Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monarch Units Up For Lease

After slow sales for many months, the 63-unit condo development known as The Monarch has recently started to fill up – with rentals.

Purchasers of the two-bedroom, two-bath condos are not happy to have lease-to-buy occupants as their new neighbors.

“Everybody that bought here is angry,” said George Schwejlih, one of three owners who met with Plaintalker to discuss the situation.

The owners are concerned about possible transience, overcrowding of units, the commitment of tenants versus owners and even the rent being too low. Since January, owners say, the number of tenants has swelled to match the number of owners. Owner Latiema Jefferson said she did careful research before making her purchase, talking about “all outcomes” before buying. The new scenario is one she did not anticipate.

Only about one-third of the condos are owner-occupied, this despite first-time buyer incentives and lowered prices to spur sales. Another inducement, a proposed abatement that would have allowed owners to pay only 40 percent of property taxes to the city, was rejected by the City Council. Of the current owners, some bought at the higher, initial prices close to $300,000. Now, sales advertisements offer the condos for starting prices “in the high $100,000s,” one owner said.

The owners found out about the rentals partly because of other problems they are trying to address, including upkeep of common areas, security, completion of a promised rooftop terrace and designated parking spaces. The building includes a senior center that the developer created for the city, and members share the parking lot. Owners wanted marked spaces set aside for their exclusive use as promised, but until recently they were not all assigned. When a list of designated parking spaces was recently posted, owners realized some were being reserved for renters.

Plaintalker easily found online advertisements for leasing the units, including one on Craig’s List and a Twitter ad. Rents for the two-bedroom, two bath units were quoted as $1,300 and $1,450.

The City Council approved an agreement in 2006 for the condo development, with a new senior center and a veterans’ center to be included at no cost to the city. The agreement included references to “market rate housing” and condominiums, along with terms for closings to take place only after the senior center got an occupancy permit and for the veterans’ center space to come under city ownership only after all units were sold. Allowing renters appears to cloud some terms, including a condition that a condo association can only be formed when 75 percent of the units are sold.

Since last summer, the owners have been trying to get a developer-assigned project manager to address their concerns about building conditions. As of this month, they have been informed that a Lakewood “property manager” has been assigned to the building. Plaintalker’s attempt to reach developer Glen Fishman for comment Tuesday was directed to an employee who was not available.

The group, with owner Emmett Swan as point person, is now pursuing the need for legal counsel to represent their interests.

City officials including Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson did not respond to Plaintalker’s phone calls Tuesday about renters moving into The Monarch. Two City Council members said they were unaware of the situation, but also had concerns about what it might mean regarding terms of the city’s agreement with the developer.

Schwejlih already has his opinion.

“I really think we are in desperate straits,” he said.

--Bernice Paglia


  1. No surprise, but since this building was approved as "condos" and not rentals should not the city have a legal involvement in the matter. And what is UCIA's responsibility if any?

  2. So it would be better for the units to sit vacant?

  3. At least the city council and some vocal residents didn't side with the tax abatements! Let us all remember these very real results the next time a developer talks of luxury condo units in Plainfield. The market is oversaturated with vacant realestate and will be for a long time to come.

  4. I think the idea for this type of development may have been well intended, but poorly planned. There is not enough of an incentive to attract folks to purchase a unit surrounded by crime and no quality of life.

    Why would potential buyers make their way to the Monarch's location when, for a similar purchase price, they can go to a neighboring community that is safer, has access to public transportation and they can walk to shops and nightlife.

    RE: 1:27AM

    I understand why current unit owners prefer units to sit vacant, because unfortunately their new neighbors will most likely be families of 10 moving into a 2 bedroom!! THERE GOES THE BUILDING!

    This is all indicative of how poorly projects in this City are handled by the leadership. There should have been more to this than just building an apartment building; it should have been more about developing a community!

    The developer could care less about the City - all he want is his money.

  5. Once again, Shady Sharon, is not doing her part and is allowing the owners and citizens of Plainfield to be taken for a ride.

