Crime rate dips; burglary up, larceny down

Keeping with a pattern of falling crime rates throughout the county and state, Rahway’s crime rate dipped 9 percent last year, according to the state’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), released last week.

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Jeweler to take last Park Square retail spot

Kennedy Jewelers will fill the final retail space at Park Square, moving four blocks from its current location.

Mayor James Kennedy said a 10-year lease is up on his East Milton Avenue and Fulton Street location and the new space, at the corner of Elm Avenue and Irving Street, is smaller, thus more affordable. “I like the street parking and cozier feeling,” he said in an email, describing it as “more ’boutique-ish.'”

Kennedy, who ends his fifth term as mayor at the end of this year, said it will be his fifth location in 32 years.

The other two retail tenants at Park Square are expected to be Davis Financial, a Linden-based CPA firm, and Deisel Training Center, a strength training and tae kwon do facility. The target for occupancy is December while Kennedy Jewelers could be January of February, according to Matt Dobrowlowski of Iozzi-Williams Village Green ERA, the exclusive listing agent. All three of the tenants have signed either four- or five-year leases in the range of $22 to $23 per square feet annually.

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Here’s a cool photo gallery in Crain’s New York, “Musty streets now hot strips,” featuring half a dozen “formerly forgotten streets becoming urban destinations, boasting a growing crop of trendy eateries and boutiques.” How’d they do it? “It requires daring entrepreneurs seizing the opportunities of cheap rents and an underserved market, as well as landlords hungry enough to take chances on unproven operators.”

Foreclosure for Carriage City Plaza

Foreclosure proceedings will begin on Carriage City Plaza, a 16-story hotel and condo project that was the centerpiece of redevelopment efforts the past decade. Of the 222 units at Sky View at Carriage City Plaza, 62 units have closed and another 72 leased, leaving 88 units.

Continue reading Foreclosure for Carriage City Plaza

Salon, bakery sought for East Cherry Street

Hoping to fill two vacant storefronts, a local property owner came before the Redevelopment Agency last month for assistance but it looks like the locations will remain vacant for now.

Joanne Wakefield, office manager for Giacobbe & Sons, which owns multiple properties downtown, told the Redevelopment Agency they were aiming to rent two separate storefronts on East Cherry Street: one an organic hair salon aimed at seniors at 75 E. Cherry St. (The Mall), and another a Mexican restaurant and bakery at 69 E. Cherry St.

The hair salon would offer direct service to seniors, such as those living in senior housing in the area, like Golden Age Towers, said Wakefield. But they could not get approval from the city so they appealed for help from the Redevelopment Agency. She noted that of the 81 storefronts along Main Street, from East Milton Avenue to Monroe Street, and East Cherry Street, 34 are vacant (about 42 percent).

City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the city construction official had not received any application from a Mexican restaurant, which is a permitted use on East Cherry Street. He said he walks to work most days past vacant storefronts, though some new ones are coming because they’re able to carry capital. There are an inordinate number of vacant stores, he said, adding that he’s always felt it’s better to have a store occupied than not. Then there are deeper issues about what types of stores are wanted and the direction of downtown.

A city ordinance prohibits siting a salon, or any personal services business, within 1,000 feet of another, said Pelissier. In the ’60s and ’70s, downtown had more wig shops than anything, according to Mayor James Kennedy. There is a tendency to take five or six that are there and deplete business, he said, adding that an overload like that can take away business.

As a courtesy, Pelissier said he would raise the issue with the Redevelopment Agency, which potentially could provide relief as a redevelopment project. Since a salon already exists across the street from The Mall (Max Hair Care II, 84 E. Cherry St.), he told Wakefield that an application would have to be presented to the five-member Redevelopment Agency. There was a salon proposed at an Irving Street site two years ago that was rejected by the Redevelopment Agency. In case law on appeals, Pelissier said decisions have gone both ways with respect to a 1,000-feet law.

In a brief follow-up telephone interview today, Wakefield said the potential tenant passed on pursuing the salon after learning she would have to go through the Zoning Board or Redevelopment Agency. She said the tenant who had interest in the Mexican restaurant and bakery hasn’t been heard from in some time. Of the 16 spaces available in The Mall, she said six are currently vacant and another two will be leaving.

Raffio Giacobbe of Giacobbe & Sons told the Revelopment Agency that he considered moving his office to the front of the the 75 E. Cherry St. property so it looks more active, given that downtown and East Cherry Street don’t look good.

Does this building look familiar?

The former Beverage Shop building on East Cherry Street has undergone a transformation of its exterior as plans continue to turn it into a police assistance center.

Police Chief John Rodger hopes to have new signage and awning completed before the holidays while a local electrician’s union will be donating resources.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning is just about completed and there’s some asbestos abatement to be done, said Rodger, who has been pleased with the pace of progress over the last month to six weeks.

The facade would have been $15,000 if they had to pay for it, said Rodger, and still to be done are things like acquiring classroom and cubicle furniture and installing flooring and a phone system.

Rodger hopes to have the building at least partially in use by January or February and be completely finished by March.

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway was downgraded by Moody’s Investors Services, according to a report in Crain’s New York last month, and expects to end 2010 with “sizable operating losses,” like it did in 2009. The rating agency downgraded the hospital’s long-term debt rating and lowered its outlook from “stable” to “negative,” citing declining admissions.

Amphitheater to be re-bid

A judge ruled this week that construction bids for the Hamilton Street amphitheater must be re-bid.

Redevelopment Director and City Administrator Peter Pelissier said there was some ambiguity about some portions of the lowest bid, which was rejected, and so the judge felt it should be re-bid.

Opening of new bids is scheduled for Dec. 15 and is scheduled to be awarded at the Dec. 22 Redevelopment Agency meeting.
Groundbreaking could occur as early as mid-January, according to City Engineer James Housten.

The Redevelopment Agency awarded a $4.95-million construction bid last month to Rahway-based Berto Construction, however, Kenilworth-based W.D. Snyder Company had the lowest base bid at $4.65 million but it was rejected as a “deficient bid proposal” for a “material breach.”

The facility originally was anticipated to open in May and be ready for use in July, said Pelissier, adding that the timeline could still be feasible.

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For those interested in a district-by-district breakdown of Tuesday’s election, here they are in a Google spreadsheet. Democrats carried about 60 percent of the vote in local races, with Rick Proctor carrying 16 of 24 districts for mayor against Pat Cassio, who carried the 3rd and 6th wards. Turnout was about 48 percent.