Mayor Samson Steinman delivered the annual State of the City address Friday night, announcing a few new events for 2015 while providing updates on items announced last year amid a smattering of redevelopment-related topics.
In remarks that lasted about 15 minutes, the mayor said three redevelopment projects will be launched or completed this year, while there are plans to develop a “small business incubator,” though he didn’t get into details and did not reply to a message seeking more specifics. The Department of Public Works (DPW) is working on additional parklets to feature downtown and Downtown NJ will be back in Rahway for an “unprecedented” third time for its annual conference. He made no mention or update on the vacant Hotel Indigo space downtown that’s been vacant for 17 months or expansion of the Special Improvement District (SID) and ensuing litigation over it.
The mayor’s remarks came Friday night at the Union County Performing Arts Center after about 90 minutes of performances, assorted speakers, and the swearing in of City Council members who were elected in November.
As far as redevelopment is concerned, Steinman noted that three projects will be launched or completed in 2015: Main & Monroe, a 194-unit project near parking Lot B; Meridia Lafayette Village, a 115-unit rental complex across the street at the corner of Main and Monroe streets; and, the first phase of the 487-unit Brownstones at the former Wheatena site. All are planned as rental developments. He noted that developments enjoy a 97 percent occupancy rate.
Upgrades to the playground and field behind Madison School are 99 percent completed while planning continues with Union County on renovations and a football field at Rahway River Park. This year, upgrades are planned for the tennis courts at Berzenic Park and basketball courts at Grover Cleveland School and Howard Field.
Though he didn’t get into details, Steinman talked about upgrades to the city’s water infrastructure, with projects “years in the making” to improve the city’s water system. City Council is expected to introduce a multimillion-dollar ordinance at its meeting tonight for upgrades to the water treatment plant on Westfield Avenue.
In addition to the annual Taste of Spring in April and Hot Rods & Harleys in May, the mayor announced plans for an event downtown called Hoops & BBQ on March 21, centered around the annual ‘March Madness’ college basketball tournament.
Union County College will have a satellite campus downtown in the space once occupied by a piano conservatory, offering classes in public speaking, drama and English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as featuring an art gallery and open mic.
“Without culture and community, we are ordinary,” the mayor said, while city officials “keep the tax burden on residents in mind, in everything we do,” boasting of the fourth-lowest average property tax bill in Union County.