Business & Finance

East Brunswick Redevelopment: Report Identifies Problems, Allows for Condemnation, Improvements

7fc825c72213a3873a16_Loehmann_s.jpg
Loehmann's Plaza, which used to house a Foodtown and a Toys 'R Us, could have benefitted from a better overall design. Credits: TAPinto East Brunswick
7fc825c72213a3873a16_Loehmann_s.jpg

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Lots of building, redesigning, reviewing, and thinking is going on here in East Brunswick right now as the process of redevelopment continues to roll out.  For the past three mayoral administrations at least, the condition of Route 18 as a travel and commercial corridor has been of vital interest to residents and businesses in town.  East Brunswick, like many local suburban areas that were full of small and large businesses in the 1970's and 80's, has seen the need to reinvent itself with regard to the use of property in a way that both serves the current needs of the township and anticipates the needs of the future.  A recent report presented to the East Brunswick Planning Board has established the status and has defined the parameters for change.  

Mayor Brad Cohen's Redevelopment Agency, a panel comprised of committed residents, Town Council Members, Township Administrators, and James Kennedy, Executive Director, will use the information and the status described in the findings issued by Banisch Associates regarding the "Investigation for Determination of a Condemnation Area in Need of Redevelopment." The report's findings identify the specific needs/qualifications for the "Redevelopment Zone" between the New Jersey Turnpike and Ferris Street on State Route 18 South in East Brunswick.

The determination of East Brunswick's "Area in Need of Redevelopment" last year allowed the administration to proceed with planning a new way to look at Route 18 in a creative and contemporary way.  As defined in the Banisch report, "Redevelopment means clearance, planning, development and redevelopment ... in the interest of the general welfare for streets, parks, playgrounds, or other public purposes ... in accordance with a redevelopment plan."  The status allows for change based on an overall plan, not just incremental improvement of individual properties.

Sign Up for E-News

Like other suburban communities, East Brunswick has been experiencing declining retail demand.  According to the report, "Real estate expert Jeffrey Otteau examined the study area in late 2014 and noted broad structural changes that have affected East Brunswick. He noted that despite years of increasing consumer spending since the end of the recession, demand for physical retail space remains low by historical standards and a vast amount of retail space remains vacant today. Among the causes he cited:

• Consumers are spending less and saving more since the end of the recession.

• Reduced access to consumer credit.

• Value driven shopping sends consumers toward Big-Box Retail venues.

• Aging Baby-Boomers, who have accounted for the largest share of spending, are spending less as they prepare for retirement.

• Younger age Millennials and Gen-X'ers, who now account for the majority of retail spending, are leaving places like East Brunswick because they can't find the housing options and lifestyles they seek.

• In East Brunswick, where population increased by a modest 2% between 2000 and 2010, the population aged 25-44 declined by 20%.

• The declining share of households with children greatly reduces family-oriented spending on items like clothing, furniture, toys, sporting goods and bicycles.  

• Online Shopping - the rising share of online purchases passes through directly into reduced demand for physical 'brick & mortar' stores. • While On-Line Sales account for approximately 10% of total sales today, they are expected to rise steadily in the future.  As this occurs, there will be less demand for physical stores, which in turn will contribute to elevated vacancy levels."

The report also cited the cause/effect nature of the relationship between the decline in retail spending and the uptick in property tax levels in East Brunswick: "The domino effect of declining demand for commercial buildings in East Brunswick has produced a corresponding decline in property values and taxes paid to the township, shifting a larger share of the tax burden to residential tax payers."

The report continues to cite specific locations and the reasons for their decline, noting the impact of national trends, the original poor design and layout of buildings, and the lack of ongoing rehabilitation over time to maintain the sites.  For example, the report refers to "Loehmann’s Plaza and Circle Plaza are now the nucleus of failed retail in East Brunswick. The persistent blighting conditions found at Loehmann’s and Circle Plaza are partially the result of poor design and arrangements but are also due to inattention to deteriorating conditions for many years." 

The locations in the Redevelopment Zone are also identified specifically for reported safety, zoning, and criminal violations.  Everything from overgrown grass to arrests and accidents are provided in the report.  223 Route 18 - the East Brunswick Professional Park in front of Loehmann's Plaza - was cited 33 times by the East Brunswick Police for incidents including thefts and assaults on the property.  110 Tices Lane - formerly the Wonder Bread Factory - also hosted many visits from the EBPD and the East Brunswick Fire Department.

