BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The issue of signage at a new hotel-based restaurant coming to town is apparently a done deal.
The Bridgewater Township Planning Board voted unanimously to amend the prior site plan approval for Briad Development LLC and the existing Marriott hotel at Somerset Corporate Boulevard and Commons Way. The signage will be for an independent restaurant, known as The Bradford, which will take up residence on the top floor of the hotel.
“It’s a wine and tapas type of restaurant,” said applicant attorney Kevin Coakley.
He added that a signage variance is needed to identify the restaurant’s usage, plus another to exceed the town’s maximum 100 square-foot size for exterior signage. One last variance was required for a unique style of sign, with three facade signs for the restaurant in all to be mounted on the hotel building.
James Talerico, senior director of development for the Briad Development LLC, said the Marriott is European-style hotel, and reiterated that The Bradford will be a separate restaurant concept with that same European feel.
“We decided to do it in Bridgewater,” he said, and added that the facility will also tend to outside crowd functions, exclusive of the hotel itself.
He also said that the additional signage is for marketing purposes, to “get the word out,” with access to The Bradford being available through the hotel building. Rick Muniz, architect, later said there will be a dedicated elevator in the Marriott to access The Bradford.
The Marriott already has another restaurant on its first floor.
A 97-square foot sign on the north elevation of the building for the Marriott was previously approved, and a sign for The Bradford will be placed beneath that Marriott sign. Another sign for the restaurant will be installed on the east elevation, below another approved Marriott sign, while a tall, thin “blade” sign of 5 square feet will be mounted by itself perpendicular to the hotel’s main entrance.
Township planner Scarlett Doyle asked about the two more prominent faces of the hotel building for signage installation and visibility purposes. For motorists driving through town, Talerico said, the east elevation will be just as prominent as the south and north when the building is seen from Route 202.
Doyle said that perpendicular signs provide better reading ability for motorists, while Talerico said the east elevation is not perpendicular to Route 202. She said she believed that 86 square feet is sufficient size for the signs, with sufficient information and visible text, while he countered that the signs are supposed to be mounted on the stair tower on the east side of the building.
The proposed size was 136 square feet, while Doyle reiterated that Bridgewater’s ordinance permits 100 square feet at maximum.
“The signage is obviously subjective,” said Talerico.
He added that the goal is to make the signage proportional to the building, and that smaller signs would look “out of place.” Coakley said the board had previously approved a 97-foot sign for the hotel, which now has to identify an additional commercial user on the property.
Mayor Dan Hayes asked why the applicant couldn’t take a 100-foot size sign and use that for identification, while councilman Howard Norgalis stated that the proposed larger Bradford sign “quite honestly, wastes a lot of space.”
Talerico spoke again of proportionality and visibility.
“It’s not like (it’s) taking over the facade,” he said.
He said the size also includes letter heights.
Planning board chairman Evan Lerner said the hotel with a rooftop restaurant had been approved in 2017, although at the time it was not certain if it would be a Marriott even if it would likely be a brand hotel. Talerico replied that The Bradford in Bridgewater would not be the only one in New Jersey, as another is being built on Route 17 in Wood-Ridge.
Muniz said the applicant worked with the franchise on signage, incorporating both ownership and building aesthetics, and he added that the signage is not to be detrimental. Concerning visibility studies, he said that a range of 200 to 250 feet would provide good visibility of the signs from Route 202, and would also give potential hotel guests an idea “of what’s available.”
Doyle asked about lighting for The Bradford, and Coakley said the restaurant won't’t be tied to the hotel, or go past its operating hours.
Board member Stephen Rodzinak again brought up the size of the signs that would be needed for visibility from 200 to 250 feet away on Commons Way and Route 202. Muniz replied that the north face illustrated the most accurate size of the signs that are needed.
Rodzinak then asked how large the signs could be if there was no 100-foot restriction, and was told 560 feet.
Hayes said he thinks it is important for the public to that see there is a rooftop restaurant on the hotel’s premises.
“I think content is important,” he said of the proposed signs.
Hayes questioned signage extending over 100 square feet, however, and asked what would happen in the future if the hotel or the restaurant or both changed hands. He also asked what the request was that was being made in perpetuity.
Talerico responded that the applicant would have to come back before the board for acceptance of new signage if the hotel or restaurant ownership changed. Doyle said that wasn’t so, and that the sign would have to remain at 97 square feet, while the applicant said he was admittedly willing to agree to the hotel and restaurant square footage.
No one from the public spoke on the application, and Norgalis said he was satisfied with the north and south sides of the property, although he added the east was the least visible.
“People have to crane their necks to look,” he said. “I’d like to see it at 100 feet.”
Rodzinak said the signs would be seen from the Bridgewater Commons Mall, and added that “the ordinance is what the ordinance is.”
Hayes said he tended to agree with the proportionality argument, and that he also agreed with Rodzinak that the information that was presented was important. Hayes said he also felt that making the sign similar on the east side would make the signage symmetrical.
The board voted to accept the application by a 4-0 vote, with the conditions that the signs be turned off when the restaurant is not in operation, and that the signage would be reduced accordingly if the restaurant goes out of business.