Transit City or is that old news ?

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Marvin Selwicky said...

To anon 11:59. You don't try to "recoup" what you didn't collect in 15 years in one year. If you are going to put fees in, place something like a 3-5% fee (IF ANY) but don't go through the saga and say it's good for business. If you haven't realized, Plainfield is struggling to keep businesses here. If these 15-200% fees go into effect, we will most likely lose all of the successful businesses or residents will go elsewhere for these services (which will then shut the Plainfield businesses down). Cut the corruption in city hall and you can easily make up the difference - THREE FOLD!

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the plainfield street clock? This is a real treasure and is 103 years old just sittig there?

12:55 PM  
Blogger Bernice said...

To 12:55 p.m. - the street clock was supposed to be moved to the Park-Madison building plaza. That item is among several unresolved conditions the Planning Board put on the building approvals. Because the UCIA owns the building and Charlotte D. runs the UCIA, maybe it will only be moved when and if she says so.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So who is this Charlotte chick and what do we have to do to get it in place? Is that Defellipis? She works for us, let her be reminded if she is so high and mighty and cant even install a historic clock that was a condition of approval. Sounds like a NJ101.5 issue. Bombard her with calls until she caves in and puts it up.

4:51 PM  

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