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.