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Friday, September 18, 2009

Monarch Condos: More wrinkles than Dorian Gray

In a Faustian bargain, Dorian Gray kept the outward
appearance of youth while his portrait secretly aged.

The story of Plainfield's Monarch condos/Senior Center has more wrinkles than the picture of Dorian Gray, whose portrait secretly aged with every misdeed while to the world he remained handsome and apparently youthful (more on the classic 1945 film here, and Oscar Wilde's original story here).

While Plainfield's City Council ponders whether or not to grant the 5-year tax abatement developer Glen Fishman's recently-minted P&F Management Company LLC has requested (Council is expected to take up the measure at next Thursday's special meeting), we learn from the blog Rahway Rising that Fishman/Dornoch approached Rahway officials THIS PAST SUMMER about an abatement for his stalled Savoy project there (see story here).

The Rahway project has languished, with several promised starts never getting under way and the site sitting vacant with only steelwork erected. Financing seems to be the reason work does not proceed. (Our City Council may find it instructive that Rahway -- with all of the development that has been going on there in recent years -- has granted ONLY ONE TAX ABATEMENT in the past five or six years. Amazing what we can learn if we peek over the edge of the silo.)

Notwithstanding the pending tax abatement matter, the rumor mill is abuzz that P&F is frustrated with the slow pace of sales ('approximately' 13-15 units, as City Administrator Marc Dashield wrote to Councilor Mapp recently here) and is actively contemplating turning to rentals in order to move the project along.

If true, this would endanger any of the contracts that depend on FHA financing, as there are requirements about what percentage of units can be rental. At any rate, one has to wonder how patient buyers can afford to be if they are really intending to LIVE IN the condos, as opposed to folks who might just be speculating. Very few people are in a position to put their lives on hold indefinitely while a developer sorts out what he is going to do.

In any event, the possibility exists that if P&F/Dornoch/Fishman were to go the rental route, the Robinson-Briggs administration and the City Council might be the last ones to know, since the only two parties to the developer's agreement are the Fishman entity and the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA). Nothing I read in the agreement seems to indicate any responsibility for keeping the City in the loop.

(An aside: A resident who inquired of a Council member whether the original developer's agreement had been modified was told that there have been no changes and the original agreement -- online here -- is the only one there is. Question: If this is so, how does P&F come to be the 'developer' without some change in the agreement?)

Lastly, a press release from P&F landed in my inbox Thursday evening, with the headline --
Stars, Moon and Sun Event Highlights Private Balconies and Rooftop Terrace
The Vistas At Great Falls And The Monarch At Plainfield Redefine Urban Chic Living
This is an open house to promote P&F/Dornoch/Fishman properties in Paterson (The Vistas at Great Falls) and Plainfield.

Scanning the press release, one can certainly see how The Monarch redefines 'urban chic living' --
At The Monarch, visitors will savor the serenity of the condominium community's rooftop terrace at 400 E. Front St. in Plainfield. The multi-story building features 63 upscale two-bedroom/two-bath units, all with private balconies overlooking the professionally landscaped rooftop terrace or tree-lined streetscape. In addition to the federal housing tax credit, prospective buyers may also qualify for FHA assistance at The Monarch.

The Vistas and The Monarch are within walking distance of major commuter transportation hubs, including bus and rail lines, as well as fine dining and retail shops. Both feature high-end finishes, gourmet kitchens and all-new construction that meets Energy Star requirements. Pricing is from the low- to mid-$200,000s for both The Monarch and The Vistas.
Those familiar with the Monarch's layout and the neighborhood may be amused by the description of the views the condos overlook, and that the location is within walking distance of 'fine dining'. One does not have to disrespect the nearby eateries to question whether 'fine' in dining parlance is being redefined here.

The Open House is set for Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27, the weekend after the Council's fateful vote.

Will there be a boost in sales?

Or will Dorian Gray's picture just get a few more wrinkles?

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active citizen said...

I seems once again that our city administration didn't think this through and is unwilling to find answers to questions the public has and they should have. It seems that Plainfield will be left in the lurch by an administration that the city can no longer afford.

Anonymous said...

Wow, who can tell the players without a scorecard?

If Jennifer Wenson-Maier, Director of Public Works and Urban Development in Plainfield, is also a councilperson (president?) in Rahway, wouldn't she know that Rahway rejected Fishman's abatement proposal out of hand, and wouldn't she have communicated that and Fishman's other troubles to the administration? So why do they persist in the face of all this potential trouble to press ahead?

Three possible explanations:
1 Stupid
2 Politics: if the Senior Center is compromised Jerry and Sharon are vulnerable. I hope the seniors get their center, in 2011.
3 Politics: Call me paranoid, but the UCIA/Fishman hookup is prima facie ugly. The local Democrats better pray really hard that Corzine wins.

Anonymous said...

to 7:25am I prefer to pray really hard that Pivnichny, Marks and Vastine win.

I think all your explanations are plausable. And Jennifer Wenson-Maier has no allegance to this city whatsoever. She didn't tell Plainfield about the problem, because she is focused on Rahway.

Anonymous said...

Question.....if the developer wants to go from condo(single family) to rental(mutli-family) wouldn't he have to go before the zoning board to request a use variance? The tax records indicate the property is in a R-2 zone, which is considered residential single family. Just something else to add to the confusion.

Anonymous said...

I hope I get a quality condo at market price for next to a liquor store. At $110,000 there will be takers, otherwise hell-o Bridgewater and green grass.

Yep I Said It! said...

". . . all with private balconies overlooking the professionally landscaped rooftop terrace or tree-lined streetscape. . . "

Excuse me Dan -or should I say excuse me Monarch -

Where are these balconies that overlook rooftop terraces???

I went by the Monarch Labor Day weekend and it was closed for the holidays. I looked at the building, . . . I don't recall ANY balconies (was it in the back of the building?), . . . the landscape was a bit overgrown and a real estate sign leaned against the building.

Dan said...

To Yep I Said It --

The building is U-shaped and the Hanging Gardens of Nebuchadnezzar are in the rear, above the parking lot. The units from the inner half of the 'U' overlook the terrace and have small non-functional 'balconies'. Access is limited to residents and Senior Center visitors.

Of course, they forgot to mention the palm groves in the parking lot of the Ben Franklin Liquor Store...a real oasis.