Ludlow 21 LLC has organized a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) through the Urban Land Institute (ULI). CTM along with other community stakeholders were invited to attend the meeting on March 16. Below is a summary of the invitation. Attached here is a presentation about the ULI TAP process made by Ludlow 21 at their most recent public forum event on February 23, 2016. On March 7, the CTM Board voted to send three Trustees to participate as invited: Malcolm Montgomery, Cindy Oakenfull, and Peter Block.
Dear Clifton Town Meeting,
Since last Spring, Ludlow 21 has been discussing the possibility of working with the Urban Land Institute’s local branch to conduct what they refer to as a “TAP” (Technical Assistance Panel) to assess the viability of development options at the Merchant’s Lot on Howell. We had the Urban Land Institute present at the Spring Ludlow 21 Public Meeting to introduce the concept. Most recently we announced the beginning of the TAP at a Ludlow 21 Public Meeting on February 23rd. I have attached that powerpoint for your reference.
For years there has been discussion about the possibility of developing the surface lot as it is far from the “highest and best use” in an urban environment. As early as 1994 an possibly before, the site was mentioned in the Ludlow Avenue 1994 Plan which was endorsed by all the stakeholder groups at the time. The Plan at that time introduced a stepped back design of structured parking and a new library on the top floor. The discussions have yet to produce results and in some cases, more actionable development plans have been presented and not been well received by some in the community. It is with this history in mind that Ludlow 21 saw an opportunity to engage the Urban Land Institute’s technical expertise.
As a group, Ludlow 21 feels that the development of this under-utilized piece of land is critical to the long term viability of our businesses and the district as a whole. It represents an opportunity to change the dynamic by: 1) adding parking ; 2) adding density in the form of more shoppers ; and 3) potentially adding a new product that Clifton currently lacks whether that be apartments, condos, or office space. A common thread amongst successful urban business districts has been and continues to be density. As a community and as a business district, we have a tremendous amount to offer but we need to constantly reassess and improve or risk stagnating and falling behind.
The benefit we see in this exercise is the ability to bridge the gap between community desires and market realities in the hopes of finding common ground. The nature of the TAP is to engage professionals on a volunteer basis to assess the land use issue (in this case a potential development site) and provide market insight into what is and is not viable or under what conditions it might become viable. The TAP will bring professionals in construction, development, retail, housing, financing, and public policy to the table with the goal of providing the community with an analysis of the site’s possibilities.
As a group, Ludlow 21 acknowledges the important role the Merchant Lot plays in the parking needs of the business district and so we want to be clear that any future development of that lot must include a public parking component comparable to, if not greater than, the current number of available parking spaces. Furthermore, the income from the parking lot provides its owner, the Clifton Business & Professional Association, with a very valuable revenue stream which it uses to fund important efforts such as additional police patrols, sidewalk cleaning, etc. Any plan should account for the desire to maintain these resources or somehow account for that function.
Fundamentally, the goal of this effort is to provide the community with an assessment of the site without the pressure of having to respond to an actual actionable development proposal where the community is simply being asked to support a fully developed plan. Ideally, the TAP report will give the community and its varied stakeholders a guiding hand in assessing any future development proposal. That feedback from the stakeholders would then be grounded in market realities AS WELL AS community desires thereby providing for the positive and effective exchange of ideas and solutions.
We have scheduled the TAP to take place at the Clifton Library on Wednesday March 16th from 11:30am – 6 pm. As an important stakeholder in the community, we would like to invite 2 or 3 people from Clifton Town Meeting to sit in on the meeting so that the Panel can make use of your knowledge of the community and take into account your perspective when developing their plan. The meeting will involve introductions and preliminary sharing of information, a site visit, a working session and then a “debriefing” at Arlin’s afterwards. Afterwards, the Panel will compile findings and draft a report within 6-12 weeks which will be shared with all the stakeholders and presented publicly shortly after issuance. If you could let us know who you can have attend, that would be wonderful. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.