POLL: Changes to Redevelopment Plan Approved

Planning Board believes changes to the original 2007 design are 'minor.'


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The West Orange Planning Board unanimously voted to approve changes to the Edison redevelopment plan at its meeting on Wednesday night. 

After two delayed votes by the board in  and , Prism Green Urban Renewal Associates IV LLC, a subsidiary of the redeveloper, finally got approval to nix high-end features,including changing the total number of units, from the original plan approved in 2007.  

Conditions to get permits and begin construction remain to be finalized, said Planning Board President Robert Bagoff. These will be drawn up and formally agreed upon at the board’s next meeting on Oct. 10.  

Overall, the board seemed in agreement the changes were minor.  

“We’ve heard a lot of testimony,” said board member Ron Weston. “... The changes that have been made to some aspects of the architecture are — in my opinion — relatively minor. ... It’s really the same project that was approved and it’s been sitting here, waiting for it to happen.” 

“This is the key,” said board member Jerome Eben. “All of the documentation points to the rebirth of the downtown, bringing it back from the brink where it is today.”

“I believe in the redeveloper, I believe in this development, I believe in the plans,” said vice chairman Ben Heller. “... The success of our downtown really does depend on not only projects like this, but projects ... [that] help us redevelop and rebuild our town.” 

A list of the changes can be seen at the bottom of this article.

However, the approval did not come without criticism.

Prism is currently delinquent on its third quarter taxes due Aug. 1, which amount to about $114,600, according to the West Orange Tax Assessor’s Office.

It was also revealed Prism was late paying its first- and second-quarter tax bills this year. Prism paid those on July 10. 

While the board can deny applications because of delinquent tax bills, Bagoff said it is not unusual for applicant’s to be behind in taxes when going through board proceedings. The board proceeded with the approval, he said, because Prism’s taxes were up to date when the board first met to consider the changes on July 13. 

An attempt to impose a condition on the redeveloper that all taxes must be paid before any construction begins was removed after being vehemently argued against by Jean Diaz, one of the principals for the redeveloper.

“A condition with respect to continued payment of taxes is not a condition [available] to this board from a legal standpoint,” said Diaz. “... I am not going to be held to a higher standard than anybody else in the market with respect how we conduct our business.”

The payment of taxes, said Diaz, is governed by . The council voted earlier this year to impose a payment in lieu of taxes on the redeveloper for about 30 years, where the redeveloper will pay a reduced amount of taxes. 

Another sticking point involved a jitney shuttle, which will not be made available at the outset of the project. Many of the board members and Harvey Grossman, the township’s public advocate, suggested a jitney would alleviate traffic and be advantageous to area residents. 

“I think it is shortsighted not to tie a jitney shuttle bus service to this project,” said board member Lee Klein. “... I think it will help market the project.” 

Grossman agreed with Klein, saying the proximity of West Orange to mass transit into New York City is what will set West Orange apart from other communities and draw people to the development. 

“The jitney system is really integral to this project,” argued Grossman. “A jitney service ... is the last link in a mass transit system that feeds into New York.” 

A transportation service from the redevelopment to mass transit hubs nearby, such as the Orange Train Station, will depend on the demand, said Diaz. 

Among the various changes to the original 2007 include:

• High-end penthouses were eliminated;

• The average size of rental units was decreased;

• Studio apartments jumped from nine to 33 units;

• One-bedroom apartments increased from 121 to 181 units;

• Two-bedroom apartments dropped from 128 to 82 units; and

• Three-bedroom apartments decreased from 18 to six units. 

Read more about the changes . 

Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Tom: Actually "we" (or at least the land we tread, under one name or another) has had the exact same proximity to New York City as when it was first settled by the Dutch in 1614...that's nearly five hundred years. It's also precisely that proximity that has caused virtually all our population growth and development since. So, like it or not, we "bank" on New York City each and every day...as more people from West Orange earn their living there than in any other location.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Tom: Well, since you're obviously not invested in Xanadu, Edison Lofts or likely much of anything else, why don't you just sit back and see what happens? If it all goes to hell, it won't be your money, will it?
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Tom: Duh...no; did you not understand the previous exchange on this subject?
Tom September 09, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Gary Excuses, I think is a more suitable name...
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Tom: I already have a last name and don't need another. You, on the other hand, are clearly deficient in a number of areas, some of which may be detailed as follows: no name, no stones, no clue.
Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA, PP September 09, 2012 at 03:53 PM
The PB has 3 architects, a landscape architect and an engineer not to mention four others who have a great concern for this community and spend the time to review the applications, the drawings, visit the sites and listen to hours of testimony from many experts of the applicants that appear before this body. As just 1 architect, I can state that I am not 100% behind the developer, but they were the chosen group and have put together a project that we can only hope will have a shovel in the ground before the turn of yet another year. As an individual who has been a positive force in redefining OUR downtown for nearly 30 years and several administrations, it seems that this administration has succeeded in getting this approved. While it is not perfect, (and what is) it is a start and we should all move TOGETHER to make this happen. Thank you! Jerry
badbul September 09, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Orange, East Orange and Newark have knocked down all there housing projects, I sure hope we aren't building one? If any amount of low-income will live in the Edison Lofts, the yuppies won't come. And if this project doesn't pan out what it is supposed to be, the tax payers will foot the bill to hire new police officers to combat the crime in a high rise building like this. Let's forget about children and schools because that's a hole other ball game. Here are the things I see that will stop white collar and yuppies from coming to the Edison Loft. 1. Commercial infrastructure that the Edison Loft is nested by? Auto Body Shops Propane/Gas Company Fence Company Multiple School Transportation Yards Used Car Lot Towing Impound Lot Multiple Junk Vehicle Yards 2. Multiple family homes along Ashland and Charles Streets that are run down and look abandoned. 3. Multiple family homes along Main Street that are below average and in need of landscape and repair. To me, this project is the same as placing a luxury apartment complex dead smack in the middle of Orange. If you build it, the rich won't come... Everyone needs to remember that Prism is a business, Prism is in this to make money. They don't care if Donald Trump pays rent to them, or if the State of New Jersey pays it to them in the way of section 8.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 05:05 PM
badbul: What you quite clearly do not understand is that Edison Lofts is just Phase 1 of a much larger project. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the entire redevelopment zone at the following link: http://www.westorange.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/422 The devevloper's agreement precludes Edison Lofts from becoming low income housing and the price points required for Prism to meet its obligations will insure that they will not. Yours is one person's subjective opinion and the idea that Prism will not attract 334 eager and qualified tenants in a metropolitan area with a population of +/- 25 million is simply unfathomable.
Tom September 09, 2012 at 05:18 PM
The "Puppet Masters"have spoke
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Sheila Lefkowitz: I wasn't at the Planning Board meeting to witness Mr. Diaz's show of frustration but, considering the rather vicious way he has been treated previously in public, and on various Internet message boards, I can certainly understand it as most all of us have our limits. Glass houses: one rebuke even coming from a former council candidate who went ballistic at a kid's basketball game following a call she took exception to. As I've previously stated here and elsewhere, Prism is not some group of robber barrons who have ridden into town to rape and pillage the community; they were INVITED to come here when willing to make an enormous financial investment and following an open public process wherein their vision for Main Street redevelopment bested two other remarkably similar proposals. They have stayed the course through an economic upheaval unprecedented since the Great Depression and (whether ocassionally late or not) have paid something in excess of $2.4 million in property taxes on a parcel on which they have yet to make a dime...while simultaneously doing a stellar job rehabilitating the Organon campus. There was paradigm shift in the global economy and Prism didn't cut and run. The Planning Board (a body that includes at least two architects and others with signinifcant relevant experience) voted 9-0 to approve Prism's revised plans, which they have characterized as minor and we all should be more than comfortable with that.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Tom: The hypocrisy and cowardice of someone hiding behind a screen name while calling anyone a puppet and/or alleging they're doing anyone else's bidding is mainfest. Whoever is pulling your strings chose a puppet analagous to Pinocchio in every way.
Tom September 09, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Gary Excuses and The Prism Head Bangers...
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA, PP: In addition to redevelopment being a long and tedious process that most people simply don't understand and, as a result, continually revisit decisions long since made.They also fail to appreciate the competence and professionalism of those making these decisions. Three architects, a landscape architect and an engineer sit on our Planning Board? I'm willing to wager that we are the envy of most communities in having such professionals willing to volunteer their time, effort and expertise...and, whatever personal opinions one might have about any matter before them, they'd be hard pressed to truly question their collective judgment. On that score, I have no reservations about the decision they made.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Tommy No Nuts and the Naysaying Nitwits :-)
