Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Work begins on North Avenue Historic District properties

Long-boarded North Avenue building is being gutted
as Frank Cretella continues downtown projects.
Slowly, and evidently without much leadership from the Robinson-Briggs administration, Plainfield's downtown is being reshaped.

Latest signs are the evident gutting of two buildings on North Avenue in the city's only commercial historic district.

The buildings are among several acquired by developer Frank Cretella, who recently completed apartment and retail conversions of two buildings on Park Avenue and has two more in the works on the corners of East 2nd Street and Gavett Place.

The North Avenue buildings will follow the pattern Cretella used on Park Avenue to such success (the apartments are completely rented, I am told), with mixed use retail and residential.

Looks like Plainfield will actually BECOME a transit-oriented development town before it ever gets a formal TOD designation -- if that day ever even actually comes.

Question for you: How much could Cretella get done if he actually got some cooperation from Robinson-Briggs?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Dan --

It's not so much the administration/mayor, but the planning office that can slow things down.

Bill Nierstedt is well-meaning and dedicated to doing his best for Plainfield, but, by targeting certain commercial redevelopment or commercial enterprises to "toe the line" from a planning perspective -- that slows things down immensely.

I have experienced this personally.

1. First, the Coriell Mansion. It took me THREE YEARS to get through the planning board, then the zoning board, then the historical board to get the variance to allow a B&B with event space. I went to the zoning board meeting for my case to be heard -- and three times my project was put at the end of the docket, and I was continued. That meant I paid for my attorney and planner to sit for 4 hours THREE times.

The engineering firm that the planning uses miscalculated the cost of the site work, and I had to put $60K in escrow as a bond (only $10K really should have been required), money I was going to use to do the work. I had to then scramble to borrow to do the site work.

That three year delay was a significant contributing factor why I wasn't able to complete the renovation. By 2007-2008, with the crash and devaluation of properties and the tightening of lending, I couldn't get an additional loan to put in a sprinkler system. When I had starting the zoning process, a B&B the mansion's size didn't require sprinklers ... three years later the state does, and the state is who issues B&B licensing, not the city.

BTW -- Frank is purchasing the mansion, and he is going to do make it into a B&B/event space. I'm very happy to see the right person get it.

2. I've spent the last year trying to get a CO on the space I am leasing in the Mack truck building. I applied as soon as I leased the space, and was denied because the ENTIRE building, per the code, did not have enough parking. WHAT??!!! The building has been mostly empty for decades. There is a 50-car gravel parking lot across from the 15,000 sq foot I am leasing.

That wasn't good enough. So, I've spent the last year getting my attorney, my engineer, then the landlord's attorney involved to get it resolved.

In the end, my CO application was used to make the landlord upgrade that parking lot, and make all the tenants get COs. I'm still waiting at this point. My hope is in the next month I'll get a CO in hand (after over a YEAR), and I can get the county/state licensing so I can go into business.

I understand where the planning office is coming from, that they want people to be in compliance. But, why did it take my application to make the planning office suddenly realize this landlord didn't have a CO?

This is a prime example where regulations, codes, etc. slow down business. it's a big reason why manufacturing has left the state.

If I had gotten my CO in the Fall of 2011, I could have gotten a fantastic contract this summer, and could have employed 30 people for the project.

But, the city missed out because the planning office decided to hold up my CO for my space, to make the entire building compliant. The landlord hasn't had an official CO since they bought it in 1964.

The planning office could have issued me my CO for 15,000 sq ft, then worked with the landlord for the rest of the building (1 million sq ft).

You can look around downtown where store owners have mattresses sitting on the street, there is a woman who sells liquor out of a cart, another place sells food from a hibachi grill.

I understand wanting to make Plainfield a better place, and code enforcement is part of this. I'm all for making Plainfield better.

But, I find the enforcement arbitrary. It appears certain people and projects are targeted and put through the wringer --- other people can do pretty much what they want and the city turns a blind eye.

Olive Lynch

Anonymous said...

First and foremost, he needs the Mayor and Council to approve issuing a liquor license to him. This will facilitate a high end restaurant opening in the downtown. Without the license, there will be no restaurant. There are none available at the moment. Lets hope this can be done without having to grease the proverbial palms. Its about Plainfields future, not lining pockets. We finally have a real developer working in Plainfield. Lets make sure he gets some cooperation from the city to make the projects successful. They provide jobs, housing and rateables. Approve the license.

Anonymous said...

Frank Cretella is a great example of how investors and developers should work with historic properties. He works with the HPC to ensure the integrity of the building is kept intact. The buildings on park ave look great and cant wait till his restaurants open up. Mr Yates who purchased Abbott Manor should take some lessons from him before he destroys another plainfield property.

Bob said...

I have a question. How much will get done when we kick Sharon out of office and get someone responsible in City Hall? I think we all know that answer. How this woman has the gall to think she should run for a third term is beyond me.

Keeping It Real said...

If we are going to wait for this administration to do anything worth-while, well, we'll all be dead before then.

Those of us who know better and have the know-how will just have to take it on ourselves and move this city forward.

Thank you Frank Cretella!