PLAINFIELD, NJ — Director Valerie Jackson recently presented the 2020 budget for the Department of Economic Development to members of the City Council. She said boards and commissions such as the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Historic Preservation Commission, and Shade Tree fall under her department, and she interfaces with the Special Improvement District, or SID. Jackson noted that going into 2020, there was $1 billion in private investment in the pipeline, representing around 5,000 residential units, and over 500,000-square-feet in retail.
"We also were looking at, from a goals perspective for 2020 in constructing... or starting the construction of approximately 2,000 residential units, and almost 400,000-square-feet of retail."
But she said given the impact of the COVID-19 impact on the business community, "we're going to have to revisit retail," saying her department has changed its approach to saving retail in Plainfield in terms of retention.
"We had a lot of new businesses start up last year, and quite frankly, our business community is in trouble at this point given the pandemic and its impact, particularly for non-essential businesses."
Jackson said the construction of residential and mixed-use development will continue, and noted that the Planning Board and Zoning Board continue to have full agendas that include redevelopment activities and reviews of site plans.
"Our investors, from a redevelopment point of view, continue to get themselves prepared so that they can hit the ground running in terms of construction," she added. "So there's a difference between what's happening in the development community, and what's happening in the small business community."
She said her department is doing everything it can to keep small business owners up to date on Federal, State and Municipal assistance programs.
Jackson's budget request is for $990,886, with the chunk of it going towards salaries. There are eight people in the department: "We're a small group doing a lot of things."
Given the current economic state, Jackson said she will look for areas where the budget could be cut further, and will remove all discretionary spending.
A few councilors wanted to know more about the Master Plan. Jackson said work is still on track, and the plan includes a parking study, as well as sustainability, land use, and housing elements. The completion date was scheduled for June 30, but it may be completed a little later in the summer.
Council Vice President Elton Armady asked Jackson about transit-oriented development projects that could come online this year into 2021. Jackson noted:
- 1000 North Avenue will start this year, and the same developer has a project at 900 North Avenue, with the Director saying it should start next year;
- 803 South Avenue, next door to Public Works, will be presented to the Planning Board on June 4, and the project will start this year;
- The same group, Jackson said, is pushing her on the Fig Tree property to finish up the redevelopment plan, and if it doesn't start late this year, it will begin next year;
- Elmwood Gardens will move forward with its project this year;
- Carts Food Equipment at 219-225 Central Avenue should start this year;
- CVS, across the street from Muhlenberg, will be developed by CHA, or Community Healthcare Associates; Jackson said CHA is moving forward with the construction of residential units at Muhlenberg, and are beginning to frame out the medical mall;
- Wawa, at 829 South Avenue, is progressing;
- Agreements for 611 West Front, the old Marino tract, are being put together;
- TODD West continues to move forward;
- Jackson said plans for South Second Street and Quin Sleepy Hollow are also moving forward.
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