History of the Emerson Redevelopment: Part V (2015)

This is the fifth in a series of historical background facts on the history of Redevelopment in Emerson.

A review of the developments in 2015 actually begins with my meeting with County Executive Elect James Tedesco in November 2014 shortly after our election. During that meeting, the soon to be County Executive assured me that the County was ready to proceed with the Shared Services Agreement I entered into with then County Executive Dennis McNereny in December 2010. (See link to Shared Services Agreement )

At our Reorganization meeting on January 6, 2015, the County Executive announced that the Kinderkamack Road project would be funded and would proceed. (See link to January 2015 article from The Record) We continued with preparing the construction drawings and securing the necessary easements and property acquisitions in anticipation of starting the road improvement project.
Secure with a commitment from the County that the road project was funded and was a go, we were able to focus on moving forward with some form of redevelopment of a small part of our downtown. We decided that we would focus on five (5) lots in Block 419, that being the area between Linwood Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard, on the west side of Kinderkamack Road. I began the process by meeting with the owner of the one story building on Linwood which presently is occupied by the vape store and barber shop and the owner of the two (2) properties on the corner. Both owners, who are out of town investors, were given the opportunity to first, develop their own properties and second, be designated as a redeveloper for additional properties in the block. Both declined, but indicated a willingness to sell their properties. We were also in contact with the owner of the apartment building with the nail salon on street level, who has been interested in selling his building for many years.

The Borough then issued what would be our third Request for Proposals (RFP), the first two having been issued in 2006 and 2007, for the five (5) southernmost lots which are part of Block 419. Page 6 of the RFP illustrates the “subject area” of Block 419. (See link to June 24, 2015 Request for Proposals)
Each property owner within the subject area was sent a letter dated June 25, 2015 advising them of the issuance of the RFP. That letter advised “[a]s a property owner, the Governing Body continues to give you every opportunity to develop your own property”. The owners were also advised that “[y]ou may submit a formal response to the Request for Proposals for these five (5) lots. In the alternative, you may also submit whatever you would like us to see for your property alone”. (See link to June 25, 2015 letters from the Borough Planner to property owners)

None of the owners of these five (5) lots submitted anything to the Borough. Subsequent to the mailing of our planner’s June 25th letters, I spoke with a daughter of the owner of the building where the Cork and Keg/Ranch Cleaners is located. She indicated that her mother was not interested in doing anything to their property but instead, was interested in selling the building.

Only one firm responded to the RFP, Hornrock Properties, which proposed a four (4) story building on these five (5) lots, with 72 market rate units in a structure that would total at least 44 feet but probably higher. Their proposal did not include any affordable units, contrary to the Borough’s ordinance which requires that any development of over five (5) units include 20% of affordable units. After several meetings among Hornrock and our professionals, Hornrock advised that a project of 58 units with 14 affordable units did not make economic sense. It was recommended that a new RFP be issued increasing the number of parcels to include the rest of the block. Borough Administrator Hoffmann wrote:
The Goal of the Borough’s effort is to create a Central Business District that will be viable for 50 to 75 years into the future. It is a way to make the center of Emerson a destination. The improved CBD will increase the Borough’s ratable base which will stabilize residential property taxes. It will also provide new housing options to our residents who want to stay in Emerson after they age out or downsize from their single family homes. If nothing is done to improve the CDB that means that the Borough will not be able to increase its ratable base. It is the equivalent of increasing taxes on the rest of the Borough.
(See link to Borough Administrator’s August 30, 2015

By Resolution 239-15, The Council, by a vote of 5-1, rejected Hornrock’s proposal and authorized preparation of a revised Request for Proposals to include the “recommendations of the Borough Planner and other professionals”. (See link to September 1, 2015 Resolution 239-15)
The 2015 Council was comprised of six (6) Republicans and a Democratic mayor. Thus, bi-partisan efforts continued to improve a deteriorated downtown business district.

As usual, please feel free to reach out with any questions to mayor@emersonnj.org.

I will pick up with the developments occurring in 2016 in my next offering.

Below is a link to the December 2010 Shared Services Agreement, the Record’s January 2015 article, June 24, 2015 Request for Proposals, June 25, 2015 letters, Borough Administrator’s August 30, 2015 Memorandum and the September 1, 2015 Resolution 239-15.