Courier News, Thursday, June 30, 2005
By CHAD WEIHRAUCH
PLAINFIELD -- It was once considered a good location for a new senior citizen center and has been used as a place for martial arts classes, speeches and large-scale gatherings.
Now, the Plainfield Armory is for sale at a minimum bid of $1 million.
Assemblyman Jerry Green said the State House Commission decided last week to sell the property, recommending to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that it be auctioned off after it was declared a surplus building.
The commission is in charge of selling and leasing state-owned property.
Green, D-Plainfield, said it would be preferable for the city to retain control of the armory by purchasing it from the state. He said city officials, including Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, were sent a letter in April notifying them of the sale, but they never replied.
"By him or the council not responding, they (the state) decided last Monday to put the property out to bid," Green said.
McWilliams said he never received that letter -- a copy Green submitted showed it was dated April 27 -- but said the city might be interested in the armory. However, McWilliams added that the building needs a new air-conditioning system and other upgrades.
"There's a lot of work that has to go into the site, but it's a great location," he said.
A spokesman for the state Department of the Treasury, which manages state-owned properties, indicated there is at least one month for Plainfield to act.
"The property will be offered to state agencies and the municipality first, and if there is no interest expressed, it will be sold at an auction with a minimum bid of $1 million," spokesman Tom Vincz said Monday.
The statement Vincz read was part of a letter sent to McWilliams, dated June 22. In it, Gene Hayman, chief of the Office of Real Property Management at the Treasury, asks the city to contact him by July 29 if officials are interested.
If the city does nothing by then, the state will auction the armory to the highest bidder.
The building at the corner of Leland Avenue and East Seventh Street is about 18,000 square feet, and when it was considered as a possible new senior center site six or seven years ago, it contained mostly small offices and narrow corridors. The tight spaces and lack of handicap-accessible features made seniors hesitant about relocating there.
Vincz said the older building is a candidate for the state and national Register of Historic Places, meaning there would be restrictions on alterations and uses by any potential buyer.
"In other words, you can't knock the building down," Vincz said.
Green noted that armories such as the one in Red Bank -- which became an ice rink -- have been converted for public use, which is what he would like to see in Plainfield.
"It's a lot of options out there. I have staff doing research now how other municipalities have responded to this," he said."