April 5, 2013 at 7:21 AM
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca led a public meeting to discuss the village post office site redevelopment plan on Thursday night. About 30 people gathered in town hall to hear DeLuca and planning consultant Paul Grygiel of Phillips Preiss Grygiel talk about the progress made on plans for the site and to offer their thoughts. This was the third such meeting, with the previous one being more than a year ago.
It was shared that the post office will be vacating the property in November of this year. The mail handling and sorting function that takes place in the rear of the facility will be moving out of Maplewood. A postal retail storefront will still exist somewhere in town, perhaps even in the redeveloped site, but that is still undetermined.
The village has been in conversation with the CEO of Kings Food Markets about the possibility of them moving across the street to the post office site. DeLuca said that Kings is "very interested in moving," and could envision for a new store with 10,000 or 11,000 square feet of selling space and another 5,000 square feet of storage. Their current store is estimated at 7,000 square feet of selling space.
Should they move, Kings would need to find a new tenant to assume the approximately 15-18 years remaining on the lease of their current space. With Kings having to find their own replacement, it was noted that it was sure to be a business that would be complementary with their own, and not competitive.
Kings has recently begun some renovations to the existing store, which will continue, since any possible move would take two or three years to accomplish.
Grygiel, who is a Maplewood resident, has worked on planning for the town since 2010, and said that the type of development under discussion, "matches up well with the town's master plan." Elements of the new development would ideally include not only a supermarket, but a few additional retail stores on the ground floor, and residential units of one and two bedrooms on the second and third floors.
It was stressed that these preliminary discussions are only possibilities, and that once toe town has completed its research and drafts its Request For Proposal to send to developers, each proposal it receives from interested parties may contain other elements, building configurations and ideas for the town to consider.
DeLuca said the town will not be dictating the site layout in regard to the number of buildings, where the parking will be located on the site, or design details, but will be strongly encouraging each developer to include the space for Kings as part of their proposals. They are also seeking to maintain at least as many parking spaces and as much green space as exist on the site currently.
Declaring the site a specific redevelopment zone is allowing the town to manage the timeline of the project, as well as the appearance of the buildings and site to ensure it will be in keeping with the look and feel of the existing village downtown area.
Concerns voiced by those in attendance were primarily centered around the implications of the project on increased traffic on the already-busy Maplewood Avenue. A larger grocery store is sure to attract more shoppers, which will increase traffic. Adding residential units will add more cars as well. DeLuca said they were “aware of the challenge” posed by both the traffic and parking issues, and promised that both would be taken into consideration before moving forward with any specific plan.
Other concerns involved the walkways from the village side of the train tracks to the park side. Grygiel noted that the plans should include larger and more visually attractive walkways and tunnels, and that was an element they would like to see in the final plans.
A few residents questioned the lot coverage and building size allowance under discussion, and questioned whether the proposed 80 percent building coverage of the lot might be too big and not allow for enough parking. DeLuca and Grygiel took note and said it would be looked into.
The next step will be for the creation of a more formal proposal to be considered by the planning board, which will be discussed in upcoming Township Committee meetings.
The PowerPoint slideshow used in the meeting will be available for viewing on the village website, http://www.twp.maplewood.nj.us.