NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The Ferren Mall and parking deck is no more.
Just a few days ago, workers knocked down the final brick. Mitchell Karon, executive director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority, which owns the Albany Street site, said all that remains is the cleanup.
Now, the parking authority is pushing to buy a neighboring 12,700-square-foot piece of land for the redevelopment project. The Board of Commissioners approved a resolution at its meeting this week authorizing Karon to enter into negotiations for the parcel.
The site, which houses a closed Wells Fargo bank drive-thru, is valued at $1.8 million, according to a parking authority-funded appraisal by Jon Brody of Appraisals Consultants Corp.
The resolution authorized Karon to send a letter to Wells Fargo offering that amount.
The bank, Karon said, is asking $1.9 million, or another $100,000, for the property.
What, exactly, will take the place of the former Ferren Mall is unclear. But the New Brunswick Planning Board approved this month a redevelopment plan that lays out a rough vision for the site. Stakeholders have also described what they hope to see.
City officials intend for the site to house several high-rise towers that include office, research, retail and residential spaces. A street-level plaza would serve as a gathering spot, while restaurants with outdoor seating would lure people from the nearby New Brunswick train station.
Nothing, of course, will be set in stone until a developer signs on tenants and secures site plan approval.
But city officials consider the project an opportunity to expand New Brunswick’s downtown, better connecting it with Easton Avenue and the public transit crowd.
The purchase price for the Wells Fargo site put forth by the parking authority is “based upon the assumption that the property is free of environmental contamination or that any such contamination has been remediated,” according to the resolution.
A nearby site was polluted in the early 1980s by an oil tank that served Middlesex County’s administration building. Officials cleaned the parcel, but environmental engineers are slated to examine the Ferren Mall property—which is next to the Wells Fargo drive-thru—for contaminants.
The parking authority resolution directs Karon to “take any and all actions necessary” to acquire the bank property. It calls for negotiations or eminent domain, though the latter is not allowed in this case.