EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - For those residents and commuters who are getting tired of looking at abandoned properties on Route 18 south like the Wiz/Gap Plaza or most stores at the former Loehmann's Plaza, help is on its way.
This past week the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency has entered into an agreement with River Development Equities of Red Bank to manage 45 acres of the Redevelopment Zone between Ruth Street and Tices Lane on Route 18 South, extending back to the Lake Apartments. As described earlier in the Redevelopment Plan, the property will host a mixture of residences, retail establishments, public parking, and a hotel. Some public amenities, possibly some police or community services, will also be included. The centerpiece, and the first area to be constructed, will be a third bus terminal for the township as part of a "transit-oriented development."
The agreement reached with the EB Development Agency allows River Development to manage the full project which will be built in phases over a period of approximately ten years. River Development can now start land acquisition at the site, making deals and purchases with the various owners of the affected properties. Some properties have lain dormant for several years, while others are still open and active. In an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick, Mayor Brad Cohen said that it was now the responsibility of the developer to negotiate with the current owners during the initial "property-acquistion phase."
Cohen explained why the township agency decided to go with River Development: "They presented the most innovative plan, a coherent plan for a 45-acre track." Other developers, explained Cohen, wanted to break the unit into smaller parcels. He also indicated that for River, that "This would be a marquee development, a centerpiece, and a top priority." He expressed confidence in the judgment and creativity of Warren Waters of River, who will lead the project.
"This will be the greatest change to the Route 18 corridor since the 1970's - 50 years ago, " said Cohen.
He added, "I look at this as a positive. We are getting rid of properties that are a blight. They are contributing very little taxes and have the township wrapped up in tax litigation. Ironically, it costs money to keep them in the condition they are in."
"This is prime real estate in the heart of New Jersey and it hasn't changed in a major way in more than 40 years. The model for suburban living has changed and East Brunswick needs to be adaptable to that lifestyle. We need to be flexible and thinking of trends. The key is adaptability, " said Cohen.
The new development will be "attractive and affordable" for young people and older people looking to downsize. There will be an emphasis on entertainment, higher-end grocery stores, and a walkable community.
"There were 101 new businesses in East Brunswick last year. It was the third yer of major growth in the township, "said Cohen. "We are ready for this new development."