Remediation and Reflection At Post Office Site

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windowworkers

Asbestos Remediation Underway Last Week

[originally appeared in the Maplewood/South Orange Newsrecord, February 3, 2016; this on-line version adds interesting background to the original. Read this page through, and then check the “backstory” links for more!]

The Village Post Office became a foreboding and ominous shell after just one day of hazardous material removal last week. Or so it may appear. In reality, the steps taken last week are those required no matter the future use of the site. Whatever you dream the site should, could, or will become the view today includes them all.

“Oh man, the milk is already spilled, and it’s about to get gross.” I’ll forgive anyone for thinking that. Yet I ask that you take one last look at that building as a player would. The work underway prepares the site for demolition, remodeling, or expansion.

As a consulting engineer, I routinely find myself approaching similar topics from different perspectives. The perspective is always that of my client. For this project, today, my client could be a developer, an investor/builder, or the building owner (Maplewood taxpayers, had the sale occurred after Planning Board approval rather than before). Let’s take a brief look at each.

If a developer added me to his or her team, the project would be constrained by the purchase price of the land (about $1 million), the local zoning, and the marketplace for sale of the finished project. The dominant driver of the design would be how much could be built under the current zoning. My client’s profit would rise as the resale value of the project rises. Taxes would rise as well, as a small percentage of profit accruing to my client. The project priorities would be made with consideration of sale within a small number of years. (read backstory here)

If I joined an investor or builder team that was evaluating the existing building shell, I would be told estimates of the potential commercial rent—ranging from $25 to $35 or more per square foot in Maplewood Village, equivalent to $375,000 to over $500,000 in rent each year for the 15,000 square foot building. Many decisions would be driven by the future appraisal of the structure—which would range from 5 to 9 million dollars based on prevailing rates-of-return in our area. The builder would purchase (or lease) the building and the land from Town, and renovate the structure with an eye towards the local market. (read backstory here)

An assignment working for the taxpayer/owner would be framed by the first option to sell the land and pay for demolition, and the second, of facilitating its reuse and collecting rent or taxes on the improved structure. The taxes to be collected in both cases is a very small fraction of the Town’s budget, so I would likely be told that decisions can weight safety, commerce, cultural affairs, aesthetics, needs and desires of residents, and parking. Indeed, any and all the factors that give the Village its definition, utility, and health. The taxpayer/owner would choose between financial benefit via collection of taxes or via long-term lease of the structure (as had been the case from 1958 to 2013). (read backstory here)

As an engineer, I could be asked to help contribute to any of these outcomes, and what I’ve learned from real estate professionals and engineering review of this site indicates that all three could be a great success, for whoever my client is.

So if you happen to watch any of the remaining HAZMAT steps in the coming weeks, rather than shaking your head at what looks like an abandoned public nuisance, take one last chance to imagine the alternatives it actually offers. And please bring those thoughts to the next important civic discussion you are part of anywhere in Maplewood.

[originally appeared in Newsrecord, February 3, 2016]

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Read earlier Op-Eds here.

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Cherish The History

 

We’ve had great progress in working to save the aspects of Maplewood’s history that exist at the Village Post Office site.

 

Maplewood Post Office Construction Sign

Design For Sign That Appeared In Front of Site During Construction

 

Remember, this site hosted Maplewood’s first school, first library, and first Town Hall.  The foundation of the building that housed all these services still exists under the lobby of the existing building.   The 1950s, of course, were a pivotal time in our local and national history as well.   While a very controversial proposal when first introduced, the local support of the Post Office built by the Eisenhower administration was largely because of its symbolism in the collective consciousness of the time….

Read more here.

 

MEET THE DEVELOPERS!

STEVE KALAFER and JOE FORGIONE WANT TO BUY A POST OFFICE!

steve-kalaferjpg little_joe

Mayor DeLuca introduced a new ordinance this week that would clear the way for Steve and Joe to buy the Post Office site on November 16, 2015.  Steve and Joe would be new neighbors before Thanksgiving!  And that’s without worrying about Planning Board approval, or sewer repairs, or anything else, really.   They just get to own it.  It’s theirs.  See the smiles?

Steve and Joe are both local–from New Jersey!

Steve owns the Somerset Patriots Minor baseball team, and seventeen car dealerships in Flemington!  Read more here.

Joe owns JMF Properties.  They build big buildings, in a lot of places.  Read more here.

Mayor DeLuca is expediting matters so that Joe can get a capital gain tax break–he sold the PSEG site to Avalon Bays earlier this year. and the profit would be taxable unless he invests it in another property–for example, a post office.    It may also be so that no one needs to look at their latest site plan very closely–which was filed last week, and has not been reviewed yet.   Or maybe it is because Jerry Ryan and Kathy Levinthal leave office in six weeks–and their flawless “yes” voting on this project might not be forthcoming from Greg Lembrich and Nancy Adams.

No matter what, it sure seems like Vic, Joe and Steve are in a big rush!


WE KNOW, IT SEEMED LIKE EVERYTHING WAS OVER…GREG and NANCY WERE ELECTED, AND THAT DESIGN COMMITTEE SAID EVERYTHING WAS OK.  NEWS TODAY IS VIC WANTS TO SELL THIS PROJECT ASAP,  BEFORE GREG IS IN OFFICE, SO JOE  CAN GET A TAX BREAK!  SO MORE NEWS IS COMING…ADD YOUR EMAIL BELOW IF YOU WANT MORE UPDATES.  THANKS!

