By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Although city officials haven’t written off the possibility of a medical complex sprouting new life at the former Riverside Osteopathic Hospital site, recent events and momentum suggested that the now 3-year-old plans seem more distant than ever.
“There are a lot of issues with this,” City Administrator Jim Wagner said. “The project is in jeopardy.” On the heels of the Dangerous Buildings Board’s consideration of initiating demolition proceedings for two of the buildings – that panel’s report is expected this week – city council approved last week the revocation of a Brownfield Redevelopment Authority agreement that had been in place since August 2011.
Wagner said the now-expired understanding that had been reached between city officials and a management company representing property owner Dr. Iqbal Nasir was officially revoked and that Nasir would have to re-apply should the project continue.
“The Brownfield was revoked for two reasons,” Wagner said. “Lack of progress and, more importantly, the lack of cooperation with the city. It’s been more than three years, and his plan has gone awry.”
The loss of a Brownfield Redevelopment agreement with the city represents the latest setback for the plan. Nasir had purchased the property in 2010 from Henry Ford Health Systems, which had most recently owned the complex and had put in place deed restrictions on future use. Proposals from Nasir had envisioned various medical uses, to include a nursing home and office mall.
Some progress had been seen, including partial demolition of one of the two larger hospital wings, and last year some groundskeeping work and fence repairs were made.
Residents who live near the complex, however, have long grown weary of the property attracting vandalism, ghost hunters and suspected crime. In July, Nasir agreed to begin more ambitious efforts to restore the property, but early efforts failed to result in a dedicated plan.
Last month residents petitioned city council to move forward with a demolition if needed. Nasir’s representatives told the Dangerous Buildings Board that there was a shortage of financing for the project, a situation made worse with the cancellation of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
“That’s part of the financing,” Wagner said. “The city is looking for a viable project with a schedule that will be met which will benefit the community with jobs and a tax base. I understand the frustrations of the city over 14 years, and more so the neighbors and their concerns. It’s high time we do something reasonable, and figure out what can be done.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)