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Monday, November 24, 2008

Seniors getting lump of coal instead of success at new Senior Center condos?

Progress on the new Senior Center condos has been spotty.

With the economy souring, Plainfield Seniors have to wonder if Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Assemblyman Jerry Green will be putting a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings this year.

Work on the new Senior Center condos has proceeded haltingly over the last several months, to the point that passersby have wondered what mode it was in: Go, Slow, or No.

Now word comes that another Glen Fishman/Dornoch project -- The Savoy in Rahway -- stopped construction after running into 'economic difficulties' as reported by Rahway Rising --
Dornoch Management has "run into economic difficulties and not produced any work as has been obvious," Redevelopment Director/City Administrator Peter Pelissier said at the last Redevelopment Agency meeting (Oct. 1). He declined to elaborate further and calls to Dornoch's Hillside offices seeking comment were not returned.
Upon hearing the news, I trotted by Plainfield's Senior Center project and actually saw more work going on than I had in recent days, though the building is a long ways from being done. The Council was expecting a Fall 2008 completion, which obviously won't happen.

The vacant city-owned lot across the corner, which the Council agreed this past March to lease to Dornoch for a sales trailer, is still bereft of same.

But there are worse prospects than simply being finished late.

The first is that Dornoch might run completely out of steam and not be able to finish the project at all, posing a dilemma for the City and the Union County Improvement Authority, which is the City's redevelopment agency (even though this is technically NOT a redevelopment project). The question then would be who picks up and finishes an unfinished project and where the funds will be found.

Secondly, the Seniors and the City would have to face the prospect that Dornoch may come hat-in-hand to ask that the project be converted to rentals instead of condos. This would be a severe setback just as Plainfield was about to test new market rate housing downtown, and could impact the chances of further projects which are on the drawing board.

Ironically, the situation mirrors that of the ambitious Meadowbrook Village condo conversion project further down East Front twenty years ago. Having completed the renovations, the market collapsed and left those who had bought in a dicey situation with more rentals than owners, which affected both the management and upkeep and the ability to get loans to purchase condo units.

The New York Times examined the whole issue of developers wanting to convert from condominiums to rentals in its Sunday edition (see here).

With the economy plunging ever further into a 1930s-like scenario, and an Obama presidency still nearly two months away (not to mention the time lag of getting his policies into play), the chances that Jerry and Sharon will be leaving lumps of coal in this year's Seniors' stockings seems inescapable.

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

The current housing market & bank crisis does not lie solely on the Bush administration and the recovery from the crisis will not lie soley on the Obama administration so therefore your swipe by stating "an Obama presidency still nearly two months away (not to mention the time lag of getting his policies into play)" makes it appear this is a republican-induced crisis, which it isn't. Both parties bear responsibility and many feel the democrats even more so.

Dan said...

12:22 --
Thanks for the comment, but I don't think I was trying to assign any blame for the mess we're in.

Lumps of coal are associated with kids' Christmas stockings, and I was making the point that there aren't going to be any condos finished and ready for sale this Christmas, despite the expectation of the Council that there would be -- as promised by the builder.

Not only that, because of the length of time it takes to get anything moving (NOT blame), it isn't likely anything will get done immediately even after the new pres is in office.