Friday, May 9, 2008

Further thoughts on the "Transit Village"

South Ward councilman, Jim Coston, blogged earlier today about his decision to vote with the council majority to change the specifications and protections within the Greenwood-Hamilton historic district, which would allow for the demolition of a gas station and two stunning, maintained, occupied homes here in the East Ward, on the corner of Greenwood and Clinton Avenues. I certainly respect Mr. Coston's dedication to the city, and his thinking abilities, and that he is one of the few city officials who believes in information and disclosure, and just want to thank him for addressing the issue today, and facing his critics directly.

While I get his point about progress and sacrifice, and hope for the future, the reality is that this is Trenton. We're a city with TONS of discarded real estate. We're a city with a very, very poor track record with developers. Even if this Greenwood Ave/Train Station developer, Daniel Brenna, says he won't demolish the beautiful Victorian homes until he can guarantee occupancy in his proposed 25-story building for that corner, he cannot predict the future. No one can. Trenton's not a city with a "if you build it, they will come" aura, and most of the time, nothing gets built anyway, except public distrust. Plus, Segal Real Estate has a big sign right across the street from Brenna's proposed "Transit Village," in front of the other stunning historic home on the south corner of Greenwood and Clinton, boasting available space within. I'm fairly certain that sign has been up for several years, and people are just not flocking. City council, please get a grip.

Perhaps I'd be more open-minded to the purposeful destruction of two beautiful, historic homes and a useful gas station, if Trenton were a different city, a city amid a renaissance, with happy citizens, low crime, and not much in the way of available real estate. It's just not our reality, though.

It's time we get real, and not entertain developers who talk new construction and/or anything that may require the use of eminent domain, when we have so many vacancies, and often right in the same vicinity as the proposed development. These developers are not doing us any favors: why tear down perfectly lovely, viable structures for new, questionable buildings (that will likely never see a groundbreaking ceremony, ANYWAY), when the scads of abandoned shit will remain? I mean, seriously, WTF are you thinking, council? WTF? Glen and I climbed atop a parking garage across the street from the train station back in March, and took pictures of Trenton from that vantage point, and I'm so glad I took so many. Here's a map of the area I photographed:

Map courtesy of Google Maps. Click to enlarge.
1. Refers to Brenna's proposed "Transit Village," approximately where the existing Sunoco Station and two jeopardized occupied homes are located.
2. Refers to some very seriously available real estate, very close to the train station.
3. Also refers to some seriously available real estate, just behind the train station.

Refer to #2 on the map. Click to enlarge. I took this picture to show how the also-likely-doomed high school building, another one of our city's — and my ward's — architectural treasures, stands out proud amid an otherwise blighted view. But now let's focus on that blighted view in the foreground. Note the abandoned, gutted, and boarded up homes on what I believe is Chestnut Avenue. Might provide the perfect footprint for Brenna's 25-story building, no?

Refer to #3 on the map. Click to enlarge. This is East State Street, near the convenient S. Clinton Avenue intersection. Well-lit and well-travelled, this location provides safe, easy passage on foot to the train station. Note, once again, the large boarded up building, the empty lots, and the overall lack of inspiration currently at this location. Parking, obviously, is not an issue. This spot, too, might make a fantastic transformation into "Transit Village."

I thought I had some pictures of Glen's favorite properties in Trenton, the ones now on the chopping block, but they're not great pictures. But, no worry: that can (and will) be remedied easily enough. This weekend, we're on a scouting mission — gratis!! — for Brenna and any other developer in need of space in Trenton. Pitiful, of course, that the city employees paid to maintain a list of abandoned properties aren't doing their jobs, and that the citizens, under the direction of the Trenton Council of Civic Associations (TCCA) will be taking inventory of these properties. Maybe city council members can keep a cheat sheet up by their seats of all the abandoned/available properties, and will direct eager developers to those locations, and keep them the hell away from well-maintained homes of decent citizens.

1 comment:

Guy on the canal said...

Hey Krissy, I couldn't agree with you more. Could you mail this blog to Jim Coston? I e-mailed him a couple times when I first heard this as a possibility and he gave a very well reasoned argument why the development is necessary in terms of rateables because of local budget problems. I think he has several key incorrect assumptions, many of which you list. Not only are these historic homes, and there is the glut of office space and empty decrepit buildings in downtown Trenton but the location just doesn't make sense. One block away are several high rises that would make a nice cluster whereas the proposed site would tower over everything and throw the whole intersection out of proportion. Jim is a smart guy, so we need a good hard argument why this is a bad idea. Right now I just don't see what the hell these people are thinking.....