Bank’s decision to nix building leaves town with no place to call home

Photo courtesy of Robbinsville Township. Roma bank and municipal officials were all smiles at the October groundbreaking for the new building that was to house municipal offices on the third floor. Roma has since cancelled the project because it is merging with Investors Bank.

Photo courtesy of Robbinsville Township.
Roma bank and municipal officials were all smiles at the October groundbreaking for the new building that was to house municipal offices on the third floor. Roma has since cancelled the project because it is merging with Investors Bank.

Robbinsville officials are reportedly considering legal action in the wake of Roma Bank’s decision to cancel plans to construct a three-story commercial condominium building and sell the top floor for $3 million to the township for municipal office space.

Roma broke ground on the project on Route 33 in October, but no work has been done at the site since the Dec. 19 announcement that Investors Bank was purchasing Roma in a $452 million all-stock buyout. The merger should be completed by May 31 provided stockholders and banking regulators approve it.

Roma Bank officially notified Mayor Dave Fried on March 18 that it was canceling the project because owning real estate is not part of Investors’ business model. Township officials, who now rent 8,000 square feet at an office building at 1 Washington Blvd., were upset to learn they might be back at square one in their eight-year quest to find permanent home for municipal offices.

Mayor Dave Fried said in a phone interview March 26 that Roma “should have put the brakes on its deal with the township” as soon as the merger negotiations began last year. He also questioned why it took Roma nearly three months after the merger was publicly announced to officially notify the township that it would not be constructing the building.

Roma CEO Peter Inverso said March 27 he was “disappointed” to read the critical statements that the mayor and township attorney made in the weekly Newsfeed emailed to Robbinsville residents the day prior. Township Attorney Mark Roselli was quoted as saying that Roma’s delay had been “disingenuous” and that all legal options were on the table.

“I feel we have dealt fairly and squarely with the township,” Inverso said. “I have a strong desire to see that building built.”

Inverso said bank representatives discussed “three alternatives” with township officials at the March 18 meeting, and “all parties agreed that Investors would flesh them out, in essence, and we’d meet again in three weeks.”

Inverso would not elaborate on what the three alternatives were, and declined comment when asked if one option may be for the town to own the entire building, not just the top floor.

“It would not be productive to discuss options in the media,” Inverso said. “We all agreed to wait three weeks for Investors to come back with alternatives and we’re only halfway to the three-week point,” he said March 27. “We’re anxious to resolve this and hopeful the alternatives will be agreeable to all parties.”

Fried, in the earlier phone interview, noted the planned merger with Investors had not yet been completed and questioned why Roma would not go forward with the project in the interim. Inverso, however, said Roma’s hands were tied.

“The merger agreement precludes us from moving forward with the building without Investors’ concurrence,” Inverso said.

The Township Council last year authorized spending $3 million ($150,000 down payment and $2.85 million in bonds) to finance the purchase of the third floor of Roma’s planned building. Although Roma began preliminary site work on the property last fall, the township never issued any bonds or made any payments to Roma because the final contract had not yet been signed. Then the merger announcement in late December plunged the whole project into limbo.

Fried said he was interested in hearing what proposals the banks come up with.

“Right now we’re just waiting to hear back from them,” Fried said, referring to the three promised options. “Until they do, I don’t know at this point what’s going to happen next.”

 

 

 


Warning: file_get_contents(http://graph.facebook.com/comments/?ids=http%3A%2F%2Frobbinsvillesun.com%2F2013%2F04%2F03%2Fbanks-decision-to-nix-building-leaves-town-with-no-place-to-call-home%2F) [function.file-get-contents]: failed to open stream: HTTP request failed! HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request in /home/content/85/10397585/html/wp-content/themes/robbinsvillesun/functions.php on line 524

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/content/85/10397585/html/wp-content/themes/robbinsvillesun/functions.php on line 529

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/content/85/10397585/html/wp-content/themes/robbinsvillesun/functions.php on line 534

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/content/85/10397585/html/wp-content/themes/robbinsvillesun/single.php on line 277