A mobile app, a restructuring of City Hall departments, and a campaign to entice a grocery store to make Rahway its home were among the highlights of the 2016 State of the City address.
Mayor Samson Steinman delivered his third State of the City address Friday night at Union County Performing Arts Center. [Editor’s note: I was unable to attend because I was out of town on a business trip but the mayor provided a copy of his remarks, upon which this post is based.]
The mayor announced a campaign to get 10,000 requests filed with Trader Joe’s to bring a market to Rahway. Although locations details have not been disclosed, Steinman said the city has recruited a developer who is willing to offer free rent for a year, or property taxes paid for a year if Trader Joe’s prefers to own the site outright. The mayor encouraged residents to complete a Location Request on the Trader Joe’s website.
“One of the biggest requests I get from residents is to get a grocery story in Rahway. More specifically, one of the most frequent stores I get requested is Trader Joe’s,” the mayor said. “Let’s convince all the naysayers out there that Trader Joe’s and Rahway are a good fit,” he said.
The roof of a nearby Trader Joe’s in Westfield collapsed during last month’s snowstorm and part of the building had to be razed. That seems to have led to some discussions on social media about finding another site for a TJ’s, though the company plans to reopen in Westfield, according to reports.
There’s been no shortage of talk about bringing a grocery store to downtown Rahway over the years. It’ll be interesting to see what location/developer the city has recruited considering there aren’t too many parcels left downtown that are big enough to accommodate even a Trader Joe’s-sized shop.
The full State of the City can be found here. I encourage you to read it in its entirety but if the ~2,800 words are too much, here are some other highlights and redevelopment-related items:
- The city this year will launch an app for both Android and Apple devices. This comes on the heels of last year’s revamped website, along with what the mayor said was an increased social media presence, updated TV-34, and more community-wide events “better hear the needs of our community.” There were no other details about the app or whether it would incorporate an app created by the Redevelopment Agency several years ago or also include the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership (which has considered an app) and other city-related entities.
- Thirty new businesses opened in Rahway last year, according to the mayor (most of which were chronicled in quarterly posts here about retail/commercial turnover). In addition to IMM’s planned move downtown, Steinman said a “biotech graphic technology” company will relocate from Somerset County, bringing 20 employees to start. There’s also a “successful restaurateur from a neighboring community” who will open two downtown locations, and a Latin Soul food restaurant will open this year from “one of Rahway’s own residents,” he said.
As for specific development projects:
Substantial progress has been made on Meridia Lafayette Village, the 115-unit, five-story project at Main and Monroe streets. It is expected to open this year.
- Demolition of the old Wheatena and Quinn & Boden buildings on Elizabeth Avenue eventually will make way for the 489-unit Brownstones project, which the mayor said will remediate a “severely contaminated site.”
- Developer R2N2 plans to begin this summer on a 45-unit project on East Cherry Street that will include a coffee shop cafe in its ground-floor retail space.
- The two-building, 208-unit Main and Monroe project should break ground by the end of this year. It’s been held up by a dispute over parking and also must be coordinated with R2N2 project because of the planned extension of Monroe Street.
Other items of note:
- The city has collected more than $250,000 in annual revenue through its foreclosure registry. The registry was created after new state legislation was enacted, allowing towns to monitor foreclosed and vacant properties to make sure they are “safe, free from intrusion,” and kept consistent to the city’s standards. The city enacted a foreclosure registry in 2014. A review of the registry last fall estimated more than 300 foreclosed or vacant properties at the time [map] .
- The mayor will make a recommendation to City Council next month that would reduce the number of departments from nine to eight, including “redefinition of employee roles” and other training, that he estimates will save at least $250,000 in the first year and more in the next few years.
On a lighter note unrelated to redevelopment, congratulations to the mayor on achieving his goal — and then some — in the 2014 Mayor’s Wellness Challenge. He took the pledge to lose 10 percent of his body weight and said in his State of the City that he’s lost 100 pounds, well over 10 percent, “and still working hard.”