Thursday, May 4, 2017

Zoners Approve PNC Bank Project

The historic Sutphen House will have a makeover and PNC Bank customers will drive up to new ATMs when a project approved Wednesday is complete.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved conversion of three lots on the large parking lot behind the Park Avenue bank building into two lots, one for future development and the other for the ATMs and Sutphen House. The ornate bank, with classic architectural features, will be shuttered and operations will shift to a new office nearby on West Front Street.

PNC representatives first had to obtain a "certificate of appropriateness" from the Historic Preservation Commission before presenting the application to the Zoning Board. HPC Chairman Bill Michelson spoke to the board Wednesday, describing that process. He explained that because the Sutphen House was a locally designated landmark, the proposed new lot 3.01 containing it needed HPC review, including the new ATMs.

Michelson said the application presented an "opportunity to get some attention" for the pre-Civil War building. It will be painted, receive new carriage lights and landscaping and gain other amenities. The new lot will also have brick pavers, four shade trees, 75 shrubs and 63 perennials and ornamental grasses.

Attorney Diane Hickey of Riker Danzig, engineer David Witkowsky and planner Keenan Hughes presented the application. Zoning Board members asked whether pedestrians could use the ATMs, but were told the devices were meant to replace drive-up windows at the bank building that will be closed. There will be a walk-up ATM at the new West Front Street bank office, Hickey said.

A couple of board members grumbled that the drive-up ATMs went against the goal of having a pedestrian-friendly downtown, but Hughes pointed out that surrounding uses include a parking garage and a PSE&G substation, less likely to attract walkers than downtown streets with stores.

Security was another concern. Hickey said the bank will have security measures, but does not discuss such things publicly. Bank representatives will consult with Plainfield police on specific strategies for that location..
The board also discussed signage to direct drivers to the new ATMs on West Second Street. Witkowsky showed a "perspective" sign indicating what drivers will see as they approach. The bank team agreed to alter the placement of greenery for better visibility, and also to install a noisy "rumble strip" to alert passersby to the presence of cars exiting the lot.

Hickey and others first met with the HPC inconclusively on March 29 and canceled a planned appearance at the April 5 Zoning Board meeting as a result. Having received .HPC approval on April 26, Hickey and her expert witnesses were ready for Wednesday's Zoning Board meeting.


1 comment:

  1. Good news about Sutphen House. Dr. Sutphen moved from Somerset County around 1867. He served the people as doctor and Mayor. He was the fourth Mayor of Plainfield. He died in his forties. The Sutphen House is one of two wood frame buildings left in the downtown area. Plainfield made a fire ordinance in the 1890's that required all further building in downtown had to be masonry. This was due to all the fires that started in downtown due to sparks from trains on railroad.