The document concludes with photographs of the blighted properties and their parking lots.  Maps provided show all locations in the Redevelopment Zone and their current status.

Mayor Brad Cohen said today, "The option to proceed with the condemnation of a property gives East Brunswick more bargaining power with the owners and developers of properties in the zone."  Cohen noted that he did not desire to use the option, seeing it more as a tool that would show owners that the township is "serious" about moving redevelopment along. He would, however, use it if necessary to move the township's goals forward.

"As a surgeon," said Dr. Cohen, "I want all my tools with me when I do an operation.  If you don't go into the operating room with all your tools, you may not be ready to achieve the result you want."

"If we want to effectuate change," he said, " There are things the township can do to get the owners to reinvest in their properties.  We are willing to make good, profitable deals.  We are also ready to invite bigger developers in."

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick: The History of... The East Brunswick Grange

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - During East Brunswick’s agricultural years, one of the most active organizations in town was the East Brunswick Grange. Granges were fraternities for farmers that helped promote the well-being of farming in the community. There were many granges across the country during the late 19th and early 20th Century, and East Brunswick was certainly no exception. In the period ...

Highland Park: Teen Mom Charged in Death of Newborn

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - In a tragic turn of events, a teenager from Highland Park was charged in a juvenile complaint with murder in the first degree in the death of her newborn son.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced today that a 14-year-old teenage girl from Highland Park has been charged with an act of juvenile delinquency for an offense which if committed by an ...

Veinott’s Vietnam – Time Flies When You Fly Away

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – It’s been nearly a decade since South Plainfield native Philip Veinott packed his bags and moved over 8,500 miles away to start the next chapter of his life. And, a lot has changed – both personally and professionally – for Veinott in that time. 

In August 2016, Veinott married the love of his life, Helen Nguyen, and the couple is expecting ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Killmurray’s Funeral Plans Announced, Township Prepares For Administration Change

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township officials announced funeral plans for Mayor Christopher Killmurray and plans to deal with filling his position and a second one on the Council.

Killmurray, 55, died at home Sunday morning after battling brain cancer for several years.

According to the township, a viewing is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church at ...

South Brunswick: Mayor Christopher Killmurray, 55, Dies

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Mayor Christopher Killmurray died at home Sunday morning, officials announced.

In an alert to residents, Township Manager Bernard Hvozdovic said that Killmurray, 55, passed away at home surrounded by his family after battling brain cancer for several years.

A Democrat, Killmurray was first elected to the Township Council in 2003 and served as deputy ...

Mayor Cohen Celebrates Chelsea's 20th Anniversary

April 18, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Mayor Brad Cohen, an enthusiastic supporter of the Chelsea at East Brunswick, was on hand to help mark the Chelsea's 20th anniversary on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

Mayor Cohen read a proclamation honoring the Chelsea and recalled the experience of his late mother who, at age 102, had hip replacement surgery and lived to be 106. Mayor Cohen is a great friend of the ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, April 20, 6:30 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Wild Kratts

Arts & Entertainment

Fri, May 4, 7:30 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

Wizard of Oz

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_655bff643922e36ca526_color_me_flyer_final_cut__3_-page-001

Sat, May 5, 9:00 AM

Sewaren

Color Me Run to End Domestic Violence

Reading Like Cats and Dogs: EBPL Launches Second “Reading To Action” Program Series

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) begins its second Reading to Action project, which includes a series of events and volunteer projects this April.

The Reading To Action program encourages library customers to be more active in their community. This year's theme is "animals." The library is presenting a variety of programs for ...

East Brunswick Public Library Screens “Swim Team” Documentary about Autistic Athletes

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—The East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) hosts a screening of the PBS documentary, Swim Team, on Wednesday, April 18 at 6:30 PM. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with director Lara Stolman.

Stolman’s inspiring debut documentary, Swim Team, follows three diverse young men—Michael McQuay ...

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

The Truth About My Reading

The Truth About My Reading

I didn't get my Composition and Literature teacher at Montclair State College at all. A crusty old man with a dour disposition, Mr. Smith always seemed angry and rude. He appropriately intimidated freshmen, even me, an English major, who found this common core course beneath my dignity. Frankly, as a graduate of Highland Park High School, and a survivor of Mrs.