Friday, August 31, 2007

Chester Towers Update

Chester Housing Authority honcho Bob Rosenberg called me Wednesday to say I had a "factual error" in my column about his plan to tear down the Chester Towers.

Specifically, that it was incorrect to suggest that the HUD/CHA plan would not pay taxes to the city. (I didn't say that but its fair to say I didn't suggest it would pay taxes.)

Rosenberg said under the "mixed finance project," the private developer would be paying "significant" taxes to the county and city because it would be privately owned by the developer.

Surprised, that the developer would take actual ownership of the property, I asked him more about it. Rosenberg corrected himself.

He said he believed the development company would lease the property, maybe for 100 years, but that would still mean taxes would be paid.

I thanked him and told him I'd check it out.

My understanding now is, yes, some taxes would be paid but not nearly as much, over the long term, as by a private developer taking ownership of the property, fixing it out and renting it out at market rates.

I took the opportunity to ask Rosenberg about his claim that the property at 10th and Chestnut streets (offered in a land swap deal) was "contaminated." That he didn't back off of.

Although, he admitted to have done no environmental tests, he said he'd sent an engineer to the site to evaluate it and he concurred. He didn't name the engineer and I didn't ask. Buy given all the asbestos that has to be dealt with in the tearing down of the towers and the cost of doing it, preparing the 10th and Chestnut site for development would probably still be a lot cheaper than the $4 to $5 million it will cost to bring the towers down.

But there was another reason Rosenberg would never seriously consider the land swap: He didn't like the location.

It would have required the moving of the proposed "arts and cultural center" away from Chester's main drag making it less accessible and visible to visitors.

Chester Developer Peter Barrow who is for saving the towers for private development is skeptical about the long-term success of Rosenberg's project, especially the community arts center.

He wants to know who is going to pay the money to keep it up and running. And where all the people they are expecting to come to performances there will park.

To him it sounds more like a sop to community art groups to gain their support of the housing development plan.

(To me too.)

Respected developer and real estate appraiser Ed Paul maintains that Rosenberg's project does not meet the standard of highest and "best use" for the property. It may have once, when it was first proposed more than a decade ago. But not anymore.

More on this later.

(Find today's silly print column on Chester's Twin Towers at and the one before it here for a little more background.)


Anonymous Randal said...

Haven’t we dumped enough public dollars into that tax dollar consuming blackhole that is Chester? It’s time to let private industry give it a shot and leave state taxpayers out of it.

August 31, 2007 at 11:02 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm really tired of hearing about this...As to your print comment about a hearing, I think any taxpayer in Chester or a resident of public housing would have standing to file a motion and ask for a hearing before Judge Shapiro (you know she’s a republican) on those issues. I'm sure that if these developers are serious, they can find some residents and pay a lawyer for them, or Community Legal Services (oh, right Bush cut the funding) or the ACLU (guess you wouldn't do that would you) would do it. Has anyone reached out to Rep. Kirkland or Sen. Pileggi or Congressman Brady? I would ask for a fairness hearing or an injunction. Anyway, there are ways for concerned residents to get to the Court and make the judge issue and Order, which would create appealable issues. Or if the judge is the problem, you can always file a motion with her higher ups--the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals to compel her to have a hearing. In short, there are avenues to review her work if people are willing to do the work. In the meantime, can you stop taking up space with this and write some more about Sereni, or take some shots at Republican County Council Candidates (guess you would not do that). Anyhow, enough.

September 1, 2007 at 11:30 PM 
Anonymous Randal said...

Enough is right.
“Fairness”?? Only in Whacko Liberal Land are there such things as “Public Housing ‘rights’” and “Welfare ‘rights’”. Talk about ingrates looking a gift horse in the mouth…
And no one should ever ask the ACLU Commies what they think about anything. Ever. Besides, we already know what side they’d come down on; this is why you even mentioned them. They have no business nosing around in this any more than the NAACP does.

September 4, 2007 at 12:27 PM 
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