badbul September 09, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Gary, thanks for the link. I wasn't aware of the redevelopment of the eyesore around the Battery Project. But I still stand my ground on the elite not coming to downtown WO. If Prism were to market this as "blue collar and working class", I would go to bat for it. I just don't see anyone with money moving here, unless they have no intelligence. Think about what I said in my earlier post? Put the battery Project dead smack in the middle of Orange and dump 100 Million into it. Who will come?
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 06:21 PM
badbul: Again, yours is a very subjective personal opinion of one individual. The idea that 334 rental units on Main Street won't find willing renters in a metropolitan area of +/- 25 million is, quite simply, mathematically unsustainable. Any redevelopment area had to take the first step toward its next life; witness the meat packing district in New York City (now among its most trendy) and the "Gold Coast" along the Hudson River. "If you build it, they will come."
badbul September 09, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Ok, I guess only time will tell if it's going to be elite, working class or ghetto living there. I just don't see a mixed income even if it's a 3 phase project.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 06:55 PM
badbul: Again, Prism isn't investing a quarter billion dollars to build a ghetto; neither its investors, nor the Township, will allow them to. Ten years from now, the area will have been changed significantly for the better and a Domino effect will spur further renovation in the neighborhoods that border it. That won't happen, however, until we take this first step that has been far too long in coming.
Ricky September 09, 2012 at 07:29 PM
"Ten years from now, the area will have been changed significantly for the better..." Everybody hopes that that will be the case but how do you know to such a certainty? Do you have one of those "crystal balls" that Anderton was referencing?
Jim September 09, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I for one could see that area easily turning the other direction and getting worse in the next 10 years. There is nothing to stop the area around there from stagnating and creeping closer to a Bloomfield-like place. Think about it. It's isolated. There is nothing to draw people there. One high end gated community which itself is an island will not be related to this project in any way. I doubt many residents of that area frequent the neighborhood where the battery factory is.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Ricky I don't have a crystal ball but, having been around for fifty years, I've seen what doing nothing has resulted in and it is almost criminal: fifty years of wringing hands, bitching, moaning, complaining and doing nothing. In another 50 year span, this country went from flying men in airplanes made of wood, wire and cloth that barely reach 100 mph to putting a man on the moon...and did that within the ten year challenge issued by John F. Kennedy. I'm an optimist and fully believe West Orange can accomplish the far less daunting task of redeveloping Main Street within a decade, IF we get started and do it.
Jim September 09, 2012 at 08:04 PM
When projects like the one discussed here are undertaken they conduct a feasibility study. What were the results of that, who conducted the study, and has that been made public.
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Portmanteau: In order that you might comment and offer any opinions whatsoever, you really should review the history of this initiative, which is detailed in documents posted on the Townships website. This link will make it easier on you: http://www.westorange.org/Search.aspx?SearchString=redevelopment Again, this matter has been discussed, studied and talked about for 50, work in earnest done for the last 22 and real progress made over the last 10. Do you think there was a feasibility study? Yeah.
Jim September 09, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Was it done 50 years ago? 10 Years ago? Or two? Because it would mean something entirely different at either interval. It need to be summarized and ROI needs to be presented. Simple right??
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Portmanteau: The information is there for the asking; please don't ask me to do the work for you. I'm a tad tired of covering the same ground with an ever resolving cast of characters, Yes, there is a process that has been scrupulously follwed with adjustments made along the way; witness the change from condos to rentals, the result of the 2008 global economic meltdown. Read the documents available.
Jim September 09, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Top Line it for me Gary. TIA
Gary Englert September 09, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I just did.
Status Quo September 09, 2012 at 08:56 PM
From the "Retail Market Study" [ http://bit.ly/TzbPLM ], Phase 1 projected introductory monthly rents were as follows in October 2011: 35 Studios (590 SF - 820 SF) $1290 - $1625; 185 1-BR (810 SF-1157 SF) $1850 - $2000; 107 2-BR (1210 SF - 1310 SF) $2250 - $2260; 6 3-BR (1480 SF) $2999. That's a total of 333 units. The rents are projected to increase, on average, 2%-3% per year. The projected rents assumed 1 free parking space included per unit and $75/month for each additional car. We estimate Edison Lofts monthly absorption of 16 to 18 units, with 18 to 21 months to total lease-up. In conclusion, with 333 units, Edison Lofts should target a lease-up rate of 25 to 30 units per months in the first six months after opening. This early momentum will be based on Edison Lofts superior value, location, and product. All of the documents available to residents before the Council approved the financial aggreements can be read at [ http://bit.ly/QtGjbP ]. I'm not sure but I don't think anything has been added or deleted (as of today) since the approvals were voted on. I don't know which of the documents available on the town website is the "feasability study".
Alan Sanders September 09, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Since the deletion feature is unavailable to me for the comment above at the moment: CORRECTION: Should read: '....could get support FOR it FROM a professional in the field.
Ricky September 10, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Yes, you're right. I don't know how the criminal justice system works since I've never been involved in anything that would have required me to cut a plea deal. Thank you for sharing your experience along those lines.


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