Reposted from NJ.com
FLEMINGTON – The Borough Council voted on Monday to approve a redevelopment agreement that calls for the replacement of several Main Street buildings, including the Union Hotel, with a mixed-use facility called Courthouse Square.
The agreement between the borough and Jack Cust, Jr. will allow the demolition of the circa-1878 hotel and surrounding buildings to construct a 100-room hotel, up to 250 apartments, a 900-vehicle parking garage, stores, restaurants and a pedestrian plaza.
There will also be a separate building for a college and medical offices. The redevelopment area includes adjacent buildings on Bloomfield Avenue owned by Flemington Furs.
Some 100 people attended the meeting held at the Hunterdon County Historic Court House on Main Street, with public comment lasting an hour, according to mycentraljersey.com.
The plan was approved in a unanimous 5-0 vote, with one councilwoman, Susan Peterson, absent from the meeting.
While many urged the council to delay approving the agreement, there were those who spoke in support of it, according to the report. All council members present at the meeting voted in favor of the agreement.
One who spoke against the agreement was former state Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, stating the council should have Cust provide more financial information and require a performance bond be posted on the project, the report stated.
“I’ve never seen anything as badly written and poorly constructed as this agreement,” Karrow said. “Shame on all of you!”
A map of the proposed look of the Courthouse Square project in Flemington. (courtesy image)
Mayor Phil Greiner, a proponent of the project, said in an interview Tuesday that Karrow has been “a longtime opponent of the plan ever since it was announced.”
Dismissing her criticism, Greiner said Cust “is providing his own equity financing.”
As part of the agreement, Greiner said, there will be “professional oversight of the developer’s financial capability. No demolition will occur until all the financing is in place for the whole project.”
“We believe it is a fair agreement for both sides,” the mayor added. “We look forward to moving ahead with the project. We’re ready to go.”
Speaking in favor of the agreement was Vice Chairman of the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce Jim Robinson, who said people need “to accept the reality that Flemington needs a catalyst, an economic boost to prosper, to remain viable and to reverse the downward economic spiral that we have all experienced in the last decade since the hotel closed.”
It will take between nine months to two years before demolition and construction begins. The agreement gives Cust a total of eight years, or to 2025, to complete the project.
Construction on the project cannot move forward until it receives approval from the planning board, which will hold public hearings.
The next step in the process is for the planning board to determine if the properties meet New Jersey requirements to be declared a redevelopment area. The board will also make recommendations about expanding the redevelopment area, Greiner said.
Six years ago, Greiner said, the borough had an agreement with another redeveloper for the Union Hotel, but he wanted to “put housing above it” and opponents of that plan “drove the guy away.”
Since then, Greiner added, there has been “no progress,” while business properties in downtown Flemington have decreased in value by 7 percent.
“At that time, I said when you hold out for the perfect solution, you often wind up with no solution at all,” Greiner said.
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