Tio the editor:

As many of my Flemington friends know, I’ve been an independent, vocal proponent of the creative historical restoration of downtown Flemington. I see these buildings as neglected assets that can help form the core of Flemington’s identity for years to come. These are the buildings I’m talking about.

I don’t know why Mr. Cust’s architects can’t figure out how to turn them into selling points instead fronts for fake, modern buildings that could be anywhere.

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Yet I can see the business logic of the most recent version of Mr. Cust’s plan and understand that this option is better than another decade of decay. He says that he will keep the front shells of two of the more important buildings and he certainly knows a lot more about how the gears of Hunterdon County politics work than I do. He’s an accountant, and HealthQuest and Diamond Nation are pretty impressive businesses.

Mr. Cust, I will take down my signs you can:

  1. Tell me how you will work to maintain some degree of historical authenticity to your project. This is missing from your current plan. Perhaps hire someone I trust, like the folks that worked on the Large building. I’d recommend Chris Pickell, and would like it if you listened to him as you restore outside facades. Will you keep the original Union Hotel signs and block letters? There's hundreds of other important details. It would make me better to see that you have architects that understand the value of historical preservation on your team.  
  2. Recommend that the Borough hire an independent lawyer immediately to review all aspects of the deal. We all know that markets could change after the four buildings are removed, and we all could be stuck with weeks and no leverage. This is a huge project; it deserves an independent critique.  We need benchmark guarantees. You should support, rather than suppress this type of independent analysis.  It will only make your project more viable in the end.
  3. Show me how your “town square” will actually serve as a town square. Will it be able to accommodate  larger musical events and festivals so that streets don’t have to be closed? Will we have to rent space from you to have a concert?  If you are the landlord who owns the town square, will you even permit this public usage? I worry about having one landlord who has too much control. What kind of landlord will you be?  
  4. Start behaving like a neighbor, not a bully. I’ve never seen you downtown. Come to the beer garden, drop in our library, walk around main street. If you’re not going to pay taxes, do something like support the Hunterdon Symphony or help to restore the community pool. There's none of this in your plan.
  5. Mend fences with your neighbors. The attempted arrest of four of the area’s best crossed an ethical line for me. Make a good will gesture to pay their legal bills and encourage whoever arrested them to write a letter of apology. Fix this problem by acting like a diplomat. It's a good test that will help convince me that you deserve the core of my how town. 
  6. Close the windows in the hotel. True developers don’t let things degrade. Those open windows in the hotel should bother you as much as they bother me. You own it, right? So show this grand old building some respect in its final days.

If you do these things, my signs will come down and I trust a few others might as well. And who knows -- perhaps I'll be able to enjoy a beer in your beautiful hotel.

Warren Buckleitner