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Developer Pitches New Proposal for Former Foodtown Lot

Condos, apartments, light retail project requested

The redeveloper of the former Foodtown lot on Route 70 has proposed scrapping plans to construct a hotel and banquet facility at the site in favor of a large condominium complex accompanied by light commercial development and rental apartments.

Building a hotel and conference center at the site is "not economically feasible," said Bob Smith, an attorney for M&M Realty Partners, the site's redeveloper.

Smith said two consulting reports, one ordered by M&M and one by Brick Township officials, both confirmed a lack of market for such a facility.

"The independent consultant said there just isn't enough business to support a hotel and conference center at that location," said Smith.

In place of that project, M&M has proposed a 192 unit condominium complex, about 19,000 square feet of commercial space and 72 additional rental units located on top of the commercial portion.

The amount of retail space and additional rental units could be scaled back if M&M cannot negotiate the sale of an additional one acre state-owned easement at the site.

Ron Aulenbach, an engineer on the project, said the switch from a hotel and confrence cener to the condominium complex would reduce impervious coverage from more than 90 percent down to 70 percent – better for the local environment – and the entire project would resemble Pier Village in Long Branch.

The condominum units themselves would range from one bedroom to multi-bedroom units, up to about 1,200 square feet, and would retail for about $300,000.

According to documentation from M&M, the condominiums, which would be located behind the commercial and apartment portion, would be gated and include access to Forge Pond and the Forge Pond Golf Course, as well as ammenities such as a game room, media room, pool with outdoor fireplace and fitness center.

The complex would be required to conform with current state affordable housing laws under the so-called Mount Laurel decision, said township attorney Jean Cipriani.

Aulenbach said the complex would be upscale.

"This is not something that's going to be rented out at $800 a month just to get someone in there," he said. "This is not going to be a situation where we're going to be building apartments with white formica countertops. This is going to be top of the line stuff."

In order for the new plan to come to fruition, the township council would need to vote in favor of changing the official redevelopment plan for the site, which still calls for a full-service hotel to be built.

Though M&M requested swift action so the project could get off the ground, the council did not take any action at its meeting Tuesday night, and several residents spoke out against the change.

"There's been a stall tactic for four years," said former township council member Michael Thulen. "They've managed to hold this property for four years and haven't had to put in any more than the demolition of the original building. This redevelopment plan was put together to put a hotel or banquet facility in place. The banquet facility was supposed to hold down the hotel."

Thulen said he was confident a hotel could make it in Brick despite the consultants' reports, citing successful hotels that have been constructed recently in Stafford Township and in Monmouth County.

"There has to be a market for hotels here, because people are building hotels in areas all around this town," he said.

Resident George Scott cautioned the council to research the new plan before voting in favor of it.

"They're going to put 192 units there," said Scott. "They're going to realize $57 million in that sale, minus construction costs. They're certainly going to make a nice profit, so let's not let them off the hook too easily and expect that the taxpayers are going to swallow this."

"Personally, I like it," said Councilman Jim Fozman, referring to the plan.

"I think it's time. I really do," said Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni.

Though M&M has been selected as the redeveloper of the site, no money has changed hands.

M&M will be required to pay the town a previously agreed-upon $7.5 million for the lot before construction can begin.

The site was purchased by the township in 2003 during the administration of former Mayor Joseph Scarpelli with the idea being to construct a community center there. Plans came later for a hotel and banquet facility, and ultimately a Republican-controlled council selected M&M as the redeveloper.

Mike M January 28, 2013 at 03:05 AM
@Sal: I like your suggestion of putting together a committee comprised of residents along with township reps to study possible development plans for the property. Seeing that this article has received over 200 comments there looks to be plenty of residents who would be interested in participating. With such a unique property it would be a complete waste to allow a condo project here even if was financially feasible. Can't see much of a market for townhomes of 900 -1500 sq.,ft, priced at $300,000+ with a Rt. 70 location. How about putting a combination of township owned open space to be used as park/ walking path/ bike path/ gardens coupled with APPROPRIATE commercial space such as locally owned food and retail space. No more of those cookie cutter national chains w/ liquor licenses or mass retailers. Direct those tax abatements towards existing vacant lots such as the WOW site nearby. Whatever's done needs ample public participation and feedback
Sal Petoia January 28, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Mike M: Glad you and some others agree with me. The problem is getting the council members to agree. It's been my experience with over fifty years in the township that many officials, if not most, once elected, believe they know what is best for everybody. It's as though they are magically endowed with wisdom. It's only when the people (voters) speak out strongly that they may rethink things. Let's see what they do about this latest issue. By the way, thank you for supporting the SOS campaign.
Mike M January 28, 2013 at 04:16 PM
@Sal: Your very welcome on SOS- it made sense then and it still does today. I think you're right as far as politicians thinking they are "magically endowed with wisdom". As far as I can see most elected officials are endowed with a sense of power and influence and the opinions of those who voted them into office are not taken into consideration in their decision making process. I wonder what the most effective method is to facilitate a process where our opinions and ideas are integrated into the decision making process beginning in the early stages of any major project. Petitioning can be an effective process, as does a mass representation at council meetings, and in this case these methods may be needed, but it would be much more useful to be included from the "get-go". Mike Morton
Sal Petoia January 28, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Mike M: First, let me express my admiration for posting your full name. You are among a very few who have the courage to do so. We do need a means to inject public opinion into the governing process. True, people can attend council meetings, but so many are unwilling to pull themselves away from "Dancing With The Stars", etc. Plus, many believe their input counts for nothing anyway. In many cases they are correct. Who wants to go out on a cold rainy night to attend a meeting where for the most part politicians "gush" all over themselves or are at each others' throats. Use of Initiative and Referendum works, as demonstrated by the SOS campaign, but as you know from having been part of it, it is an arduous task. Nor could the public be expected to conduct a petition for every issue in town. Otherwise, what do we have elected officials for? But there is a way…. we live in an age of instant communications. The Patch is a good example. There is no reason that major undertakings under consideration by the council and mayor cannot be made available to the public and posted to obtain citizen input. This "public forum" would give the governing body a sense of what the community feels before proceeding too far down the road with an ordinance, a major project or a costly program. It would put the people in a "consultative relationship" with elected officials using an interactive format. Very controversial issues would need some means to resolve. Maybe an on-line vote.
BrickGuy February 12, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Beautify Brick/Friends of Forge Pond... Katherine Lockwood & Mike Morton will be holding a meeting at 7pm [ALL ARE WELCOME] @ the Brick Diner [formerly the Ocean Queen] on Rt. 70, next to the Jersey Paddler. Discussion for the evening will be the Foodtown property. [906 Route 70 Brick, NJ 08724]

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