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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Proceed with caution on train station development

Trenton City Council this week moved forward with amendments to a redevelopment plan for the Trenton Train Station area that could result in the destruction of two majestic homes on Greenwood Avenue.

While enjoying general support among City Council members, there was considerable deliberation during Thursday's meeting prior to the 6 to 1 vote to approve the amendments. Most of the council members stated that while they supported preservation, they also supported economic development, which required the amendments and the ultimate destruction of the homes.

Normally these positions would hold water, but they are a little more tenuous when they are made in the City of Trenton, where the Douglas H. Palmer administration has fumbled, bungled, and generally screwed up numerous economic development projects, as the mysterious, wise, and elderly Old Mill Hill has pointed out.

Trenton is full of projects that have failed to gain traction: the Champale development, Manex, Performa, Full Spectrum. All amount to quite a bad history for the current administration and reflect badly on its ability to properly execute large-scale development in the city.

This list of infamous development names probably popped into the heads of many in the audience at City Council Thursday, when one city development official made comments about the project not going forward without assured success.

"Trenton doesn't build 25-story buildings to let them stand empty," said Sasa Olessi Montaño, acting director of housing and economic development.

Despite those comments, the reality is that many of these failed or stalled projects have moved forward, yet resulted in unnecessary controversy, especially involving botched eminent domain cases and general angst among development stakeholders.

That record of failure - while not necessarily the fault of Ms. Montaño - leads to a strong belief that there is quite a good chance that these two majestic Victorian structures could be demolished for no good reason.

The train station project could move forward smoothly, and then suddenly hit any number of unforeseen problems, which could end up stalling the project or killing it completely, at a point long after the destruction of these homes.

As TrentonKat has pointed out, the area of these homes is full of blighted streets, gutted houses, and other locations screaming for large-scale development, all in close proximity to the Trenton Transit Center.

The city could have easily pushed the developer to consider building in one of these areas, instead of tearing down two beautiful and historic homes.

Hopefully this project goes forward, because it could bring much good to the City of Trenton. But let's also hope that those two homes don't come down only to see nothing built in their place.

If that happens, it certainly wouldn't be the first time there was egg on the face of Trenton's economic development team and the City Council that approved their actions.

1 comment:

Chrissy said...

"Trenton doesn't build 25-story buildings to let them stand empty," said Sasa Olessi Montaño, acting director of housing and economic development.

...but we do build SO very many 3- story buildings, 4-story buildings, 5-story buildings, 6-story buildings (and more), and allow THEM to sit empty. This city is very literally overflowing with empty stories, that it seems highly illogical that anyone will ever be able to fill a 25-story building.