Thursday, December 17, 2015

City Hires Real Estate/Redevelopment Consultant for Muhlenberg

Hiring a consultant "to prepare recommendations to advance the redevelopment of the Muhlenberg Hospital site" drew many questions Monday before the City Council gave approval.

The city advertised for a real estate and redevelopment consultant in September following a Planning Board recommendation to use a "non-condemnation" approach to redevelopment of the Muhlenberg. Attorney Steven J. Tripp said Muhlenberg preferred non-condemnation to use of eminent domain.

Councilwoman Vera Greaves led Monday by saying the city already had "a lot of recommendations" for the site and questioning the $65,000 expense to hire Real Estate Solutions Group of Princeton.

"This is in order for us to move to the next phase," Economic Development Director Carlos Sanchez said, noting previous suggestions had come from a study. The new effort was to develop a request for proposals "to take to the market," he said, with the goal of developing a health care facility.

"A health care facility?" Greaves asked.

"Yes," Sanchez said, "not a hospital."

He said the group would put together specifications and get feedback from developers.

"Are we going to have another study?" Greaves asked, citing expense to taxpayers and saying, "It's crazy."

Sanchez said if no developers came forward, another study might be needed. As he tried to explain the nuances of the process, Greaves and Councilwoman Diane Toliver demanded specifics. Toliver asked whether any developers were looking at the site now and whether the city looked at other closed hospitals. Sanchez said "interested parties" had looked at the site, but had not recommended any "hard concept" for redevelopment. He said the city had reviewed a hospital closing in Paterson, but "no solid concept" emerged.

Toliver asked whether a concept had been submitted to the council. Sanchez said the study had been given to the council, but he could give it to them again.

In further questioning, Toliver asked how many developers would be brought in "for that amount of money," meaning the $65,000, and Greaves made a similar query.

Sanchez said there were no guarantees and they might only get one.

Toliver asked, "How much time will you spend looking for a developer before you look for another developer?

Sanchez pegged the timeline at about six months and said the city was still negotiating with (JFK Health), the owner of the Muhlenberg campus.

"So you haven't thought about it," Toliver said.

Despite the pressure for guarantees, the resolution passed unanimously.

To learn more about the redevelopment process including recent changes, see this New Jersey League of Municipalities 2014 presentation.



  1. It states that JFK "Owns" Muhlenberg, where is the title search. Where does it say, legally they own the property. Why does no one ever challenge what is stated?
    But no one does and we wonder why taxes go up with no services and we loose more every day.

  2. There seems to be a fear to deal with this as a healthcare problem, and engage with providers, pharmaceutical companies, multiple hospital groups, healthcare research organizations, and those individuals in the Muhlenberg service area with healthcare expertise or connections to the industry through investment banking or law. The key should be the development of a viable formula and strategic partnerships. Focusing on this as a real estate problem will only guarantee one thing- we have real estate today, and we'll have real estate tomorrow.

  3. The only good suggestion I heard was for a VA facility to occupy the site. Where are our Washington representatives on this? No private hospital will return there as long as JFK controls the site. It doesn't want the competition. So, of course, it prefers a non-condemnation process that keeps it in control to the use of eminent domain- exactly what Mapp gave it.

    Meanwhile, Sanchez and the city are running around like officious intermeddlers trying to find a developer for someone else's property when that property could have been the city's. Again there will be a PILOT agreement that gives up tens of millions in tax revenue, and shifts the tax burden to other property owners- when PILOTs pay less tax, everybody else pays more. Indeed, for new multi-units, there has to be a PILOT agreement. The SHD PILOT assures that. It is a subsidy that allows SHD to lower rents. No other new multi-unit can compete without a similar PILOT subsidy. If that is the case, then a PILOT agreement should be transparent and available to all, not arranged behind closed doors once a developer is selected. But I digress...

    Query: now that Muhlenburg is closed and JFK has expressed interest in building housing on the property, has Mapp directed the tax assessor to reclassify the property as taxable? It is no longer a charity, it is a real estate venture. It should share equally in the tax burden with all Plainfield property owners, if Mapp believed in equal sharing. But does he? His residential PILOT agreements suggest not.
    Richard Loosli

    1. The never ending ranting of PILOTS is so old. I really wish people would get a proper understanding of PILOTS - this "we carry the burden while others get a break" is so short sighted and ridiculous.

      Also, the PILOT is transparent as it requires council approval, which would make the PILOT details public. If we are all going to manage every single activity within the city then we will continue to not get anywhere - but for those that are convinced that every deal is some sort of scam there is no pleasing them.

  4. Richard my friend, I agree all new development that happens here in Plainfield should not be done with a PILOT. in the end it has the potential to cost the city more than what we collect over the life of the PILOT. I also believe that the South Ave Project is what we need to breathe new life into a dying city, even if it takes a PILOT to accomplish. We have to start somewhere. What concerns me even more than PILOTS, is the number of NEW apartment rental units being put forward. Now that’s something we all should be concerned about, PILOT or not.

    As for the Muhlenberg site, I believe what was offered as a suggestion was a transient facility for veterans. Again, my father and his 7 brothers were all vets, as well as my bother and several first cousins. I have nothing but respect for them and all vets. However, because of the fact this area consist of low density single family homes, many with small and school age children, having a TRANSIENT veteran facility would not be an ideal option. When the Muhlenberg item came before the planning board I suggested to the board that they submit to the council their recommendations for an area in need of redevelopment WITH the condemnation clause. After all, JFK allowed the property to deteriorate to such a condition that condemnation would not have been unfeasible. In conversation I came to realize that was not the best option. JFK would put up a fight which would prove very costly to the city in legal fees (but hay it may be worth it). We also know no full service hospital could ever return to the site. I believe there was a piece of legislation that was passed to ensure that. JFK may own the property, but what is developed on that site may very well be up to the city and its residents. I also believe, but not totally certain, that the tax issue has now become a legal issue. I believe the city is doing what’s in the best interest of the residents concerning the Muhlenberg site, but of course we as stake-holders, need to keep vigilant of the process.

    Robin B