TOMS RIVER – Named as the Conditional Redeveloper by the township, the Capodagli Property Company has provided conceptual renderings for a project it refers to as River Chateau.
The banquet hall proposal is slated for the boatworks property on Robbins Parkway, which Township Planner David G. Roberts says is more of the historic portion of the downtown area and in need of rehabilitation.
Conceptual plans call for a restaurant and three level parking garage over the parking lot with a banquet facility on the top floor. The total number of parking spaces on all three levels totals 225 spaces.
The front of the banquet facility faces Robbins Parkway and would have a 12,000 square feet unconditioned reception area with a covered bar. A rooftop garden, multiple terraces and additional restaurant space and cocktail areas are all part of the conceptual plans.
Two separate suites of 6,000 square feet each would provide separate space for brides and grooms who might choose River Chateau as their wedding venue years into the future.
According to Roberts, the surrounding area dates back to the 1960s when the township put an Urban Renewal Plan in place.
“From what I can gather, the township was trying to resist the impact of the Ocean County Mall on the downtown business district,” said Roberts. “They acquired 12 properties from private property owners by using eminent domain along Water Street between Robbins Parkway.”
The boatworks property is at the end of Robbins Parkway to the right of where the River Lady docks. The twelve lots surrounding boatworks were designated for the expansion of Huddy Park and the creation of public parking lots.
Roberts classified the boatworks property as marginal for many years and said since Superstorm Storm Sandy, conditions have worsened. According to Roberts, the township council determined in 2018 that the property was a blighting influence and designated it as an area of redevelopment with a parking lot.
“The building’s been basically abandoned and is in extremely poor condition and basically unsafe,” said Roberts. “It probably needs to come down, but it’s been fenced off and is supposed to be secured. The only thing that goes on there is that one of the radio stations parks their vans there.”
Meanwhile, the boatworks property comes with its share of issues. The Quality of Life Task Force placed the lot on its vacant property inventory. Faced with penalties for failing to maintain the property, the owners put it up for sale. That’s when the redeveloper’s commercial realtor contacted Roberts.
“I gave them references to anyone I thought would be interested in the property including Chef’s International,” Roberts shared. “They own Washington Bar and Grill, and it was my understanding that they had attempted to purchase it in the past.”
Another reason the location qualified as an area in need of redevelopment was that the owners never paid the state for riparian rights for the boats on the property. Rents have piled up and whomever acquires the property will have to worry about renovating the boats and paying the back money.
Township Council Vice President Matt Lotano said that he sits on the Land Use Committee and shared his opinions concerning the conceptual rendering.
“The Capodagli group presented two other projects to us very informally,” said Lotano. “We told them we weren’t interested in them because they were too tall and residential.”
“I feel this piece of property is the crown jewel of the redevelopment location,” Lotano continued. “The other proposed site that Capodagli is starting (residential) is an empty piece of property that has never been utilized and is a bus terminal.”
Lotano said that the township has been working on a redevelopment plan for approximately 25 years and feels that the plan for a non-residential commercial component could mean things are coming to fruition.