EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - It was hard to contain the excitement in the Municipal Courtroom today as members of the East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency, Mayor Cohen, and representatives of River Development Equities and Shore Point Architecture to pop the cork on the long-planned-for redevelopment at the north end of Route 18 South. Dozens of stakeholders and members of the press gathered to hear the most recent draft of the plan to develop 44 contiguous acres of the township into what Thomas Bauer called "a mixed-use lifestyle center."
Executive Director of the EB Redevelopment Agency Michael Hughes called the move " a leap forward" for the township and the Route 18 corridor. Redevelopment Agency Chair Councilman Jim Wendell talked about the project as being "dynamic and important," as he drew the line from last year's consideration of development plans to today's step toward implementation: "This is something for generations to come to be proud of in East Brunswick." He expressed gratitude to the professionals and community members who have taken the project this far.
Mayor Brad Cohen said that Route 18 was in desperate need of revitalization as it has declined into "a blighted condition" after the decline of retail sales and the economic downturn of 2008. He called the 2016 township election basically a referendum on redevelopment of these areas/
"We need to address the needs and expectations of those who live in East Brunswick, "said River Development Principal Warren Waters , "But we also need to think about something that people will want to live in tomorrow. We are going to break the mold with this development." Waters described his travels around America to evaluate and appreciate contemporary design and a greater use of outside space and to use those ideas to inform the development here in Central New Jersey. River Development has revitalized properties around New Jersey in locations that include Red Bank, Port Monmouth (Belford) and Jersey City.
Tom Bauer, of the Landscape Architecture Company Melillo and Bauer, discussed the parks and "greenscapes' that will characterize the area which will have a "modern aesthetic" and not be "overwhelmed by parking." Melillo and Bauer have designed landscapes and amenities at Port Imperial in Jersey City and Pier Village in Long Branch.
The area in East Brunswick will also host an engaging "level of amenities." that resident s will use and share with the greater East Brunswick community. The area is next to Colonial Village and other residences near Route 18 and Churchill School. "This not a closed, gated community," said Hughes.
Bauer also talked about the traffic on Route 18 moving more quickly, as there would not be stops or pull-offs between Ruth Street and the existing traffic circle leading to Edgeboro Road. As indicated in the finished design and all previous drafts for the Redevelopment Zone, there will be a road with various entrances into the commercial and residential areas.
Steve Carlidge of Shorepoint Architecture discussed the "modern aesthetic" of the plan and the flexibility of use within the site. He reviewed the plan for a hotel with a restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining and a "water feature" to create openness and interest. Shorepoint has enhanced historic homes in Ocean Grove, created modern café/gathering spaces/and designed ultra-modern offices, residences and hotels. "People are willing to spend more time outdoors, during all seasons of the year. We want people to be outside, engaged in the public space," said Michael Hughes of the overall view.
What's happening now is the following:
*Today, the ship was launched with the three companies who will work together with East Brunswick's Redevelopment Agency and township government to clear the area of existing properties. Negotiations have begun with all properties within the zone, and those negotiations will conclude shortly. Owners will have more than a year to move their businesses if they desire.
*The demolition of some areas will begin this spring.
*The first section to be built will be a residential apartment retail complex (Areas A and B in the graphic design.)
*The full process will take approximately seven years to complete. There will be two or three phases of construction.
*The area will include a hotel, common park-like areas in an open setting, a medical office center, retail/small business locations, an additional bus transportation center, and a area for municipal government use.
*The area will include 800 residential units.
This Redevelopment Zone, unlike other areas of development in East Brunswick, is the product of planning that began in 2016. Other areas of development in the township, like the building of the hotel on Cranbury Road, the housing/commercial project at the intersection of Summerhill Road and Old Stage Road, and the construction of a hotel, apartments, stores and an indoor ice rink at 110 Tices Lane (former wonder Bread factory) are independent projects.