More than three years after the project initially was presented to City Council, a 51-unit senior housing development on the St. Mary’s Church complex is scheduled to come before the Zoning Board of Adjustment Monday night.
Red light cameras could be up and in use sometime next month at two Rahway intersections: Routes 1&9 and East Milton Avenue, and St. Georges and Maple avenues. There would be a 30-day “warning phase” after installation, to get the public accustomed to them before tickets are issued, according to Police Chief John Rodger. He expects them to be installed at some point next month.
A canopy of solar panels would cover dozens of parking spaces at City Hall under a proposed concept plan that is expected to save the city more than a quarter-million dollars over 15 years.
The City Council was presented with the Union County Improvement Authority’s (UCIA) Renewable Energy Initiative during a special meeting tonight. The governing body ultimatly voted in favor of a resolution to move ahead on the project. Savings to the city in the first year of the program could be $14,000 and as much as $22,000 in the 15th year, with a total savings of $268,387, according to Daniel Swayze of Cranford-based Birdsall Services Group. The canopy would generate an estimate 152 kW. The change in savings over time would result from a fixed escalation factor, he said.
The canopy would be the responsibility of the developer, he said, who could decide at the end of the 15-year program to remove it or sell it, or the UCIA could extend the initiative. The city has no financial obligation, Swayze said, while the county guarantees the UCIA bonds. The canopy of solar panels is a minimum of 9 feet high but can range to 20 feet, depending on the city’s needs. City officials estimated they might need a clearance of 12 to 14 feet for certain municipal vehicles.
City officials seemed keen on repairing solar panels on the roof of City Hall, which were installed sometime in the early ’80s, as part of the recent initiative. The estimated start for construction of the UCIA’s project is February or March, said Swayze, who suggested another meeting to discuss the timing of the city’s repairs before design and construction of the canopy. There also were issues of property easements in and around the City Hall lot to be aware before installation as the solar panel canopy could not be lifted onto the roof though it could be moved to another part of the lot, if necessary.
The UCIA last summer issued Request For Proposals (RFP) for renewable energy projects, which ended up going to Tioga Energy in San Francisco. About 16 entities within 11 towns will take part in the program. The authority will borrow $20 million and cover up to 70 percent of the cost of the projects that will outfit various public buildings with solar or wind power.
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As promised, the remainder of the briefing the Redevelopment Agency received last week from Glen Fishman, managing partner of Dornoch Holdings.
Temporary surfacing parking eventually will take over the rest of Lot B on Main Street, adding about 100 spaces in a deal with the Parking Authority and Redevelopment Agency. How temporary the parking is likely will depend on when the economy rebounds. The space originally was planned for 152 residential units with retail-residential mix and parking component known as The Westbury.
Dornoch has been able to rent all but two of its buildings along Main Street, Fishman said. Residential apartments above its properties at 1513 Main St. and 1469 Main St., are rented while they’ve had some interest in the retail components. A New York tenant abandoned 1469 Main St., Fishman said, but a clothing store (headed up by his stepmother) has moved into 1513 Main St. (photo above) while 1501 Main St. has two potential tenants, including a Westfield attorney who may come before the agency and/or Planning Board with changes to the interior, and another tenant who may be interested in the entire building. He’s hopeful to have the spaces filled by February or March.
“People continue to have faith in the town and are willing to spend,” Fishman told commissioners.
Here’s an idea that might be worth copying. Summit’s merchant association, Summit Downtown, Inc., issues an annual report of sorts, the going vacancy rate and detailing the past year of openings and closings. While Summit may be vastly different in terms of demographics, like Rahway, it also has a Special Improvement District (SID) tax.
Perhaps an effort such as this may be undertaken by the reorganizing Rahway Center Partnership, which is revamping its website, the fledgling Chamber of Commerce, or be included in the mayor’s pledge to market the city.
By the way, Summit reported a vacancy rate of 4.8 percent, 10 vacancies, down from 7.6 percent, 16 vacancies, with 21 new stories and seven expansions/relocations, and five new openings anticipated early this year.
City Council tonight will hold a public hearing on the 2011 municipal budget during its regular meeting tonight at 7 p.m.
Sunday’s Star-Ledger had this story that examines Rahway’s redevelopment efforts over the years and the state of downtown. I’m not sure I would call the 50-unit St. Georges Avenue apartment complex that went up in flames this month a “symbolic achievement” as much as other downtown projects, like the 222-unit Carriage City Plaza or 159-unit Park Square (which didn’t even warrant a mention in the piece). What did everyone else think?
“We’re dead in the water right now.” That’s how Glen Fishman, managing partner of Dornoch Holdings, described to Redevelopment Agency commissioners his firm’s situation with The Savoy.
In a rare appearance at the agency’s meeting Wednesday night, Fishman was invited to provide an update on the firm’s stalled projects and activity at its properties. He started with the good news (filling rental properties), but we’ll get to that in our next post. For now, the bad news.
“We’re a little stuck here, I wish I had better news,” Fishman told commissioners, adding that they’re still negotiating with Wachovia. Rahway’s real estate fundamentals still exist, with its location and proximity but housing prices have made it hard to get people to invest. “People are still confident in Rahway, it’s just the economics,” he said. Condos can’t be built when they’re selling for $150,000 a unit, he said, but expressed confidence in “getting something there” in 12 months.
Dornoch spent a lot of money acquiring properties along Main Street for the four-story, 36-unit development, many of which were razed. Archaeological and historical issues relating to cisterns at the Savoy site cost Dornoch $1 million and a year’s time, he claimed, which “blew the budget on the Wachovia loan.” At one point there was a possibility of financing from Valley National for rental apartments but the deal could not get done, he said.
Fishman told commissioners he hopes “at some point the economics make sense, whether selling to another developer who can make it work” or otherwise. Dornoch has fielded offers from some local developers, he said, but so far three offers that have been made “have not been acceptable to the lender.”
(By my estimate, via PropertyShark and other sites, Dornoch acquired almost 20 downtown parcels at a total cost of almost $9 million or more — mine may be an incomplete list — pretty much the height of the real estate market in 2006.)
Redevelopment Agency Chairman William Rack asked if the steel beams, which went up at The Savoy site in summer 2008, might be taken down at some point, assuming they probably won’t be used in whatever ends up at the site. Fishman said it’s not necessarily a certainty that the steel would go unused. Steel doesn’t really go bad so it still has value, he said, adding that Dornoch doesn’t have the money to remove it anyway, and doing so might actually reduce the value of the property.