Clark Thread mill redevelopment inching closer

 

EAST NEWARK –

Almost there.

East Newark has applied the next-to-last technical touch to the proposed conversion of the old Clark Thread mill to an apartment complex with some retail.

The mayor and Borough Council did that Sept. 13 when they voted to approve a redevelopment agreement with East Newark Towne Center (AKA: Alma Realty of Long Island City, N.Y.), the designated redeveloper of the former factory.

The vote was 4-0, with council members Hans Peter Lucas and Jose Silva absent.

On the advice of special counsel Anne S. Babineau, the governing body conditioned that consent on a review of the certificate of insurance provided by the firm for coverage.

Just to be sure, Babineau said, she will confer with the borough’s insurance consultants to ensure that the submission conforms to the proper form used for an “environmental insurance policy.”

Another check will be made by the experts, she said, to verify the financials earmarked for professional fees (such as bond counsel, etc.) and fees for the “redevelopment professionals” (such as planning consultant Robert Cotter).

As of now, Babineau said, “it looks like we have enough money to cover [those categories].”

With the signature of the redeveloper secured for the agreement, Babineau said, and once the technical hurdles are cleared, “we should be ready for action.”

As for Alma’s wherewithal to cover the costs associated with the project, Babineau said it appears that the redeveloper’s “financial condition is stronger than when we first met them [in 2007].”

She produced an “updated professional experience” submitted by the company detailing its more recent redevelopment track record, including the $77.6 million Taffee Place Lofts, a conversion of five former light-manufacturing factories to 330 residential loft apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail space in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Alma – the same firm now at work converting the former SoHo hospital building in Belleville into luxury apartments – says it has “spearheaded over $800 million worth of construction projects in the last 15 years and has always completed its projects.”

Borough Councilman Ken Sheehan Sr. asked whether the redeveloper agreement mandates the use of union labor on the project. Babineau replied there was no such condition included and borough attorney Neil Marotta added that, “There is case law that we could not provide that requirement in [the agreement].”

Babineau said there was a note of irony in the fact that, essentially, the agreement the governing body was now sanctioning is, in essence, “the same agreement we had [with Alma] back in 2009,” with the exception of some amendments dealing with the size of the apartments.

The big holdup, she recalled, was the dispute about whether Alma should receive a tax abatement or PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for the project. The borough refused to grant one and finally got its way.

Next – and presumably final step in the paperwork process – will be for Alma/ENTC to apply to the Planning Board for site plan review which, according to Babineau, should happen “shortly.” At that point, ENTC will be producing engineering/design plans for the project, she said.

“After that,” Babineau said, “we’re talking about proceeding in [construction] phases,” starting from the Central Ave. section of the block-long complex of buildings along Passaic Ave., and moving east.

Plans call for more than 600 apartments to be built.

There is to be demolition of some of the smaller structures and garages on site but, for the most part, the lion’s share of the project will involve interior work including partitioning, plus installation of new windows and cleaning/painting of the exterior façade.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.