A new hotel for Carriage City Plaza, renaming a downtown space as Tesla Square, and a pop-up youth community center were among the highlights of the 2017 State of the City address on Thursday night.
With a theme of “taking care of business,” Mayor Samson Steinman delivered his 2017 State of the City Address at the Union County Performing Arts Center, with remarks lasting about 40 minutes. It was the fourth State of the City for the Democrat, who was appointed in 2013, won election in 2014, and will be up for re-election in 2018.
Rahway’s downtown business district once again will host a hotel. Bridgeton Holdings has already acquired the hotel and retail section of Carriage City Plaza and will open Walker Hotel, with designs inspired by Nikola Tesla. The hotel has an ambitious opening of September 2017 and the company manages a number of properties in the area, including Walker Hotel Tribeca, Wyndham Garden Chelsea, and 33 Peck Slip in South Street Seaport, among others.
The hotel space has been vacant since September 2013 when Hotel Indigo, the original tenant, left. The hotel occupies the first three floors of the 17-story Carriage City Plaza, which had been acquired in foreclosure in 2010 and had been shopped around in recent years.
The city will honor the legacy of Nikola Tesla, proclaiming the area where his lab was located on Irving Street as Tesla Square. The Tesla Foundation is in the process of making Rahway their home, and bringing with them educational programs, arts, innovations and a business incubation, all based on teachings of Tesla Foundation, Steinman said.
Currently under negotiations with an announcement hopefully in the coming months of new concept of managing the Arts Guild that will redefine the sustainability of nonprofit arts educational programming in New Jersey, Steinman said. The Arts Guild closed abruptly in August, and the mayor had mentioned soon after that a new management entity was expected for the gallery and educational programming.
The Cherry Pit on East Cherry Street is close to opening. Steinman described it as a pop-up youth community center. “What does that mean? Well, this answer will come from our youth; it will be what they decide,” the mayor said. As part of “Rahway Team Work,” up to 20 high school juniors and seniors will be employed around the city, maintaining trees, flowers and public art to make Rahway more beautiful, more importantly, give students more pride, Steinman said.
Rahway has followed the traditional pattern of downtowns in New Jersey, first suffering through the mall-ification of downtowns and then the online internet shopping trend. However, because of an active business recruitment plan and active community, the mayor said a resurgence of the business community is taking place.
“Our downtown is beginning to flourish again,” Steinman said, providing updates on a number of redevelopment projects. Three buildings recently were demolished to make way for the 5-story, 45-unit Gramercy on East Cherry Street, which will include ground-floor space for a coffee shop called Track 5.
Site cleanup and construction is expected by early 2018 at the site of Center Circle, where 219 rental units were approved by the Planning Board.
The five-story 208-unit Main and Monroe project could start construction by the spring and phase one of the 487-unit Brownstones has begun with demolition of the former Wheatena buildings. The 115-unit Lafayette Village downtown has begun leasing.