BELMAR, NJ — Plans for a sprawling mixed-use development that stretches for nearly three blocks from Main Street to the Shark River were unveiled last night to the Belmar Council.
The seaport redevelopment project presented by Dobco Group calls for a hotel and conference center, three buildings consisting of residential and retail/commercial space — with one building dedicated to senior housing — a community amphitheater along the riverfront promenade and a ferry terminal for service to New York City.
The plan encompasses the area bounded by River Road through Seventh Avenues from Main Street to the banks of the river, including the current municipal complex, which would be relocated under the plan.
It’s the first formally submitted plan after the borough council issued a nonbinding request for proposals (RFP) in October 2019 for a new municipal complex, which currently sits between Main Street, River Road and Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
According to Mayor Mark Walsifer, the RFP was triggered after the owners of three adjacent properties expressed interest in pursuing their own joint development plan just north on the municipal complex — Ollie Klein III, owner of Klein’s Fish Market and Waterside Café at the corner of River Road and Main Street, R.J. Langbein, owner of Belmar Paint & Decorating at 511 Main Street, and Greg Kapalko of Loko Co., developer of the proposed Eastport residential project along River Road.
“They brought in a developer (who said) the project would really work well if it went down to Seventh Avenue,” said Belmar Mayor Mark Walisfer. “That’s when we put out the RFP.”
That developer is Dobco, a Wayne-based multifaceted construction company that has completed more than $1 billion in new construction in New Jersey, New York and several other states, according to president Daniel Mladenovic.
In his presentation for Dobco, consulting engineer Douglas McCoach focused on the scope of the project, including how it’s been tailored specifically to establish Belmar’s downtown district as a landmark destination and strengthen its identity as a seashore town.
A key element of the plan is to move the municipal building, freeing up a site that’s important to Belmar’s downtown. “Through the course of the RFP, the idea of relocating the building so that this site can be repurposed in support of the downtown has great value and is a good idea. It’s ‘urban planning 101,’ ” said McCoach, who serves as director of planning for Morris & Ritchie Associates, a Baltimore-based engineering, architecture and planning company.
Here are highlights of the plan:
- Nearly 900 parking spots are included in the project — some 800 to be housed in lower-level garages near Seventh Avenue and another 100 to be provided on the street.
- The hotel would include 108 rooms, a 13,000-square-foot conference center with a 200-person ballroom and four meeting rooms, and 135 garage parking spaces.
- The riverfront promenade along River Road would be extended and anchored by an amphitheater.
- While a ferry terminal is included in the proposal — and it has been determined there is enough room for boats to navigate in the adjacent waterway— no specific plans with a ferry operator have been developed.
- Included in the 65,000 feet of retail space located on the first floors of three buildings are spaces for markets offering groceries, a bakery, fish market, among similar product lines, as well as restaurants and other specialty shops.
- The senior building would consist of 136 units of one, two and three bedrooms, and the other two residential buildings would include 235 market-rate housing units of one, two and three bedrooms as well.
- In terms of building heights, the 40-foot limit has been lifted for two buildings in order not to create a “monolithic” look throughout the project. The hotel, which is the project’s signature building facing the river at the foot of the Main Street bridge, would rise to between 49 and 51 feet, and the senior building, which is close to the larger Route 35 bridge, would be two floors higher standing between 69 and 71 feet.
- As for relocating the municipal building, Dempsey Park on 16th Avenue would be explored as a possible site.
Walsifer stressed that Dobco’s presentation was for informational purposes only — “to let the public look at it for the first time.”
The next step, he said, would be to decide whether the plan “is best for Belmar” and whether to move forward with further exploration of the project, including its financial impact, as well as traffic, parking and infrastructure concerns. “We’re going to look at the pros and cons,” Walsifer said, indicating a new senior housing building would be a plus.
In addition, the borough plans to follow up with the only other developer that responded to the RFP to see whether it plans on submitting a proposal.
To view the video of the entire presentation, visit Belmar's Facebook page by clicking here.