Developers eye API Foils site

Two developers have approached the city administration about the API Foils property on New Brunswick Avenue, near St. Georges Avenue. While the property is home to an industrial use, the interest in the property would be for retail space.

Almost half of the 25-acre site is in a flood zone, according to Redevelopment Director/City Administrator Peter Pelissier, with about 12 developable acres. The building is partially used at the present time, and developers likely would use the footprint to avoid dealing with the state Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

There was thought at some point of moving the Center Circle tents to that site, according to Pelissier, and the fledgling Children’s Museum of Central New Jersey also had some interest at one point but now appears headed to Newark.

If interested parties were to purchase the building, they would go before the Planning Board, Pelissier said, without having to go to the Redevelopment Agency.

6/12 UPDATE: According to this report, there are “no immediate plans to sell or leave the location,” although API Foils “was mulling the possibility of selling the property but would continue to lease it to save money.”

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Our group may not have come away with any trophies in this year’s Mayor’s Trophy 5K like we did last year, however, we did meet some excited blog readers and future SkyView residents. We didn’t get a chance to snap a photo with them as with Batman (cameras slow me down), but here’s a big Rahway Rising hello to Kathy and Megan. Thanks for reading, and saying hello!

The race, from City Hall to Milton Lake Park and back, seemed to have had stiffer competition than last year and the overall field topped 200, up from 166.

Talk of office/parking complex near RSI

The parking lot behind the RSI bank on Irving Street (left) is being looked at as a potential parking deck/office space development, according to City Administrator/Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier.

“It’s all talk at this point,” Pelissier said in an interview after the May 7 Redevelopment Agency meeting, with a possibility of trying to get included in the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program, which aims to attract office space in proximity to rail stations.

For those counting at home, that’s a 524-space parking deck currently at Main and Lewis streets, and plans for a 324-space deck at The Westbury, a five-story deck as part of the Town Center project, and a deck at the lot near RSI would make it four decks downtown.

The Westbury: 18-24 months

The Westbury won’t be constructed until after The Savoy is completed, which likely means another 18 to 24 months, according to Redevelopment Director/City Adminstrator Peter Pelissier.

Pelissier said as far back as a February Redevelopment Agency meeting (.pdf) that developers of The Westbury were not ready to build and might be interested in a joint venture on the construction of a parking deck. The 150-unit development proposal, along Main Street across from The Savoy in Rahway’s “Gas Lamp Quarter,” includes 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a 324-space deck.

Steel is expected to be delivered for The Savoy project at the end of May, he said. A quarter of the 36 units were under contract as of last month.

In an interview after the May 7 Redevelopment Agency meeting, Pelissier said if the city were to get involved with building a parking facility, it would then need to charge the developer for spaces, partly for the developer’s project and to absorb the loss of spaces in Lot B behind East Cherry Street.

Hamilton demolition targeted for June

Demolition of the former Hamilton Laundry building is expected next month. The City Council last Monday night awarded a $281,000 contract to LVI/Mazzocchi Wrecking of East Hanover after the state Department of Environmental Protection approved demolition permits last month.

Conceptual designs for an amphitheater planned at the site, which abuts the Rahway River, have been presented to the Arts District Council, City Administrator/Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said. Construction is expected next spring, to be completed by summer.

Flooding last spring (.pdf) proved too much for the Hamilton Laundry site, which at one point had been considered for a comedy club/black box theater, with Joe Piscopo among the investors. Instead, the focus of the Hamilton property will be a park and 1,000-seat amphitheater. A 7,000-square-foot black box theater and 9,000-square-foot performing arts space will focus instead on the nearby Bell building and Elizabethtown Gas property. The Redevelopment Agency is targeting the nearby Shami Apartments on Hamilton Street for 80 units of affordable housing for senior citizens and artists.

Once the amphitheater is completed, funding would be sought to retrofit the Bell building, which might be completed by summer 2010.

