PLAINFIELD, NJ — Downtown Plainfield parking lots and buildings including the former Strand Theater are the latest properties to come under scrutiny for redevelopment.
“Bottom line, surface parking lots are inefficient uses of valuable land in our downtown,” according to Planning Director Bill Nierstedt. “We want to see if we can get them on the tax rolls.’
Lots that have been used for celebrations as well as parking are investigated in the “Scattered City-Owned Parking Lots and Adjacent Lots” study by the Nishuane Group. The City Council authorized the investigation of the sites in June 2019 and the findings will be presented to the Planning Board on Feb. 6. If the board approves, the study will go to the governing body, which may then direct the Planning Board to make a redevelopment plan.
The study covers popular city lots including Parking Lot 6, to the rear of Bill’s Luncheonette, which is also used by apartment dwellers across East Second Street. That lot, parking lots behind the Strand Theater, and behind stores on East Front Street between Park and Watchung were found to be in need of redevelopment. A 23-unit apartment building on Orange Place also met criteria for redevelopment, as well as an East Front Street vacant lot where carnivals took place years ago. In addition, Parking Lot 7, with access from both East Seventh Street and Park Avenue, was found to be in need of redevelopment. That lot serves a nearby church and the new Plainfield Performing Arts Center, and also fills up when Masonic groups meet at their building across East Seventh Street.
On Thursday, downtown merchants drew a blank on the plans and had not heard about the Feb. 6 public hearing. A legal notice published Jan. 17 cited city block and lot numbers but did not list parking lots by number. One merchant was confident that his paid parking permits would stay viable, and another was more incensed about a crackdown on merchandise displayed out front than on possible redevelopment of the parking lot at the rear.
The legal notice was published again on Friday (Jan. 24), but the report was not initially available. It is now on hand for anyone to review during regular business hours. Please note that the study cites “block and lot” numbers but does not always identify parking lots by number.
The entire study, which runs to more than 50 pages, is available in the City Clerk’s office in City Hall, 515 Watchung Avenue. A public hearing on the study will take place at the Feb. 6 Planning Board meeting, 7 p.m. in City Hall Library. (The board agreed in January to move the starting time from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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