By Wilson Conde
Several Middletown residents expressed cautious support for the North Middletown Redevelopment Plan, but also raised some questions about some of its specifics, during a presentation of the plan at the Middletown Township Committee meeting.
The plan, designed in December 2014 by the Red Bank-based Heyer, Gruel & Associates architectural firm, outlines what the section of Middletown between Ocean and Bay Avenues along Port Monmouth Rd. might look like in the future.
In August of 2014, the Middletown Township Committee designated that area as an area in need of redevelopment. The area along the corner of Port Monmouth Rd. and Ocean Ave. is currently an abandoned lot.
Fred Heyer, of the architectural firm, said the plan was not a finalized design, but instead a starting point and a sketch of what might be done in the future. He said many changes could be made, taking community views into account, before a final design is eventually adopted.
The current plan calls for the construction of a mixed-use building of up to three floors that includes eight townhouse-style and 12 apartment-style residences, as well as some retail facilities on the first floor. According to the plans, the retail facilities, if built, may include food and drink establishments, stores, and financial institutions such as banks, but not drive-thru facilities.
The plan also calls for parking spaces in the rear of the building, as well as sidewalks between six and 10 feet wide along the front of the building to create a café-style area. Recycling and garbage cans will be on every street corner, and streetlights will be placed every 30 feet.
The main goal of the plan is to increase economic activity by redeveloping underused sites along the corner of Port Monmouth Rd. and Ocean Ave., and to make the area friendlier to pedestrians.
That, according to the plan, will make the area near the redevelopment more attractive for future economic investment, thereby increasing the tax base.
Middletown Township Committeeman Gerard Scharfenberger said this plan serves as a much-needed improvement, and if implemented, may also become a resounding success story and a sense of pride for township residents.
“You know what happens in a vacant lot in a residential area; you find a mattress one morning and a washing machine the next,” he said. “If we put our collective minds together, we can really make this a crown jewel of our community.”
No relocations of homes or businesses are projected to be necessary.
Local resident Steven Hildner of Bay Ave. said he supports the general idea of making improvements to the neighborhood, but he had some concerns about the proposed height of the building.
“If you can get a view of New York City from Port Monmouth Rd., that’s too tall,” Hildner said. “I appreciate that we are actually being paid attention to, but [this plan] may be too ambitious. What we need is something on a smaller scale.”
Stephen McCusker of Bay Ave. said he wants the project to go farther, especially when it comes to addressing local traffic safety issues, such as a lack of pedestrian sidewalks in the area, and the difficulty of driving in and out of Bay Avenue, which is used by many drivers using that area as a shortcut to avoid the four-way stop sign.
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