The Waiting Room by a mile

So did everyone go to Hot Rods and Harleys on Saturday? As you can see, my friend Batman stopped by for the festivities. Between Friday’s monsoon and Sunday’s gray skies and rain, we really lucked out with the weather.

Continue reading The Waiting Room by a mile

Condo projects into rentals

If it can happen in everyone’s redevelopment mentor city of Hoboken, it can happen in Rahway. It looks like two projects originally planned as for-sale condos will become rentals.
The developer of Station Place has started to look at a plan for 116 rental units instead of 80 condos for the five-story project on a 1.6-acre site on Campbell Street. “Because of what happened in the economy in general, and the financial sector specifically, condos are very difficult to finance,” Clay Bonny of Heartstone Development said at last week’s Redevelopment Agency meeting. “Apartments are very easy to finance.” No major lenders are getting into condo construction, he said, so to keep the project moving, they decided to examine rentals instead.
A recent Wall Street Journal story pretty much confirmed the lending situation, for both consumer and businesses: “Banks continue to get more restrictive in their real-estate lending as the housing bust adds to their losses.”
Heartstone received Planning Board approval in March 2007 (.pdf) for 80 units, so it would have to get approval again for the increased density. Zoning currently allows for 60 units per acre.
The current occupant, A&M Industrial Supply, is under contract to be relocated to Edison, said Bonny. Some minor environmental issues on the property have to be cleared up, he added, so an extension on the closing has been requested through September.
Heartstone’s other project in Rahway, the 135 rentals at River Place, is 100 percent fully occupied for the first time since it opened in 2004, Bonny said.
Renaissance at Rahway was to be a 72-unit condo project on property encompassing the former Triangle Inn. Renaissance has five of the eight necessary parcels under contract so rather than go through what could be a two-year condemnation battle, developers will move forward with 64 rental units as part of a first phase. The second phase could include the remaining units if the properties are eventually acquired, said Joseph Ranieri, an attorney with Weiner Lesniak representing Renaissance. “This project works better under these economic conditions,” he said, adding that it’s not certain they can get financing for the whole thing.
The five-story project, which would include parking on the ground floor, would eliminate and be built on top of a short stretch of Montgomery Street between East Grand Avenue and Monroe Street.
Renaissance has been unable to acquire Block 379, Lots 1, 5 and 8. City Administrator and Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said the owners of Lots 1 and 8 are not interested in selling at all. An unacceptable counteroffer was received from the owner of Lot 5, he said, which bifurcates the whole project, so if it sells in the future, it could be added. It’s unclear how many more units could be built with Lot 5 part of the project, Pelissier said. “That’s the economic dilemma,” he said, the land costs versus the number of units that could be built; do you overpay for those or go through a costly, unfriendly sale?

Hotel to open June 16

Hotel Indigo at Sky View is scheduled to open June 16 and begin taking reservations starting July 15, City Administrator/Redevelopment Director Peter Pelissier said at Wednesday night’s Redevelopment Agency meeting.

Construction for the Irving-Fulton streets realignment will be completed the first week of June, with temporary paving in place for May 17’s Hot Rods and Harleys event, he said. Milling and resurfacing will take place the second week of June.

Planned retail for the hotel building includes a coffee shop, dry cleaners, fitness center and restaurant.

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Interesting story in Wednesday’s Star-Ledger about the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, not for the $15,000 Springsteen tickets necessarily, but as the story put it: “The Basie’s success is especially noteworthy because many performing arts centers are struggling with declines in attendance and dramatic changes in ticket-buying patterns.” The theatre is not unlike our own Union County Performing Arts Center in terms of size and age, and both have undergone recent renovations.

Perhaps the UCPAC can adapt some lessons from Count Basie, as well as other venues, like Paper Mill Playhouse, which tried to be daring but it didn’t work out as well. It’s not uncommon for art centers to lose money, and UCPAC is no exception, but now it’s taxpayers who own it after the $6.2-million renovation and acquisition. The center also was featured in the Ledger this week, mainly for its new air conditioning, which will allow summer events.

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