Hamilton Stage coming along

Work is coming along on the Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts with walls recently going up to cover most of the steel. The $5.825-million project is slated to be complete by next spring.

Continue reading Hamilton Stage coming along

Financial issues plague proposed jazz club

Years ago, the Redevelopment Agency agreed to sell the former Kelly’s Pub on the condition that the property at the corner of Irving Street and Seminary Avenue be turned into a jazz club and restaurant.

Serious financial issues have plagued the proposed KC Jazz Club to the extent that developers would like to explore selling the property as a simple tavern — only they would need the agency’s approval first. In a Sept. 19 letter to the Redevelopment Agency, Union-based attorney Ronald Esposito, representing E.T. Building, LLC, asks for a meeting to discuss issues in hopes of resolving “what appears to be a very serious financial problem.”

“The only  possible way my client can recoup some of their money and reduce their loss, would be to explore the sale of the property and liquor license without the restriction that the facility must be a restaurant/jazz club,” Esposito wrote, adding that Realtors have indicated it would be easier to sell the property without the restriction that a jazz club and restaurant be built.

The property, at 1646-1654 Irving St. (Block 162, Lots 5-7), was acquired for $398,000 in April 2004, according to PropertyShark.com, and pays about $5,500 in property taxes. Only a few weeks ago, the KC Jazz Club website was still active, featuring the rendering below, and proclaiming a 2012 opening. The website was suspended sometime in the past couple of weeks.

City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the attorney should be advised to come before the agency with an update. He told commissioners that the agency “shouldn’t just arbitrarily approve it” but wait for the applicant to present a plan for what to do. The intent of the redevelopment agreement, and the agency selling the property, was for a jazz bar/restaurant, Agency Attorney Frank Regan said, so they would have to come back to the agency for approval to make it simply a tavern.

Esposito details issues the developer has had with financing, including an original $1.5-million mortgage from RSI bank that fell through and a partner defaulted on sale of another property, the proceeds of which would have helped to fund the jazz club effort. Over the past three years, Esposito writes, his client has reduced the cost of the building from $2.3 million to $1.7 million in a failed effort to secure financing from a bank and then private investor. He claims that the anticipated value of the building was agreed upon at $1.75 million when completed ($2.3 million with the restaurant operational).

The bank was to extend a mortgage of $1.5 million, which was reduced to $1 million, Esposito said, which may or may not still be available since about six months ago RSI insisted on payment of the initial $400,000 mortgage money advance used for the property and monthly payments of $2,685 since April. [You can read the full text of the letter here.]

What site looked like two years ago

In addition, Esposito explains that since December 2005 contract entered into with the agency, his client had to purchase a liquor license for $40,000, and pay annual licensing fees of $2,100 to the city and $200 to the state. He also details $32,000 in costs to obtain Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permits, $15,000 in costs to obtain variances from the city, and $120,000 for engineering and architectural planning.

In a postscript (P.S.) to his letter, the attorney suggested that due to the length of time involved the agency consider, as an alternative, the temporary abatement of taxes and ABC fees until the matter is resolved.

Officials meeting with Water’s Edge developer

City officials in recent weeks have met twice with a developer whose project was tabled by the City Council last month.

Continue reading Officials meeting with Water’s Edge developer

Lease agreement approved for Hamilton Stage

A 10-year lease agreement between the Redevelopment Agency and Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC) for the Hamilton Stage began Oct. 1.

Redevelopment Agency commissioners adopted a resolution at their September meeting authorizing the lease, which will last through September 2011 2021.

The Redevelopment Agency, which has “no intention of operating [the site], other than the use of parking to support other downtown activities when no performances are being held,” will receive $100 per year, according to the resolution. The 14,000-square-foot Hamilton Stage will have a “200-seat proscenium theater with rehearsal hall, flexible 50-seat public space, dressing room and other support facilities.”

The Redevelopment Agency owns the former Bell Building (Tax Block 167 – Lots 38, 39) that’s being renovated as well as the former Hamilton Laundry site (Block 167 – Lots 44, 45) where a parking lot is planned. Both projects are expected to be completed in the spring.

***

Interesting story from the Upper East Side/East Harlem (“Carnegie Hill” now, apparently), about artist space and housing, which Rahway has been planning to do.

A vacant, former school on the Upper East Side/East Harlem will be rehabbed into affordable artist housing, according to this report from DNAinfo.com. Vacant for 15 years, the 113-year old Gothic Revival style building will be transformed into 90 affordable homes for artists and include 10,000 square feet of space for arts groups. The former P.S. 109 will be called El Barrio’s Artspace and is being developed by a Minnesota-based nonprofit, Artspace, with El Barrio’s Operation Fightback.

The project has been in development for five years, amid a number of changes, including the size increasing from 70 to 90 units. Construction would begin in December and take two years, according to the report.

Agency makes 2nd payment to Arts District

The Redevelopment Agency last month authorized the second of three $100,000 payments to the Arts District to cover start-up costs of the Hamilton Stage for Performing Arts.

The Arts District and the Redevelopment Agency entered into a shared services agreement in January, with the agency agreeing to provide $300,000 in increments of $100,000 per year, based on the availability of funding.

The Arts District has “used and intends to continue to use the funding for costs associated with support, encouragement and promotion of the arts in Rahway and associated economic development,” including the start-up operation and management of the Hamilton Stage, a 200-seat black box studio being constructed on Hamilton Street (Tax Block 167, Lots 38, 39, 42, 44 and 45), according to the resolution adopted by the Redevelopment Agency at its Sept. 7 meeting.

As of last month, about $30,000 remains from the first $100,000 payment, according to Arts District Executive Director James Kennedy. Funding has been used primarily for the development of the three-year launch plan and projected budgets for the Hamilton Stage, he said, adding that they’re now moving into grant development, fundraising strategy, lease agreements, booking and implementation.

This month, a contract was entered into with Front of House Services, a Madison-based consultant that will see the project through the opening (expected next spring) and operating the first two years, Kennedy said.

***

A friend passed along this story from The Atlantic, “Descendants of the High Line,” spotlighting four efforts around the country inspired by New York City’s wildly popular High Line, including the closest to home, Jersey City’s The Embankment.