Real Estate

Chatham Borough Holds Discussion on Post Office Plaza Redevelopment; Residents Wary of Overcrowded Schools, Congestion

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Overhead view of the 5.5 acres in the Post Office Plaza area that Chatham Borough is planning to redevelop Credits: TAP Chatham
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Some of the parameters set for developers in filling out Requests For Qualifications Credits: TAP Chatham
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Borough of Chatham Council members Thad Kobylarz and Len Resto listen in on the discussion Credits: TAP Chatham
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Request For Qualifications requirements for the development of Post Office Plaza Credits: TAP Chatham
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Chatham resident Mike Dean has the microphone while former Chatham Borough Mayor Joe Marts listens Credits: TAP Chatham
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Borough of Chatham Council member Bob Weber makes a point Credits: TAP Chatham
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John Strelkoff of Chatham Township pointed out that people moving into Chatham will go to great lengths to get their kids into the Chatham school system Credits: TAP Chatham
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Borough of Chatham Council member Peter Hoffman explained why redevelopment of Post Office Plaza is being pursued Credits: TAP Chatham
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Chatham Monica Schaefer is in favor of "revitalizing" downtown Chatham through the redevelopment Credits: TAP Chatham
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Chatham residents and borough administrators turned out to hear from the public at the meeting held Tuesday night Credits: TAP Chatham
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Annie Hindenlang, professional redevelopment planner, answered questions from Chatham residents on plans for Post Office Plaza Credits: TAP Chatham
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Jill Critchley Weber, Summit Avenue resident and BOE president, makes a clarification at the open public meeting on Post Office Plaza Credits: TAP Chatham
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Barb Montague, a 45-year resident of Chatham, expressed concern about added traffic on Main Street Credits: TAP Chatham
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Credits: TAP Chatham
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Axlyn Sommer, the owner of T.M. Ward Coffee, asked for a plan that could be easily explained to Chatham residents Credits: TAP Chatham
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Chatham resident Shawn Sterling expressed concern about the impact of the redevelopment on the ever-growing student population in Chatham Credits: TAP Chatham
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CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham residents asked many questions on the redevelopment plans for Post Office Plaza, but left the open public meeting held Tuesday night without definitive answers.

Actually, there are no concrete answers to give at this point since no plan has yet to be proposed and developers have yet to receive the information needed to make "Requests For Qualifications."

According to professional planner Annie Hindenlang, who has been hired by the borough, residents and the Borough of Chatham Council will have the final say in the balance reached in any redevelopment plan

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Hindenlang reported on feedback residents gave on their preferences for the redevelopment and answered questions from the public who gathered in borough hall. She explained the process in which Requests For Qualifications (RFQs) would go out to developers and the public on the 5.5 acre parcel of land proposed for redevelopment in the video below.

Hindenlang said that they compiled data from about 400 respondents to surveys about what kind of retail and living spaces they'd like to see in downtown Chatham. The survey also asked specifically where people spend time when they're not in Chatham and many said they go to Madison, Summit, and Morristown (see video below).

When asked, Hindenlang estimated that it would take a year to a year and a half before any construction began.

Currently, there are 14 lots in the area of Post Office Plaza deemed in "need of redevelopment." There are 10 owners of the properties valued in total at $11.1 million. Those properties generated $175,429 in tax revenue to the borough.

Peter Hoffman, Chatham Borough Council member noted the need for "additional tax revenue" and pointed to the "moribund" downtown as reasons for seeking the redevelopment of Post Office Plaza in his remarks below.

Many residents in attendance were concerned about proposed "Mid-Riser" apartment buildings or condominiums, which would put an added burden on the School District of the Chathams budget with increased enrollment.

There is also concern about increased traffic on an already packed Main Street, especially since Florham Park keeps building residential units on Passaic Avenue near the Chatham border.

Resident Shawn Sterling, who has children in the school system, expressed his skepticism (see below) about studies that might predict little impact on school population from the redevelopment.

Hindenlang said that there is "significant precedence" that these type of developments do not produce as many children (see below).

Summit Avenue resident Jill Critchley Weber, who is also the president of the Chatham Board of Education, pointed out that demographers have often been wrong in predicting future school-age populations. 

Weber is in the process of prioritizing resources for the next school year budget and explained that increased tax revenue to the borough from redevelopment does not go into the coffers of the BOE, but rather to the municipality (see below).

Axlyn Sommer, who has owned T.M. Ward Coffee in Chatham for the past 24 years, described her establishment as the "Cheers" of Chatham and offered to help explain the plans to residents who reveal all kinds of speculation in her shop (see below).

 

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