Business & Finance

Union Hotel Project Includes 'Plan B,' Councilperson Says

Revised plans for the Union Hotel project include preserving parts of it.

FLEMINGTON, NJ – State approvals for the redevelopment of the Union Hotel and surrounding properties will be in place next month, setting the stage for officials here to draft the ordinances that will pave the way for the project.

That’s what Councilperson Brian Swingle told a meeting of Flemington Community Partnership this morning.

Additional information sought by the state Historic Preservation Office has been provided, Swingle said, so that the matter can now go before the state’s Historic Sites Council. “We’ve given them everything they’ve asked for by the time they wanted it,” he said.

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SHPO itself is an advisory panel, Swingle explained, and falls under the umbrella of the state Department of Environmental Protection. It is the DEP’s Historic Sites Council that actually approves plans.

In an interview, Swingle described the process as a “roundtable” conducted by DEP. All the other agencies involved have already accepted the plan by redeveloper Jack Cust for the Union Hotel, Swingle said, leaving the Historic Sites Council decision the only current state-level obstacle to the project proceeding, and that decision will be based on SHPO’s recommendation.

Swingle said he is certain the project will proceed – in part because Cust has “a Plan B.”

State rules require that applications include alternatives to a proposed plan, Swingle said.

“The alternatives are not what anyone wants to build,” Swingle said, but “he would build it if he had to.”

The alternatives to the current plan would be smaller projects. In that case, “because of the economics of the project, it would probably not have very much or any preservation ... because the economics aren’t there,” he said.

The economics of the redevelopment plan are defined “by the footprints of the project,” Swingle said, and explain why Cust’s predecessors weren’t successful.

“The previous projects didn’t work because the footprint wasn’t big enough,” Swingle said. “What we were requiring people to build wasn’t feasible.”

The alternative would involve building a new hotel, he said.

“Something will happen,” Swingle said. “The question is, ‘What is it?’ We will build something.”

The result, Swingle said, “will turn the Borough of Flemington – the county seat – into an economic epicenter. Once that happens, the ripple effect, like a rock in a pond, will be huge, economically.

The Historic Sites Council is scheduled to meet on Aug. 16. Swingle said the Cust plan is one of the largest it has ever reviewed.  


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