    Why is it that most people in this town knew that this building was a bad idea and the mayor and city council did not. Are we that much smarter, or perhaps, just less greedy. Either way, the citizens of Plainfield will pay for their blunders.

  6. So -- luxury condos turn into affordable housing units...surely an outcome that one should anticipate in Plainfield.

  7. And the city wants to take over the Armory? It makes my stomach turn.

  8. I seem to recall predicting that the Monarch would turn into rentals way back before they broke ground. All the signs (market, marketing, price point, design, City of Plainfield, location in city) pointed to this as the outcome even then, so I'm not surprised now.

    I am sorry for the owners who didn't realize this was a very likely possibility.


  9. As I said from day one... wrong project, wrong location and wrong timing. The prices were too high and why pay that kind of money to live there? Its a very poor location. And why is it that people always have to assume that it is a ghetto rental filled with section 8 rentals or over crowded illegal aliens? Why cant we have a quality rental in the city? Have you seen any over occupied units? Will the units even qualify for section 8? They only pay so much. Maybe the building could be left empty like so many others in the city? The squatters need a place to live too?

    And on another similar subject...who owns the ugly blue office building at Park and 7th and why has it been sitting fallow for years? Its a gateway to the city and just shows so well with its broken windows and empty spaces...

  10. To Anonymous at 10:31PM: Broken windows, uneven sidewalks and general looking like "crap" is ok if you own a commercial forget,this is Plainfield.

  11. Hey Rob, but why? Who is the person who owns this and is allowed to get away with it? Why should a prime location be allowed to sit for years, vacant and unused. The same with the old telephone building on 4th. Its located right next to the train station and sits empty, deteriorating away. The fireman who owns it has stripped all the metal out of it and it just sits. This should not be allowed to happen. Use it or loose it. Its that simple! Give them no more than 2 years after purchase to do something with it. If not, sell it to someone who will.

  12. Exactly....But Why?? Because people in Plainfield live in some alternate reality where it's acceptable and the politicians who set policy and the employees of the city who enforce policy all stand there scratching their head saying, "Uhhhhh...I don't know what you think we can do about it?"
    Whenever I say "see how that would fly in Westfield" you have the whole ignorant crowd screaming, "Who says we have to be like Westfield??"..which I respond, "If looking like Westfield with clean streets, open businesses, thriving tax base and a city government that demands high standards from it's commercial property owners is somehow a bad thing, that's 99% of Plainfield's problem." The building on North Avenue that collapsed was 50% the fault of the owner and 50% the fault of the City of Plainfiled...The city zoning inspectors and at least 2 administrations WATCHED IT HAPPEN and ignored it. Why??? Because it's Plainfield...where a homeowner will be dragged into court with an uneven side walk yet a commercial property can collapse slowly in front of everyone's eyes....Pathetic.

  13. And speaking of North Ave, that building was a chore to remove. It was not going anywhere without being helped. They had to beat the heck out of it to get it to come down. So a few bricks fell off the parapet. Not a big deal. Fix it. The roof was open in the back. Fix it. There was no need to tear down the bldg, period. It could have been fixed. This long line of allowing property owners to do whatever they want has to end NOW! This would never fly in Westfield, South Plainfield, or most any other town for that matter. Its years of poor people with no education running the show and too many friends and family benefiting from it. Yes, I know, Al was a smart man and I liked him, but he allowed it to happen too. Im not sure of Sharons educational background, but again... still happening.

  14. I hope everyone who is writing on this blog makes a committment now to start looking at other candidates for mayor. You get what you vote for, and less than 20% voted - look what we got.

    Get involved in getting this mayor out!

  15. Plainfield is prettier than North and South Plainfield and could be a premier town in Central NJ. We need to change a few things and make some tough decisions for that to happen.
    Let's Do It.

    The units at the Monarch are nice and comfortable. It's a shame that circumstances has caused the builder/investors to take the rental route. In all respect they should have communicated with the existing owners, before going that route. Owners that purchased earlier
    now face a decline in the value of their unit, and that should be addressed.

    Anmything can be changed for the better. We should strive to make positive changes always with our words and actions.