Capodagli designated redeveloper

A month after being presented with a conceptual plan for a 116-unit rental complex behind Rahway Public Library, the Redevelopment Agency designated Capodagli Property Company as redeveloper at its meeting on May 4.

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Dornoch declared in default

The Redevelopment Agency this month declared Dornoch Holdings in default of its redevelopment agreements on The Westbury and The Savoy, which has entered the foreclosure process with Wachovia Bank/Wells Fargo for failure to repay construction financing.

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Demolition expected this week

Monday

Demolition started this week on an East Cherry Street building, almost six years after a fire destroyed much of it. The Fire Department responded last Wednesday afternoon to a report of the back corner of the second floor collapsing into the first floor, according to this report on mycentraljersey.com.

Wednesday

The two-story building at 65 E. Cherry St. has been a vacant eyesore since a beauty supply store went up in flames in the summer of 2005 and in February, the first-floor facade collapsed into the structure.

At one time, Dornoch Holdings, which acquired the property from the Parking Authority for $65,000 and had plans to renovate it, presenting plans in November 2007. Dornoch owns several East Cherry Street properties, along with a couple of dormant developments on Main Street.

The City Council approved a $200,000 bond ordinance in April that included funds for the demolition of 65 E. Cherry St., as well as improvements to create an interim parking lot at the former Westbury site on Main Street.

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Could repairs to the NJ Transit Train Station be forthcoming? Yellow tape surrounded the center stairs a few days ago, and since been replaced by fencing. Perhaps that means repairs are coming soon — or maybe the fencing was installed in time for Saturday’s Hot Rods & Harleys. The stairs have been closed for more than a year.

Park Square targets June opening

Corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Main Street

The second building of Park Square, one of the first cornerstone projects of downtown redevelopment efforts, should be ready for occupation starting in  June.

Joel Schwartz, principal with Keasbey-based developer Landmark Companies, appeared before the Redevelopment Agency at its meeting last week to provide an update on the 159-unit complex. He last appeared before the agency in late 2009 for an update.

Schwartz expects the second building to obtain certificates of occupancy one floor at a time — which also was done with the first building — so it should be fully occupied by about September. He said the second building boasts larger windows and more space. One-bedroom units list for starting rents of $1,600, two-bedrooms at about $2,000.

The project first broke ground nearly five years ago (October 2006) and the first building on the Irving Street side, which houses 63 of the units, was completed just about two years ago, beginning leasing in summer 2009. The Irving Street side also has 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space which is fully occupied, with five tenants, and Schwartz said the rental units are 100 percent occupied, with some turnover. The Main Street building, without any retail space, houses the remaining 96 units.

Corner of Elm Avenue and Main Street

Schwartz presented renderings that were part of Planning Board hearings in 2004 and 2005, and compared them to present-day photos of the project, as well as what the 2.4-acre site looked like before construction. He said they took a two-pronged approach: first, to redevelop in the spirit of what had been downtown, and second, to incorporate the best of redevelopment efforts from around the state and country. Some of the areas that inspired Park Square include Princeton’s Palmer Square, Forest Hills in Queens and Lake Forest, Ill. As time goes by, Schwartz hopes the complex has more of a connection with Merck as well as be more actively involved in the day-to-day activity of downtown.

The entire complex has 159 units and 205 parking spaces, including ground level parking on the Irving Street side, and two levels of parking on the Main Street side. [Note: The photos above are from last fall]

Agency holds off on acquiring homes

Facing a potential cost of roughly $1 million to acquire and demolish three homes to turn into parking for Hamilton Street arts projects, the Redevelopment Agency appears to be putting that move on hold for the time being.

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New York Times calls The Rail House ‘Worth It’

Another Rahway restaurant received a favorable review last month: The New York Times on Saturday called The Rail House 1449 “only a few short steps from excellence,” with some complaints about noise and uneven service. They loved the sea scallops and dessert (the apple tart in particular), had positive things to say about the appetizers but would pass on the crab cakes, salmon and calf’s liver.

During their first visit, “the food was almost uniformly excellent, the service was spot on, and the atmosphere was warm and cozy and quiet.” It was the second time around when a private party upstairs, coupled with creaky, uncarpeted 18th century floors made for a noisy time. All in all, The Times rated The Rail House  “Worth It,” behind the top “Don’t Miss” category but ahead of “O.K.” and “Don’t Bother.”

The Star-Ledger in February (.pdf) gave The Rail House 3 1/2 stars (3 stars = very good, 4 stars = excellent). There are no shortage of opinions at Open Table either, with almost 60 reviews.

The Rail House 1449 opened in December in the Irving Street space formerly occupied by David Drake, which closed almost a year earlier after almost five years in business. Have you paid a visit to The Rail House yet? Tell use what you think.

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The Friends of Rahway Public Library will sponsor “The Amazing Rahway Race” on May 21, beginning at 10 a.m. at the library. Based on the popular reality show, teams of 2-4 people will compete by solving clues, completing challengs and racing through downtown. Check out this flier for more information.