Plainfield looks to future of Route 59 corridor
By Madhu Mayer For The Herald-News June 12, 2012 9:52AM
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:46PM
PLAINFIELD — Finding themselves at a design crossroads, officials in the village of Plainfield are wondering what the future holds for the Route 59 corridor through downtown.
The village board, along with the village’s advisory Plan Commission and Historic Preservation Commissions on Monday held a joint meeting on the Route 59 visioning from Main Street (Route 126) to Union Street.
Currently, there are several commercial projects planned along the corridor with a number of potential demolitions that could reshape the character of the thoroughfare, said village planner Michael Garrigan.
Many believe that the improvements have the potential of promoting redevelopment, but it also could lead to the demolition of historic buildings in the corridor.
The fundamental question addressed Monday was whether officials want to continue the previous policy of promoting a business transition district along the corridor and encourage the adaptive reuse of the existing housing stock for light office or retail-oriented businesses.
Numerous properties along the corridor are for sale and village staff anticipates that as more and more owners struggle to sell their properties, new redevelopment pressures will build for a more intense commercial development along the Route 59 corridor.
The village’s urban survey and staff have identified 20 parcels in the downtown corridor that have been restored or are worthy of restoration.
Commissioner Suzanne Derrick said the historic preservation commission supports the idea of the business transition district on Route 59 between Main and Union streets.
While the plan commission historically has been a proponent of the district, it wasn’t always a clear-cut matter.
“When we broached the topic of (business transition district), it looked like it was going to be a hanging here,” said Chairman Jim Sobkoviak, who has served on the commission for 25 years.
While she too supports the district, Trustee Margie Bonuchi said she does not want to see strip malls in the downtown corridor.
“I can tell you tearing these houses down and putting a strip mall would be the most boring thing to do,” said Bonuchi.
“My vision of Plainfield is to maintain its historical character,” added Trustee Bill Lamb. “But we have buildings that have been knocked down and we have vacant lots.”
Trustee Dan Rippy cautioned against not allowing other types of businesses in the district because it limits the opportunities in the corridor.
He said the district can only support so many businesses like law, medical or financial planning offices.