Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sharon Robinson-Briggs - Ledger - Senior condos planned

Published in the Star-Ledger, Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Plainfield senior condos planned
63 units would raise $400,000 in taxes

Star-Ledger Staff

Bingo on the first floor, a two- bedroom on the second.

Plans for a new Plainfield Senior Citizens Center call for 63 condominium units to be built above it, which would also be marketed to seniors. The project would free the city from spending anything on construction costs and would generate about $400,000 a year in taxes.

The developer, Glen A. Fishman, of Dornoch Holdings, would pay for the $15 million, four-story building. The plan was presented at a July 11 monthly meeting between seniors and Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs. The mayor strongly supports the idea, as does Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), who was also on hand to promote it.

The project has not been presented to the city planning board yet, but the developer said it would take no more than 12 to 14 months to complete if approved. Dornoch Holdings has had several projects throughout the state. Last spring, it presented plans in Paterson, for a large-scale redevelopment that would take years to complete.

Plainfield's new senior center, at 400 E. Front St., would include a much larger kitchen than the exist ing center provides, and would have activity areas and a common space large enough to accommo date 200 people. There would be 17,000 square feet allotted for the center.

While there have been at least three other proposals for a new senior center from different developers, none has included condominiums as part of the project.

When he was mayor, Albert McWilliams proposed a new center that would have been paid for with a $4 million bond. In an interview on Monday, McWilliams said the project would have broken even financially. The city, he said, would have avoided paying the $100,000 annual rent on the existing senior center, which is located at 305 E. Front St.

Under Fishman's plan, the new senior center would be built free of charge; Plainfield would pay only for utilities. The three-story condominium project above would be marketed to seniors, and would consist of two-bedroom units. The entire facility would provide 100 parking spaces.

The project, said Robinson- Briggs, is a good one for the city. "I am so excited about this proposal," she said when reached by phone on Monday. "It sounds wonderful." The mayor added that she wants the developer to designate a por tion of the first floor for a perma nent meeting space for local war veterans so they can have a place to gather.

Green said he was pleased that the condominiums would bring in about $400,000 in taxes each year and would not require the city to give the developer tax breaks. The condominiums, Green added, will not be low-income housing but something seniors "can look for ward to purchasing." Because of federal and state budgetary constraints, Plainfield can no longer look for federal or state dollars, he added.

Alexi Friedman covers Plainfield. He may be reached at (908) 302-1505 or afriedman@starledger.com.


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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.