Friday, April 4, 2014

Former Red Cross Building Will Become Apartments, Retail

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The Planning Board granted preliminary site plan approval Thursday for Shun Cheng LLC to convert a four-story office building at 332 West Front Street to retail use on the first floor with nine apartments on three upper floors.

The vacant building housed the Tri-County Red Cross before the agency relocated to Westfield and was previously Gregory's Music Center (scroll down to see an ad from 1945).

Plans call for removal of metal panels from the exterior and restoration of the facade "to its former glory," architect George Sincox said. There will be space for three retail tenants on the first floor and each story above will have one 2-bedroom unit and two 1-bedroom units.

Board members questioned a layout for the two-bedroom units that had a dining room accessible from the kitchen only by passing through the living room. Other concerns were that a den in the 1-bedroom units and the dining room in the 2-bedroom units would be converted to bedrooms and lead to overcrowding. Sincox agreed to reconfigure the layouts to meet the board's concerns.

There was no provision for open space except a basement "community multi-purpose area," and parking will be off-site at a city parking lot on West Second Street. The tenants will have to obtain parking permits from the city Parking Bureau before certificates of occupancy will be issued.

Storage space was another issue that Planning Director William Nierstedt urged Sincox to address in the final site plan. 

Board member William Toth raised the issue of rear windows being blocked if another structure was built behind the building, and suggested "light wells." Sincox agreed to incorporate them into the design.

With a number of proposals for apartments downtown, Nierstedt said several of the issues raised Thursday will recur, such as lack of parking, provision of open space and designs that could lead to overcrowding. Someone asked whether residents could use the roof as open space, which attorney Lawrence Vastola remembered as being called "tar beach," but Sincox said the pitch of the roof precluded its use. 

The solution to conversion of space to bedrooms was not anything the board could control, but might be addressed through annual inspections, members said.

Before giving preliminary approval, the board also called for certain changes in trash disposal plans and confirmed that a building manager will move the bin outside for pickup.



  1. 2 things... 1) They're worried about overcrowding in THAT building ????? I've got one next door that is a 3 story that easily has up to 15-20 people in it at times where people move in and out with simply a mattress and boxes of clothes. Annual inspections indeed...
    2) Cleaning up one of the ugliest facades in downtown Plainfield ??? PRAISE BE !!

  2. Bill -- what will happen if every apartment dweller wants to use city parking? There isn't enough for all the apartments in town now. Where will people park?

    If you want to attract a middle class, legal, working family -- they will have a car -- transit village designation or not.

    This project will just provide more housing for illegals and Section 8.

    With the bar just down the street, the noise and commotion that goes on every night, I can't see this project attracting quality tenants.

    Rob -- absolutely about inspections. If you own a nice home, inspections will site you for cracks in the sidewalk. If you own a flop house rental, with 4 mattresses in a room -- no one bothers you.

  3. We have a lot of usgly buildings in Plainfield. I hope they can fix the parking problem, as Plainfield has been negligent over the years in addressing this issue. I hope someone notices how ugly the office building on the corner of 7th and Park is. The one next to the Unitarian Church is an eyesore and should be torn down. It now houses homeless people and is a drug den.

  4. Interesting points. Let me see if I got this right - Plainfield has issues and we need to fix it up but don't fix it up because there isn't enough parking but hurry up and fix it up. It would appear that the PB is attempting to get things moving in the city and have some effective development start happening. Not all development plans are going to please all people and despite every effort there are going to be instances where building owners pull (or try to pull) a fast one and over crowd apartments. At the end of the day it is hard to control this 100%, however it would seem that the city (and PB) are attempting to do what they can to try to avoid it as much as possible. Also - a parking deck is in discussion for development as mentioned in a previous blog posting by Bernice and the building on 7th and Park has been purchased by a developer in the last month or two according to news reports. Lets see if we can all try to focus on some positive things and be hopeful - obviously we had 8 years of inaction and disastrous city management - it takes time to correct and the made-up negativity is a waste of energy.