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Edison Redevelopment Plan Back on the Table

Phase I of plan will include more than 300 rental units

Years of stalled talks and disagreements may soon reach an end point after the township council considers one resolution and two ordinances to redevelop the Thomas Edison property on Main Street.

"We believe we're ready to take the next step and put years of talk behind us," Mayor Robert Parisi said during last week's township council meeting.

The dilapitated land surrounding the Thomas Edison National Historic Park on Main Street has been an eyesore to residents for years. The land's developer, Prism Capital Partners, LLC, has been working with the township to come up with a feasible plan for the area.

Parisi said the administration would submit a bond ordinance, a resolution to approve the application and an ordinance approving the finances for the project later this month for consideration by the council.

He said the council will consider only Phase I of the construction plan that includes more than 300 residential units and 18,500 square feet of retail space in the rundown battery building.

Parisi said the latest plan calls for a rental project, rather than the for-sale units previously presented by Prism in May.

Phase I of the plan proposed in June called for 321 units, including nine studios, 140 one-bedroom units, 145 two-bedroom units and 27 three-bedroom units. Parisi said that the plan now includes more one-bedroom than two-bedroom units to make room for elevator shafts and stairwells. He said the "high-end rental" apartments will remain high-quality with amenities and private parking.

"There's a silver lining … we think rentals as a product are very strong," Parisi said. He said given the economy, people do not want to "tie themselves up" by purchasing property and contended the rental market was stronger than the for-sale market.

The township council will meet on Nov. 22 to discuss the project; the developer is slated to attend. Any approvals by the township council must also be subject to approval by the planning board.

"We're trying to be flexible, we believe redeveloping the site is still important," Parisi said.

Under the newest proposal, the township will still enter a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, whereby the developer agrees to pay a reduced amount to the township instead of regularly applied real estate taxes.

"There are significant issues that are still outstanding," said Councilman Joe Krakoviak, who sits on the redevelopment sub-committee with Councilman Sal Anderton.

"One of the things a couple years ago that caused a lot of concern in the town was the use of general obligation bonds. There's not nearly as much being talked about his time but there still a general obligation portion of the transaction," he said.

He agreed, though, that it was important for the township to redevelop the property. "It's not very pleasant for us to look at now."

Parisi said the administration would post additional information about the latest proposal on the website. As of Monday, no information had yet been posted.

