The S. Hekemian Group, fresh from bailing on the Riverfront project, just sank a cool $6 million into the Birchwood property that was originally proposed for senior housing and shouted down by the NIMBY caucus.

And these guys think they’ll waltz through and get 356 units and 63 COAH’s?

It’s official. They’re nuts.

Not because I disagree with developing Birchwood. In fact, I think senior housing will be more important in NJ as property tax increases will force more and more fixed-income earners to sell their single family homes. Senior housing lets Grandma and Grandpa stay close to family and not be forced to move to PA or NC. A means to keep the retirees in the state (with many of them having decent disposable income and little need for government services) would benefit us all. Especially when daycare has a power outage and someone has to run and pick up the kids.

But didn’t Hekemian pay attention during the meetings when they were proposing Riverfront? Don’t they know they’ll probably be the target of a local anti-Birchwood blog (certainly to be started soon) and innumerable libelous postings on CranfordTalk?

In crunching the numbers for their proposed project, did they factor in the amount in extra legal costs (or other “contributions”) that will help “grease the skids”?

I don’t know.

I do know that I would be shocked if they are able to get something built. My guess is that three years from now, the property is sold to yet another developer…looking pretty much the same as it does now.

Hopefully, they’ll do up some better architecture and we get a chance to critique it mercilessly.

UPDATE: Some of the talk has been that Hekemian thinks that they can bulldoze it through based on the COAH fears. They may think that, but I don’t think that it will be enough. The latest COAH rules are pretty stupid, and the possibility of lawsuits that last for years is pretty great here. Hekemian doesn’t make money paying mortgages, property taxes and legal fees for years and years…they make money slapping up buildings and getting the hell out.  I might be wrong, and there may be inside dope I don’t have, but I still don’t see this ending well in Hekemian’s favor.