What’s your favorite restaurant in Rahway?

We’ve done polls on your favorite pizza, favorite burger, favorite bar, but with several “Best of” restaurant stories lately, it occurred to me that while we’ve polled readers about the types of restaurants they’d like to see in Rahway, we’ve never blogged about their favorite existing restaurants.

We’ll have the usuals like Luciano’s, The Waiting Room and Cubanu, and others outside of downtown, like Beana’s but since I hate to leave out any establishments, we’re open to suggestions on what places to list in the poll — either post in the comments below or send me an email [rahwayrising(at)gmail.com].

For this poll, we’ll stick to the larger, sit-down places and leave the smaller eateries and takeout joints for another, separate poll. Either way, it gives us something to do during the slow summer months, like while I’m on vacation.

I’ll give you a few days to come up with some ideas and suggestions and post a new poll by next week.

Auto parts store could make way for park

The Planning Board Tuesday night endorsed an application to the state Green Acres program that puts in motion a plan that might turn an auto parts store into a city park.

The City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. regarding the possible acquisition of Norwood Auto Parts at 125 Monroe St. for use as a public park.

Former city planner Lenore Slothower, who’s been retained to do some grant work since retiring last year, told the Planning Board that the owner of Norwood Auto Parts approached the city administration earlier this month about the possibility of buying the property because of issues with stormwater flooding.

The city would apply to the State Green Acres program for funding that would cover about 75 percent of the $1,005,000 estimated cost. Another $221,000 would be sought from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the remaining quarter. Preliminary estimated costs include appraisal, acquisition, relocation assistance, demolition and remediation, if necessary, among other things.

Union County’s hazardous mitigation plan must be approved by FEMA before it can be eligible for the federal funding and county officials are working to expedite that approval, she said. Deadlines loom for both the state funding and federal FEMA dollars, requiring Tuesday’s special meeting of the City Council.

The 0.1588-acre site at the corner of Monroe and Essex streets, about a block from the Rahway River, was acquired in 1991 for $257,000, according to PropertyShark.com. Assessed at $222,800, the annual property tax bill runs about $11,000.

The Monroe Street neighorhood, including the PSE&G substation across the street, has been mentioned in the past as a potential redevelopment area. The city in May 2009 opened Myron Ross Park, another park along Essex Street, this one a few blocks south, off East Milton Avenue.

East Grand development begins leasing

Within a year of razing several properties and breaking ground, the former Renaissance at Rahway development is now leasing apartments.

The East Grand Avenue project was referred to as Renaissance at Rahway throughout the planning process but is now called Meridia at Grand, according to banners posted on the five-story building. There are 88 units, 44 one- and two-bedrooms, with parking on the ground floor but originally the plan was for 72 for-sale condos before the Planning Board approved a request two summers ago to change the project.

Occupancy is expected by sometime in August, possibly as early as Aug. 1. There are 11 different floor plans varying in size from almost 800 to 1,200 square feet with rents ranging from $1,250 to $1,800, according to the leasing agent.

Beana’s nabs third place for Best Mexican

Beana’s Mexican Restaurant on St. Georges Avenue took third place in the Mexican category of Inside Jersey‘s “Best of N.J. Restaurants” feature this week.

New Jersey Monthly has its annual critics’ and readers’ restaurant poll but no word on how the top three were selected by Inside Jersey.

Council approves $400k for acquisition

The City Council last week approved a $400,000 bond ordinance for the acquisition, demolition and remediation of 324 Hamilton St. The 2 1/2-story home is one of four remaining near the site of the proposed amphitheater at the former Hamilton Laundry property.

The Redevelopment Agency last month adopted a resolution to acquire the home for $240,000. In addition to the sale price, the ordinance includes $35,000 for demolition and asbestos removal, $10,000 for tank removal and asbestos survey, $32,000 for engineers, with the other costs for financing and bond issuance, according to City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier.

A home adjacent to the amphitheater site was razed earlier this year after the agency purchased it for $340,000, spending another $35,000 for demolition. Five homes in all between the site of the future amphitheater and the Bell building have been targeted for acquisition, with plans to eventually raze them all to create parking for the arts district projects.

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The Star-Ledger’s Munchmobile went through Rahway again recently, this time in search of the best burgers.

They said Flynn’s Irish Pub & Steakhouse “lives up to its claim as ‘a little bit of Ireland in downtown Rahway,'” but the steakhouse burger wasn’t “breaking down any doors,” though they were cited for having the best onion rings – “crackly, and slightly, agreeably greasy.”

Flynn’s you might recall was tops in our poll last spring for Best Burger.

Council approves consulting contracts

City Council on Monday night awarded two more contracts to Princeton-based Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects for work related to Arts District projects.

The first was a professional services contract of $264,070 for architectural consulting services to “prepare construction documents and LEED services” for the reuse of the Bell Building (photo above).

A second resolution awarded a professional services contract of $115,570 for “consulting services relative to conducting bidding and construction administration and observation” for the amphitheater.

The council also awarded a contract last month to Farewell Mills Gatsch. City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said each phase of the project is awarded separately “to keep control of the costs associated with preparation of the bid specifications.”

Amphitheater out to bid this month

The 1,000-seat amphitheater planned for the former Hamilton Laundry site is expected to go out for construction bids by the end of this month and break ground by October, City Engineer James Housten told the Redevelompent Agency at its meeting last week.

To date, soil investigation has been completed and remediation plans have been approved while oil tanks have been removed and monitoring wells set up, he said. Remediation will take place on site and construction will begin immediately after that, he added.