To read more about the plan proposed by Prism in May,

badbul November 08, 2011 at 02:39 AM
"high-end rental"? There is so much riff raff moving to West Orange that these "high-end rentals will remain vacant until the state files suit and section 8 takes over. I think Parisi was trying to state that "the latest plan calls for the rental of a public housing project" instead of "The latest plan calls for a rental project" But only time will tell...
Alf November 08, 2011 at 10:55 AM
I had heard there was low income housing going in here as well. Mayor Parisi, Do you really think that breaking this up into small "phases" will make the taxpayers think that this is a better deal then it was before? Here we go again!
Mark Paulson November 08, 2011 at 12:33 PM
My biggest concern is the impact that this will have on the schools. We are already faced with the eventual need for a new elementary school and an addition to the high school. Most of the students in the future are expected to be made up of renters, so these additions to the schools will come from increased taxes. Unless West Orange begins to be a place where affluent people decide to call this town home, the tax burden on the residents will continue to significantly increase. The quality of our schools will also be determined by the kind of students who move here in the future. Everyone who lives here has a right to an education. However, the impact on everyone is determined by the make up of the whole. West Orange needs to become a place that attracts people who place a strong emphasis on education. My other concern is about traffic congestion in that area. It is already a slow ride in that area. Adding more residents there won't make the ride any smoother. I also wonder if Prism Capital's ability to rent the building next to CVS is any indication of their ability to rent other units. I don't know what the solution is for this eye sore but developing this area comes with a host of problems.
Tom G. November 08, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I don't understand how building rental units is a good thing. Like others have said, those people are not paying property taxes, the building owners are paying reduced taxes, and all the people that move in there will be using town resources. That area is not a place where "luxury" rentals will succeed. It is too far from public transportation like the train station, and the part of Orange that surrounds that area is run down. There is nothing in that part of WO that is going to attract young professionals that seek luxury rentals. I propose leveling the rest of that factory eyesore. I don't know why they didn't take the whole building down at once to begin with. Turn it into park space and be done with it.
Mark Paulson November 08, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Unless something wonderful is proposed that is new and exciting, I completely agree with Mac. Use tax payers money, if it is necessary, to tear it down and make a beautiful park. (TRANSLATION) Cut your losses before things really become a lot worse.
Ken November 08, 2011 at 02:55 PM
I don't know. I'm keeping an open mind on this one for the moment because I believe it COULD work there, but it has a LOT to do with the retail mix they get. Right now, there's nothing in that general area to attract people, but you put in a funky restaurant and a cool antique store or something, try to get that Pizza Hut out and replaced with a coffee shop, etc . -- it's not impossible. Let's see how much they expect taxpayers to kick in, and let's see what the recourse/non-recourse situation is.
Tom G. November 08, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I don't think putting in more retail space is a good idea as there are already too many vacant properties on Main St. (Rock Cellar, the storefront next to CVS, and the building next to WO Pharmacy, are 3 that immediately come to mind). We do not have the economic climate to support retail right now, and it will likely be a very long time before things improve.
Mark Paulson November 08, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Renters do not have any long term investment in the community. Commercial real estate is a mess. Mac is right again regarding new businesses. I appreciate Ken's optimism. I try to look at most things with a positive perspective. However, I don't see anything positive about this project at all.
nytonj November 08, 2011 at 05:53 PM
I agree with Mark and Mac. Level it out; make a park, recreation center/gym, parking lot anything but rentals. Most people who rent do not have an investment in the community, if you ride down Main Street around 5-6PM there is a lot of traffic. What will this do to traffic in the area? Why would the developer be given a reduced tax fee? Who is going to pick up that tax bill? The home owners. The schools are bursting at the seams of over crowdedness; imagine what this will do to our school system. More children equals more money, equals more taxes. Who is going to pay for this? The private home owners.
Susan Zimmer November 08, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Has there been any discussion about utilizing the space and the immediately surrounding areas of the town for the good of the mature population in town? Senior housin and related services and amenities would not stress the already over-crowded schools and could help ease long waits for affordable senior housing. The greater Main Street location could be revitalized by attracting medical services: doctors, therapy, adult daycare, transportation services, which in turn would drive demand for retail, service buisnesses and restaurants. This model should inculde a park, age appropriate recreation facilites and a community center. If the development plan is not financially feasable with the current developer, we need to find someone who can do the job without the genreal public bearing the burden on the investors profit.
Mark Paulson November 08, 2011 at 08:02 PM
I like Susan's suggestion and everyone has made great comments. There are so many homes for sale already in West Orange. 300 more units will only devalue our properties more. I do not support this development at all.
Tom G. November 08, 2011 at 08:54 PM
This may not be a popular idea, but I have proposed it before in other threads on this topic. How about a big box store like Target, or a grocery store for that site? Similar shopping options in town are very limited - basically just Kmart and Shop Rite which are always overcrowded. I know traffic would be a concern, but if done right, it's an option that would bring in greatly needed tax revenue to the town while using very little town resources.
Shannon Schmitt November 08, 2011 at 10:14 PM
I agree with many of the comments listed here - especially in that residential units of any kind - rental or purchase- are a bad idea. With the over saturated real estate market in West Orange, by almost doubling the the amount of properties, it would be a huge loss to the town. I like the idea of a park and commercial business. Put in attractive busineses - food markets, restaurants, galleries, antique shops, bakeries, etc - and the people will come (and then hopefully buy houses!) Plus, the benefit of income generating business to off set the absurdly high taxes in WO wouldn't be the worst thing either. McKeon couldn't get it done and Parisi shouldn't pick up where he left off, he should regroup and get moving a new direction.
wohopeful November 08, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Parisi is just a puppet for McKeon and Codey, he does what they tell him to and they want him to pick up right where John left off. This had been a bad deal for the taxpayers from the very beginning and it is still a bad deal today.
Alf November 09, 2011 at 02:29 AM
I couldn't agree more!!
Karen Yi November 09, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Additional information is now on the township website: http://www.westorange.org/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC={B18753AB-113C-4F69-B453-4165E579A91D}&DE={B8A6D697-C270-4455-85B8-4F5EF1BEF7C1}
Pam November 10, 2011 at 03:51 PM
A park and a new location for the library would be a great use. The WO Library is one of the most used in the county and is busting at the seams for space.
Sue Freivald November 12, 2011 at 04:48 PM
There are some issues with this idea--first, it's been claimed that the way Edison built the factory, tearing it down would supposedly be too costly and difficult. As for park and library, that would hardly be profitable for the owners of the property--the Town does NOT own it, the developer does, so they hardly have any incentive to provide space to a public library or provide free use of the land as a park. It's a very nice thought, but not one that the property's owners are likely to go for.
Jonathan L November 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM
This is a horrendous idea. Rental units are probably the absolute worst thing that could happen to the space. West Orange needs Luxury Retail and Upscale restaurants. We don't need more housing of any kind in this town.
MP November 13, 2011 at 04:02 PM
It is time to leave West Orange before it gets really bad. There is no hope for this town. Whatever happened to WO will happen to Livingston in another 15 to 20 years. The politicians here have no vision. If Richard Codey moves back into that rental unit, then we may begin to trust the politicians.
wohopeful November 13, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Agreed, this is a horrendous idea. This developer stands to make millions off the back of the WO taxpayers with bonds and special tax rates. Parisi is just following orders from Dick and John, he is a puppet. Time to put a stop to his insane puppet regime antics. On the other hand, do you really think that anyone is going to come to that part of WO for "Luxury Retail and Upscale restaurants"? Have you driven through the area lately? Murders, armed robberies, and drugs are just some of the recent events which come to the forefront. This area is riddeled with crime and the dregs of humanity. I highly doubt that anyone from the Park is going to be attracted to the area in search of Luxury Retail or Upscale Dining.
Karen Yi November 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM
The Edison Redevelopment plan in West Orange has been pulled from the Nov. 22 township council agenda. Moved to Dec. 6 meeting. Story update to come.
Joe Krakoviak November 17, 2011 at 04:25 AM
If you'd like to view the discussion of the Edison redevelopment project at the November 1 council meeting, the link to the excerpt of the meeting video is http://bit.ly/um39rq. It's about 75 megabytes and 25 minutes long.

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