BRIDGEWATER, NJ - More details were provided to the Bridgewater planning board on the proposed New Jersey Center of Excellence, with a focus on traffic improvements planned for Route 202/206.
In early 2016, the township council approved an ordinance, on recommendation of the planning board, for a redevelopment plan at the former Sanofi Aventis site, now the Center for Excellence, on Route 202/206. Advance Realty purchased the property, and then made a request for it to be considered for redevelopment.
The entire facility is 110 acres, with more than 60 acres currently vacant.
Civil engineer Lisa DiGerolamo said the redevelopment plan is being done to the south and east of the area with the hotel, grocer, main boulevard, retail, office and residential units.
DiGerolamo said that, on the commercial side, the first building on the eastern side of the portion will be three stories, with a wellness and retail component; building two will have retail on the first floor and office on the second; building three will be a combination of restaurant, office and retail; and building four will be broken into two pieces, with a smaller cafe on the eastern most edge.
The hotel at the back of the section, DiGerolamo said, will be five stories with 124 rooms, and the grocery store will be 80,000 square feet.
On the residential side, the four buildings will be four stories maximum, with 368 units, while the residential building on the southern end will have 32 units and be a maximum of three stories.
DiGerolamo said there are two proposed parking garages, one on the south side of the property, and one on the north side. The second one, she said, is for the residential properties mainly, with 491 stalls, and the first will have 276 stalls near the individual retail building.
“Then there will be a number of surface parking spaces, spread out throughout the site, along all the roadways, around the hotel and the larger area of parking in front of the grocer,” she said. “And then there will be parking to the south of the grocery.”
DiGerolamo said the parking at the grocery will also contribute to parking for the boulevard retail businesses.
In addition, DiGerolamo said, they are proposing a bus stop in front of building seven, which is residential, and would allow the buses to come into the development, make a right turn, make a left turn and then have an easy pathway back out to Route 202.
“We have had correspondence with the board of education, and have provided a plan, and we are waiting to hear back,” she said.
A board member questioned whether there would be an impact on parking for those coming to the property to take a bus for New Jersey Transit or for the school buses.
“There is no intention to have commuter parking there,” DiGerolamo said. “I don’t know how to prevent someone from coming on property unless we have signage or a police presence.”
“The NJ Transit bus is a new item,“ she added.
Traffic engineer Gary Dean spoke about the improvements planned for Route 202/206 in connection with the project.
“For 32 years, the township has sought to improve the Route 202 corridor,” he said. “The only traffic signal that existed along the entire highway was at the subject site, Muirfield Lane. Brown Road had a blinker, and Talamini Road didn’t have a signla.”
“We’ve now seen some advancements of highway improvements, with more signals,” he added.
At this point, Dean said, the only traffic signal left to be done is the one at Foothill Road.
“Part of this application is to make many different physical improvements on the road, including the traffic signals on Foothill Road,” he said.
Dean said they performed traffic surveys at various intersections along the road during peak hours, and looked at hours established by the New Jersey Department of Transportation when traffic from the site would be highest.
“Those peak hours would be weekday, evening peak hour and Saturday mid-day when there would be the higher retail demand,” he said.
Dean said findings show that, in the morning peak hours, the traffic would be less than half of what the activity was in previous iterations of the property, mainly because the retail buildings would not be open at 7:30 a.m. when morning traffic is usually considered highest.
“When Sanofi was considering modifying its operation originally, it received approval for highway access permits from NJDOT, which allows for certain volumes of traffic,” he said. “Those that the permits allowed are higher than what we will see in the morning.”
As for the research and development campus, Dean said, the traffic is mostly uni-directional, with people coming on to the property in the morning and staying until they leave in the evening.
“The proposed development balances that traffic,” he said. “A car comes in, shops and then leaves. There is a different balance in traffic activity.”
“In terms of the impact on the highway, ambient traffic has grown, but in terms of what this site is and how it has affected the generating of cars, at one point in site history, it was bigger than this application,” he added.
Saturday is different, Dean said, because there will be additional traffic created by the retail component.
“We took into account the research and development space in the rear portion of the property that is not currently occupied,” he sad. “We are also aware of the Al Falah application that is currently under construction, not that it has a big impact, but it is included in our analysis.”
In addition, Dean said, a site like the one proposed enjoys internal trips that won’t generate traffic on the highway itself.
“With a combination of retail components and the proximity to the balance of the campus and residential components, these are mixed use,” he said. “Some of the people who live here could potentially work here, and they certainly will shop here and stay on campus or within the village.”
“We project traffic for each individual use, and then we have to apply some adjustment factors because not everyone who works here will leave,” he said. “Even though there may be movement on the site, some of that movement will instead walk. Some might drive, but they will stay on the property and not create additional movements on the highway.”
As for improvements on the highway, Dean said, there will be a signal control at Route 202/206 and Foothill Road, including a widening of the road for separate left and right turn lanes.
In addition, Dean said, the redevelopment ordinance requires a traffic signal at the southerly access at 4th Street and Route 202, which will necessitate the installation of a signal and a southbound through lane.
“That same improvement of a double southbound through lane will be created at Muirfield Lane,” he said.
In addition, Dean said, the redevelopment agreement requires the applicant to improve a number of un-signalized intersections, including Heather Hill Way, Bluestone Lane, Harding Road, Stella Drive and Arthur Road. The plan would be to widen the highway and provide structurally sound pavement to allow for those turning left onto those side streets, while providing more space for cars to drive around them in the shoulder.
“That would improve mobility on the highway,” he said. “These are commitments that are being facilitated through engineering.”
All those improvements proposed for widening the road, Dean said, would be centered on Route 202/206 itself, not on the side streets.
A board member asked if there would be any traffic concerns regarding the new addition to the plan of a cafe at one of the residential buildings. Dean said it would more cater to morning traffic, and would not be expected to increase traffic issues.
The board also heard testimony regarding environmental concerns, which have been remediated, and plans for landscaping on the property, although additional information will be provided once the residential building plans are more complete.
At this point, landscape architect Julie Kobesky said there are plans for bike racks, decorative planters along the streetscape, picnic tables throughout the town green and a visual area in front of the hotel plaza with fountains, sculptures and more.
Testimony on the project will continue Oct. 22 in the municipal building at 7 p.m.s