ELECTION DAY–ADAMS, LEMBRICH and SCALERA VIE FOR TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE SEATS

vote_today_poochie

POLLS OPEN  UNTIL 8PM TODAY!

The ballot today is replete with local races–Board of Ed, Township, State Representatives, County Sheriff, County Clerk. Please squeeze in time to cast your vote in one, more, or all of these races!
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Adams, Lembrich and Scalera, running for two Township seats, have each made statements regarding the Post Office project.   Lembrich has spoken in strong opposition, challenging the project on economic, aesthetic, financial, environmental, and tax rateable grounds.  Adams voted to grant preliminary approval last week as a Planning Board member.  Scalera has stated that she thinks that Maplewood should be kept small.
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See you at the polls?

Please share our Facebook post far and wide:

Polls are open, and you can find your polling place in Engage-Maplewood’s post, below. Many seats up for election–all…

Posted by Oh No 60 on Tuesday, November 3, 2015


[We’ve pruned our Blog page, leaving the best history for followers, new and intrepid alike.  PLEASE scroll to the bottom and  sign up for our feed.  We try to keep it fun and on topic.   PLEASE forward the link to others also!  And don’t forget “OH NO 60” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks!]

 

Planning Board Meeting Tonight:  Many Issues to Be Discussed

Inda Sechzer, a resident and owner of a local architectural firm, submitted an open letter yesterday to the Planning Board Chair, Tom Carlson.   Inda wrote:

Dear Tom,

I am writing to you with a summary of issues and thoughts I believe are important regarding the PO site. These issues and concerns are the result of discussion amongst a number of professionals including architects, planners, engineers, as well as local residents. I would appreciate it if you would forward and share these thoughts with your board members. I am also attaching relevant documents to this letter as one comprehensive pdf file.  …read more

Inda’s complete letter with attachments can be found on our Planning Board page.

The Board continues deliberation tonight.  Some members are anxious to vote, others are seeking more information.   Let’s hope they can Stop, Look, and Listen.   Important issues remain unresolved!  7:30pm, Town Hall.

[We’ve pruned our Blog page, leaving the best history for followers, new and intrepid alike.  PLEASE scroll to the bottom and  sign up for our feed.  We try to keep it fun and on topic.   PLEASE forward the link to others also!  And don’t forget “OH NO 60” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks!]

THE MAPLEWOOD VILLAGE UNSAFE ZONE

trucks and narrow drive

The post above appeared last week on the OHNO60 Facebook page.   It shows the sidewalk and truck arrangement at the front of the proposed JMF project.  The mid-sized trailer in the photo, by necessity, will need to drive over the proposed sidewalk to access Kings’ driveway.

Read our summary below, and please email and share this widely.  The applicant is asking for 20 variances and is providing the community nothing in return.  Tractor trailers on our sidewalks must not be allowed.  Click on “The Village Unsafe Zone” for more info.

click here: The Village Unsafe Zone

HOW OHNO60 GOT ITS NAME

11903729_389182337940887_4363642828343477998_nFrom the beginning of 2014 thru late 2014 Engage Maplewood laid dormant in anticipation of an L&M development and a Kings move. Once Kings announced they would NOT be moving across the street, EM proposed that the Town revisit the option of adaptive reuse for the Post Office building. The 2013 Redevelopment Plan had hinged on the Kings move and that option was laid to rest. Many advancements had been made in knowledge about the environment, urban/suburban development, and design. The EM group assumed that certainly Maplewood would want to be a forerunner in creating an interesting forward-thinking destination and may want to rethink, and conduct studies on, their older ideas.

Quite quickly the Township Committee selected JMF Developers with a Plan B approach to developing the site. The first rendering JMF provided however attempted to increase the allowable height in the Redevelopment Plan by 18%. At that time EM members wondered how that height would appear in relation to other buildings in the Village. No visuals of that type were available so EM decided to hold their own “balloon exhibition”. The 18% increase at that time, with the rooftop utilities, brought the height to over 60′. The first package of oversized balloons EM received were erroneously marked OhNo60 (apparently for a 60th birthday party). The people that were ready to hoist the balloons 1/2015 thought the name was appropriate and OhNo60 was born. The name continued to be “technically accurate” until JMF provided the second round of renderings later in 2015 showing a building that complied to the Redevelopment Plan. The name stuck with the group however as a reminder of the possibility that the property could have ultimately contained a building reaching 60′ and the importance of continued community awareness.

NOTE: the original members were not all made up of EM members nor are the majority of them Village Keepers members. OhNo60 is solely about the Post Office building and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a design and a destination that represents the best Maplewood has to offer.

Village Keeper Signs

Village sign, as ordered

Just a weekend reminder:  Village Keeper lawn signs are still available, still free, and still delivered to your lawn within 24 hours.  Just email your address to “villagekeepers@yahoo.com“.

Village Keepers, Inc is a non-profit New Jersey corporation dedicated to the welfare of Maplewood Village.  It seeks to balance economic development with preservation of character through the pursuit of progressive planning, responsible ratables and wide stakeholder involvement.

Bringing your views to the public discourse may be the most significant homage to our fallen veterans we can express.