TOMS RIVER – A section of Hooper Avenue might one day be redeveloped for the relocation of a post office, veterans clinic, and fire house.
The redevelopment plan will be for about 12.5 acres fronting Hooper Avenue. The entrance from Hooper would be Caudina Avenue, which is at the light that people take to get to the back entrance of Seacourt Pavilion, driving past a bank on either side to get there.
The plan is contingent on a lot of approvals. Two of the biggest ones would be the federal government’s OK to abandon the post office in downtown Toms River and build a new one here, and to give up the Veterans Administration’s clinic in Brick and build a new one here as well.
In order to have people see the VA clinic from Hooper, there’s an idea to demolish the fire house that’s there and build it further into the development, on a brand new street running through the area.
“The adoption of the redevelopment plan provides the legal foundation to enter into one or more redevelopment agreements,” township planner David Roberts said.
In other words, the redevelopment plan doesn’t set anything in stone, it just provides the opportunity for these things to happen. The only thing approved for the area is a set of townhouses.
Currently, this land is mostly wooded, and would have a bank as the closest neighbor.
There were two plans drawn up, depending on what the VA wanted. One option was a 60,000-square-foot building with 400 parking spaces. The other is an 81,000-square foot building with 300 parking spaces.
The housing development is referred to as the K-Land site plan. It would be located facing the Marshall’s department store and movie theater. There is an approval for 128 units in eight buildings. Of these, 26 would be affordable housing units. The property would also host a pool and a dog park.
Having the multifamily development would breathe new life into existing retail on Hooper, particularly the Seacourt Pavilion and the Ocean County Mall, township documents state. Additionally, it would link the multifamily housing to the VA clinic and post office, allowing people who live in the housing there to go to work or get services there.
Right now, this land has a lot of dunes that were probably made from digging out Seacourt at some point. The dunes have been overgrown with trees. There are remnants of people visiting: tire tracks, garbage, construction debris, an extinguished fire pit. A waterway neighbors it.
The township owns some of the land, Roberts said. The county owns some, too, and would be acquiring more. Fire Company No. 2 owns another entire block. The rest is owned by about half a dozen private owners.
First, the township needed to determine that it is an area in need of redevelopment. This is a technical term. Once something is called an area in need of development several things can happen. One thing is that a town can restructure the zoning to have it make sense throughout the area rather than saying ‘this spot is where the residential has to be’ and ‘this spot is where the offices have to be.’
According to township documents, “The goal of the Hooper-Caudina Redevelopment Plan is to promote the development of a campus for a new VA clinic for Ocean County, situated with convenient access to related services for veterans and the public at large. The relocation of the post office to the same campus and the connection of the campus with the adjacent office park where the County is planning on building new office facilities to house several County departments, including the Office of Veterans Affairs, will address multiple needs for veterans in a single destination. The redevelopment area would be connected to Seacourt Pavilion and the approved multifamily development adjacent to the Redevelopment Area will include affordable units for which veterans preference can be offered.”
If the United States Postal Service decides to relocate its downtown office to this Hooper location, it would need about five acres to handle the busy town. It would also free up three acres of land in downtown Toms River. This land could then be developed into commercial property. This is part of a separate redevelopment plan that includes street-level shops with apartments above.