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Thursday, July 23, 2015

North Avenue update: Demolition, Mi Buenaventura

There's a reason why the fill at 117-25 North Avenue
doesn't meet the adjoining parti-wall.

Even casual drivers through Plainfield's historic North Avenue commercial district have probably noticed an odd sight: the apparently uncompleted cleanup of the demolition debris at 117-25 North Avenue.

Yannuzzi's equipment is neatly parked, most of the lot from the left toward the right is packed down with clean fill, and -- then it stops.

The fill tapers neatly down to the basement of the former building where a strip of the former basement a few feet wide runs along the parti-wall from back to front. Why?

I ran into City Administrator Rick Smiley and DPWUD Director Eric Watson the other day as they were inspecting the site, and learned that the reason is fears that the parti-wall of the adjoining building is perhaps unable to withstand the pressure of having the fill pushed up against it.

So, here we sit. The city must wait for the owner of that property to settle the issues around the damage done to his buildings by Yates and his subcontractor. How long that will take is anybody''s guess.

Meanwhile, the investigation the Council ordered into the demolition seems to have gone into a sort of limbo.

To add to the situation, rumors are floating among the merchants that the owner of the corner property facing Park Avenue (where Assemblyman Green had his campaign headquarters during the primary election) has bought 117-25 and is going to turn it into parking.

Not likely any time soon, city officials say. First there is the question of the liability issues with the damaged property, then liens on 117-25 North Avenue, all of which stretch into the future.

Not that some sort of parking expansion would be a bad idea. Any time you drive through this particular block, the diagonal parking on the right side of the street is completely taken, with a car or two idling, waiting for a space to open. On the left, the no-parking side, there are usually two or three vehicles illegally parked at the curb, narrowing the passage through the street.

All of this was unthinkable when the District was created and many of the stores were vacant. How times have changed!


May 20 has long come and gone. What's up?

Meanwhile, there is news to report on Mi Buenaventura's move to new quarters down the block at 175 North Avenue, directly across from the train station.

While a sign in the window proclaims the restaurant's reopening about May 20, the date is long past without the restaurant opening.

Turns out that Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development Carlos Sanchez moved heaven and earth to find a Small Business Administration loan program for the restaurant.

Having done that, the restaurant's owner must finalize some details with the state before the loan can be executed and the project can move ahead. In the meantime, there is activity at the site, where new kitchen equipment will have to be installed.

Besides this, on April 7 the Tri-County Latino Coalition of NJ started a community fundraising project for the restaurant on the GoFundMe website (see here). When I checked a few weeks ago, contributions had peaked at $265. Checking today, the link is gone -- evidently GoFundMe considers the campaign closed. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I contributed, though I never received any kind of acknowledgment.)

I wonder how many other downtown businesses are in a similar fragile situation -- with margins so slim that insurance is considered an expense that can be eliminated in order to stay open.

Is this a problem looking for a solution?

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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