State of the City 2009

Though I was unable to attend Monday’s City Council meeting, I did get a copy of Mayor James Kennedy’s State of the City address. The mayor is among a long list of officials looking for help from the feds.

“I retain optimism that this slowdown will only be temporary and the incoming administration of President-Elect Obama will provide long-overdue federal funds to invest in our roads, sewers, parks and other vital elements of our infrastructure,” Kennedy said. “Unlike other municipalities, Rahway has many projects that are already approved by the authorizing boards and agencies. Our improvements and investments will enhance our redevelopment opportunities. So that the ‘shovels can hit the ground’ as soon as the economy rebounds and our continuing redevelopment efforts will restart in a period of months instead of years,” he said.

Among the projects Kennedy cited as “ready to begin” are the 88-unit Renaissance at Rahway and 116-unit Station Place. The Savoy, he said, will “restart construction when additional financing is obtained.” (Photo at left)

As for other redevelopment-related highlights in his remarks, the mayor reviewed the various ongoing projects that you’ve read about here before:

— New ratables increased the tax base by $30 million for the nine-month period in 2008. A full year on the books is expected to create $42 million in 2009. A little perspective: ratables increased by about $30,000,000; the city’s total valuation is about $1,500,000,000 ($1.5 billion). The added ratables — mainly attributed to Carriage City Plaza, Luciano’s and Riverwalk — generated about $900,000 in additional tax revenues for the city.

— In addition to the planned 1,000-seat amphitheater at the former Hamilton Laundry site, and development of the former Bell Telephone building into a performing arts space and black box theatre, the former Elizabethtown Gas building is expected to be purchased and house a “first-rate art school as well as a co-op gallery venue.”

— “The 40,000 square feet of condominium space above the library was sold last year, and will be converted into office space sometime this year.” The library opened in 2004 with the idea of eventually selling the top two floors for office space. No word on whether the sale netted the $3.5 million that was expected at the time to help offset the cost of the $7.4-million facility. [UPDATE: SDI Technologies already paid $3.2 million to the city for this project, according to City Administrator Peter Pelissier.]

— The city is “exploring a partnership with the Parking Authority to construct a 300- to 500-space parking deck on Lot B, to complement the proposed Westbury housing/retail development next door.” We wrote about this study in August but there was never any mention of the number of spaces. Originally, The Westbury was planned with a five-story, 324-space parking facility.

For some historical perspective, there are a few paragraphs about the mayor’s 2005 State of the City address here.

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