Plainfield's City Council will conclude its 'retreat' sessions this afternoon in a meeting open to the public, as agreed between Council President Annie McWilliams and Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson at Monday's meeting, from which the public was eventually excluded.
The basis for that exclusion, according to Williamson, was that the Council and Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and members of the Administration were only going to discuss 'interpersonal relations' and not any city business. (It should be noted that no representative of the Clerk's office, which is the neutral guarantor that Council meetings toe the legal line, was in attendance.)
This afternoon's session is to include a tour of the city-owned basement of the former Tepper's building (now Horizons at Plainfield), which was fitted out in June 2007 as a federal grant for $460,000 was on the verge of expiration (see here and here). Neither the public nor the Council has had an opportunity to see the building since that work was done.
Since the space is City-owned property and discussion of its condition and/or future possible uses would constitute CITY BUSINESS, I am confident the Administration will be pleased for the public as well as City officials to tour the premises.
Tepper's, the once famous family-owned Plainfield department store had been vacant and boarded and off the tax rolls for nearly thirty years when it was renovated into Horizons at Plainfield, with funding, facilitated by Asm Jerry Green, from the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (more here) that carried a mandatory stipulation of the city's agreement to a PILOT or tax abatement for the project.
Councilor Adrian Mapp was instrumental in recruiting the developers.
The project was undertaken by developers Larry and Ken Regan of Westchester County, NY, who had a track record of similar conversions.
Assemblyman Green, Mayor McWilliams, the developer and state and local officials
toasted the inauguration of the project in November, 2001.
A kickoff event was held in November 2001 at which Assemblyman Jerry Green congratulated Mayor Al McWilliams and the Plainfield City Council for having gotten the project moving and thanked then-Commissioner of the DCA Jane Kenny for the division's support and assistance in securing funding for the project through the NJHMFA.
As part of the developer's agreement, the basement was deeded to the City of Plainfield in perpetuity for purposes to be determined.
Mayor Al McWilliams had hoped the Seniors would be interested in its possibilities for a new Senior Center, but the Seniors refused to even visit the building, deeming it unsuitable because it was not at ground level (see my March 2006 story here).
At the time, I observed --
...[i]n the midst of it all [the Park-Madison project --DD], a piece of genuine good luck came the city's way -- Sen. Frank Lautenberg had arranged for two sums of money to be set aside for Plainfield. One went to the Plainfield Public Library, and was earmarked for technology improvements. The other -- about $450,000 -- was earmarked specifically for improvements to the Tepper's building.The space has been considered for various uses over the years: the late Council President Ray Blanco was interested in seeing offices for Council members put in place; and at various times it has been considered (and un-considered) as a location of the monitoring facility for the long-awaited Police Division downtown security streetcams.
Because part of the development agreement reached for the building was that the basement, on the order of 15,000+ square feet of raw space, was to be set aside for public use, rent-free, in perpetuity.
Now the City had no particular plan for that space at that moment, but the money, which would go a long way toward roughing out the space for some final use, certainly made the space attractive...
What the Council and the Administration may think about the space and its possible uses we may learn this afternoon.
- Plainfield Today --
- 3/14/2006: "Senior Center: What the Seniors taught Al McWilliams"
- 5/21/2007: "Will city have to give $460k back to Feds?"
- 6/26/2007: "Lautenberg grant deadline looms"
- DCA: "NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency"