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Monday, October 22, 2018

Muhlenberg property development update

This sign on the Moffett Avenue side of the property
shows a rendering of the proposed project when
finished. (Photo courtesy Melida Baez-Cataldo)

As I go to dialysis at DaVita three times a week (located in the former Kenyon Hall nurses residence on the old Muhlenberg campus), I am aware of work proceeding on the old Muhlenberg Hospital -- which must be demolished before the proposed development can take place.

Couple of months ago a short green fabric fence went up around the entire property, signaling work was beginning. Though it is not a serious security fence (a grade schooler could probably jump over it), it does demarcate the development property from the SED/DaVita center, which are separately owned.

On Wednesday, the DaVita social worker told me she had been watching the progress on the project and had taken a picture of the sign along Moffett Avenue. She lives in Scotch Plains and comes to work from that side (I hardly ever go on Moffett as the exit feeds into Park Avenue).

She was excited to note the name of the medical arts complex will include the word "Muhlenberg". Many of the DaVita staffers had associations with the former Muhlenberg Hospital and are intensely curious about the project.

The sign, which appears at the top of this story is factual and a clever piece of marketing -- though it is somewhat misleading.

In the first place, naming the medical arts complex after Muhlenberg is a clever (and entirely appropriate) marketing move -- especially given the intense sense of loss by Plainfielders generally, and the anxieties of neighborhood residents about the development.

However, the rendering showing the apartments (in the background) and the medical arts center (in the foreground) is just a little misleading.

While the project may eventually end up looking like the rendering, that will not be for a considerable time.

The way the deal is structured, the developer (Community Healthcare Associates, or CHA) has 18 months to complete construction of the residential portion of the project and up to five (5) years to complete the medical arts complex. That is a long, long time, so we shall see.

Meanwhile, DaVita staff tells me that in talking with workers on the project, the first thing to do was to rid the empty hospital of all the vermin that had moved in, including mice, rats, raccoons, bats and other critters. "It was a wildlife refuge," one worker commented.

Open windows can be seen in the largest former hospital building, from which workers are throwing unsalvageable contents into dumpsters on the ground.

Work is also proceeding apace on asbestos abatement. Buildings of that vintage were loaded with asbestos as insulation on heating pipes emanating from the central heating plant and elsewhere throughout the complex.

After that, demolition should begin.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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