By FRED T. ROSSI
For The Leader/Times
SCOTCH PLAINS — The township council on Monday evening voted to sever the township’s exclusive relationship with its designated downtown redevelopers but still plans to introduce a redevelopment plan next month.
After a 45-minute executive session following its regular business meeting, the governing body reconvened publicly and then voted, without comment, to approve a resolution authorizing termination of the township’s contract with Bedminster-based Advance Realty Investors and its partner, PS&S Engineering, that gave those firms exclusivity on negotiations over a redevelopment plan.
Neither Mayor Joshua Losardo nor any of the three council members present provided any explanation for the move. Township redevelopment coordinator Thomas Strowe told The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times that the decision would be discussed in more detail at the township redevelopment committee’s monthly meeting on Wednesday night, after this week’s edition of The Leader and The Times had gone to press. A press release issued by the municipal government late Tuesday said the two sides “were not able to come to agreement on key issues concerning design.”
Ending the exclusivity agreement will allow redevelopment officials to “focus on adopting a downtown redevelopment plan that is in the best interests of our community and then engage with the development community to find the best partner(s) to implement a plan,” the release stated. The plan will need to include certain non-negotiable criteria such as ample open space and public plazas, adequate public parking and architectural and building design standards appropriate for a suburban downtown area, the township’s statement said.
In September 2019, the council had executed an agreement conditionally naming Advance Realty and PS&S as the redevelopers of four public properties in the central business district: the township-owned properties where the municipal building, the firehouse and the library are located as well as the parking lots adjacent to the municipal building and the library, the large lot behind the stores that front Park Avenue and the parking lot behind the row of businesses on East Second Street adjacent to the CVS pharmacy.
Redevelopment of these properties marks the first of several phases that will eventually encompass parts of East Second Street, Terrill Road and Park Avenue to the north and south of the central business district. The first phase was expected to result in about 48,000 square feet of new retail and office space, more than 1,400 new parking spots and 177 new housing units, 35 of which were to be set aside as affordable-housing units.
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