New commissioner for Redevelopment Agency

The City Council approved the mayor’s appointment of a new commissioner to the Redevelopment Agency during its meeting earlier this month.

Matt Dobrowloski will fill the seat vacated by Carlos Garay, who announced at the December Redevelopment Agency meeting that he’d be concluding his term as commissioner, citing personal reasons. A local Realtor, Dobrowloski is chairman of The Taste of Spring and resigned his seat from the Parking Authority, where he was replaced by Armondo Sanchez. City Council approved both mayoral appointments at its regular meeting on Jan. 11.

Redevelopment commissioners are unpaid and serve five-year terms, appointed by the mayor with approval by City Council. Other commissioners currently on the board include William Rack, chairman; Courtney Clarke, vice chairman; Councilwoman Nancy Saliga; James Farrell; Timothy Nash, and Anthony Diege.

Contract awarded for razing Hamilton St. home

The City Council awarded a demolition contract for the Hamilton Street house that will be razed as part of the amphitheater project.

The contract, awarded at the Jan. 11 meeting, went to the lowest responsible bidder, Frank Lurch Demolition Co. of Avon By the Sea, for $34,999. The two-story, multi-family home was acquired by the Redevelopment Agency for $340,000, closing in March.

Architects are scheduled to present the final draft of plans this week to the Rahway Arts District advisory board. Discussion will include costs associated with amphitheater construction and design of the black box theater, slated for the former Bell Building, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Mayor James Kennedy appointed me to a three-year term as an honorary member of the Rahway Arts District Board of Trustees. Honorary members do not vote and do not have the same obligations as other board members, and all are unpaid. I expect to attend meetings whenever possible as a means to keep the community informed.

Irving Street market expands

Strolling through downtown on Sunday, I noticed the Azteca Food Market & Deli expanded into the neighboring space once occupied by Fit To Be Ties, which has moved back to an Elizabeth Avenue location.

The market is next door to a building that’s undergoing renovation where a new bar and restaurant is planned, The Station Bar & Grill.

Work at Renaissance continues

Renaissance at Rahway continues to rise along East Grand Avenue and Monroe Street. The five-story complex will feature ground-floor parking and 88 rental units, with an equal amount of one- and two-bedroom units.

T-Liners, a barber shop in the only property that didn’t sell to the developer, also recently opened in space formerly occupied by a bait and tackle shop.

The project has eliminated a short portion of Montgomery Street from Monroe to East Grand (photo above) as planned.

Here’s what the site looked like around Thanksgiving.

Fundraising aims to boost arts center lineup

A $150,000 fundraising effort to target more high-profile programming at the Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) has commitments of at least $90,000 as of last month. Mayor James Kennedy said the board of trustees at its last meeting gave approval to the executive director to pursue a handful of performances.

“It’s designed to have a decent rate of return to put on performances,” he said during a brief interview following his State of the City address this month.

There have been some additional verbal commitments for fundraising and other possibilities as well, the mayor said during a follow-up interview last week.

The center’s board is leaning toward musical performances and with several new board members, “there’s a new level of energy you can feel,” Kennedy said, adding that there’s been a recent emphasis on new board development.

Perhaps it’s time to bring back an old poll question, “What would you like to see at the Union County Performing Arts Center?” If you can believe it, it’s been two years (!) since we posed that question, with but a couple dozen faithful readers responding. Then there was this poll from April 2008 after UCPAC renovations were completed, which seemed to present a recurring theme among RR readers: Improve the programming. So…

“What would you like to see at the Union County Performing Arts Center?”

  • Concerts
  • Standup comedy
  • Plays/musicals
  • Movies
  • Other

Suggestions for next happy hour gathering

It’s been two months, is it time for another Rahway Rising happy hour? It’s already mid-January and I figured I should put some more planning behind the next event. As always, I leave it open for readers to offer dates and locations for our second happy hour. I’m thinking sometime in February.

I’ve already had discussions in passing with readers who’ve proposed rotating locations to “spread the wealth” to other bars or bring it closer to the other side of town to a St. Georges Avenue establishment. Feel free to use the comments section of this post for your preferences and suggestions, or email me at rahwayrising(at)gmail.com.

I’ll be back to post some assorted news items later this week.

Green building plan meeting next week

A special joint Planning Board and Environmental Commission meeting will be Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the Public Library, 2 City Hall Plaza.

The city aims to adopt a new chapter of its master plan, Green Building and Environmental Sustainability Plan, and seeks questions, feedback and involvement. The city has been promoting “green building practices in addition to conducting an energy audit of all its public buildings.”

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The Star-Ledger‘s Munchmobile Pizza Patrol took another swing through Union County recently. Brooklyn Pizza on Race Street was among the pizzerias to which they paid a visit, however, they didn’t sound too impressed, according to this report posted last week:

“‘Best pizza in New Jersey,’ proclaims Brooklyn Pizza. Maybe it should start with trying to be the best pizza in Rahway. The crust should return to crust school, and the cheese tasted low-grade. The white pie is instantly forgettable.”

Agree? Disagree? Brooklyn Pizza was a newcomer at the time of our Best Pizza poll almost a year ago, but managed a decent, middle-of-the-pack finish.