Friday, March 07, 2008

Redevelopment - Ledger - Landmark Developers loses designation in Orange

Published in the Star-Ledger, Thursday, March 6, 2008

[Landmark Developers]
Orange ends deal for new housing
Project put on hold for lack of progress

Star-Ledger Staff

The Orange City Council has voted to terminate an agreement with a housing developer to construct market-rate housing, including a high-rise apartment building, in the city's Valley section.

The 2006 redevelopment initiative would have covered 10 lots, including the Bravo supermarket on Scotland Road, but is now on indefinite hold, Marty Mayes, the city's director of development, said yesterday.

Frank Cretella, manager of Landmark Developers, also known as LMD Orange Urban Renewal Co., said in a letter to city officials that he tried to make the dream come true, but found no investors and he himself determined the venture to be way too costly.

"We're going to look for another developer, but we're not going to look for one right away because we want to concentrate on other redevelopment areas, primarily the (former) Hospital Center at Orange site, and two former hat factory sites," Mayes said.

Those three housing initiatives are expected to finally take shape this year, officials have said.

In a Feb. 13 letter to Mayes, Cretella wrote that building market-rate housing on the Bravo store site, part of Orange's Central Valley Redevelopment Area, is not financially viable.

"My anticipated acquisition costs, along with the relocation fee to Bravo, bring my cost, per dwelling unit, too high," wrote Cretella, whose Landmark Developers firm is based in Jersey City. "In addition, the project, as designed now, in accordance with the redevelopment plan, calls for a seven-story structure.

"The cost of constructing a seven-story-versus-a five-story structure is about $50 per square foot higher," Cretella said. "We had analyzed redesigning the project to five stories, as well as decreasing the average unit from 1,150 square feet to 950 square feet, but I still feel our cost basis remains too high.

"I also have not had any success in attracting other investors or developers in today's market," Cretella said.

Should the city of Orange find a replacement developer to undertake the market-rate housing venture, all architectural plans, tests and appraisals will be provided to them and to the city, Cretella promised.

That is not the only Orange redevelopment project that has been sidelined.

The multimillion-dollar clustered-brownstone residential community in the East Main Street redevelopment area, a 2 1/2-square-block area near the East Orange border, has been sidelined since September 2005.

The two property owners -- Nicholas Del Spina Jr., of Dell Spina LLC, operator of Truck Body East, and Allied Health Care Systems, a 6,400-square-foot medical equipment rental and supply business at 64 Main St., filed a lawsuit as part of an eminent domain fight with the city.

The owner of each property complained they operated viable businesses and should not be forced to give up their livelihoods for the proposed 283-unit residential brownstone community.

That case remains in litigation, officials said.

The three Orange developers whose housing developments are about to finally see the light of day -- partially because of 20-year-long payment in lieu of tax deals the city council approved -- are:
Metrovest -- the $100 million Avenue at Orange

Following a projected year-long asbestos removal effort that is expected to get under way soon, every building on the 8.8-acre, long-closed hospital site will be demolished.

That will pave the way for the construction of a midrise building complex called the Avenue at Orange, which will consist of 375 luxury one- and two-bedroom condominiums, 18,995 square feet of retail space, and a 12,000-square-foot community center with a pool and gymnasium.

F. Berg Hat Factory -- the $10 million Valley Renaissance Center

Berg Development Urban Renewal Associates -- a consortium consisting of the nonprofit Housing and Neighborhood Development Services agency in Orange, the Alpert Group of Fort Lee, and Ironstate Holdings LLC, a division of the Applied Development Co. of Hoboken -- is behind the plan to convert the building into a residential and commercial locale.

The new structure off Nassau and Jefferson streets will feature 29 condominiums on the upper floors and artist's studios and artist-related retail spaces on the ground level.

No Name Hat Factory -- a $1.4 million artist's loft residence

Harvard Development Associates LLC, a co-developer with the Housing and Neighborhood Development Services Inc. agency in Orange, plan to convert the three-story, century-old building at Mitchell and Jefferson streets into 16 lofts where artists will both live and work.
Kevin C. Dilworth may be reached at or (973) 392-4143.

Online story here. Archived here.

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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.