BERKELEY – Warehouse space, a convenience store, gas station, a solar field, recreation and a fast food restaurant are possible things that could replace the dilapidated mall on Route 9 in Bayville.
This is very early in the planning stages, and things could change. Representatives from the redeveloper met with the Township Council recently to update them on their plans.
The plan was just for the front 40 acres or so, facing Route 9.
Township planner James Oris said that warehousing and distribution would need to be added to the approved uses for the property.
Additionally, the property is a good location for a solar field, he said. It can be tied right into the grid there.
Another possibility is a recreational location, like a Goodsports complex or a pool, he said.
M & M Realty Partners and Lennar Corporation formed a joint venture where they will redevelop the spot. Years ago, they intended on making a mix of commercial, office/professional, and residential buildings. They had planned big box spots, pad sites, and a downtown walkable feel.
However, the economy is far different now, explained Ron Aulenbach, director of engineering, planning and development for Edgewood Properties. Edgewood has been involved in local projects like Barnegat Center and the Market Place at Brick.
Members of the governing body asked if the redevelopers will be able to find tenants.
Today, it’s harder to get a tenant for a big box store, Aulenbach said. Lennar’s leasing teams said they were comfortable lining up renters for what was proposed.
Christine Nazarro-Cofone, planner for M&M, said that it’s about providing the right size and location to match the market, and was confident that they will be able to fill the spots.
The maps they showed the Township Council are just conceptual. There are no set plans. The presentation was just done to allow the plans to go forward.
It is likely to be many years before this could come to fruition.
The shopping center was built by the Johnson family and named the Beachwood Mall because Johnson was mad at Berkeley officials, according to oral history. Johnson operated an asphalt plant behind it, and even parked a plane in the mall’s basement. His daughter Priscilla Oughton inherited the property after her father died in 1999.
The township and Oughton spent years battling legally over the state of the property, which had fallen into disrepair, even though some businesses were still operating. At one point, Berkeley was fining her several thousand dollars a day for the violations.
Some businesses were kicked out by the management, and eventually it all shut down. It was in poor shape even before Superstorm Sandy came and dealt a final blow.
It was later demolished, and a worker passed away during the demolition.
The cost to clean up the entire area was estimated in the tens of millions. That’s why it was established as a “redevelopment area.” This is a designation decided by the state. If a property fits a number of requirements, it is open to cost saving programs and even environmental clean-up funds. It is made to entice investors to take an underutilized property and make something out of it. It encourages the redevelopment of old buildings instead of cutting trees to develop new buildings.
A partnership between Lennar Homes and M&M Realty became the redevelopers.
Oris explained that the purpose of this meeting was to expand the proposed uses for the property. It would then have to go to the Planning Board. It also had to be signed off on by the Township Council. However, the Township Council serves as the Redevelopment Authority. In other situations, the Redevelopment Authority would make a recommendation to the council, but here they are one and the same. This meeting was at 4 p.m. on a Monday, two hours before the Council meeting.
Further, the maps that the professionals showed were just conceptual, to give people an idea of where buildings might be. The plans need to be finalized. The Department of Environmental Protection, the borough’s land use, the Department of Transportation, and a number of other bodies have to sign off on it.
Route 9 is pretty congested as it is. While residents want something new on that location, they are concerned about the traffic it would bring.
Aulenbach said that the State Department of Transportation is giving them some leeway. If the new development has equal to or less traffic than the old mall in its prime, then Route 9 won’t see any major improvements. The redeveloper will likely just make better driveways and intersections.
If there is more traffic than originally intended, then the redeveloper would have to come up with a way to ease congestion, he said.
Another variable is the Western Boulevard extension. This would take Western through the property and to Route 9. The exact route is unknown but it would allow distributers to access the Garden State Parkway better, and people could skip whole sections of Route 9.
Mayor Carmen Amato said Congressman Andy Kim called him recently asking what kind of funding the township needs for infrastructure, and Amato made the pitch for Western Boulevard. The township, perhaps in conjunction with the county, would have to apply for federal funding.