By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |
‘Parcel B’ Town Center, Take Two
After much fanfare and stunning renderings, a sweeping proposal by Parcel B Redevelopment LLC, owned by Paramount Realty Services, Inc. of Lakewood, to create the centerpiece of Fort Monmouth’s redevelopment – originally christened Freedom Pointe in Eatontown – fizzled in February, a victim of retail volatility and other economic factors.
The agency tasked with overseeing the redevelopment of the former U.S. Army base – the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) – immediately entered into negotiations with the second highest bidder for the 90-acre site. While rules prohibit officials from revealing the identity of bidders during the evaluation/negotiation process, authority officials recently delivered an update on the high-profile project.
“Real progress has been made. There have been six or seven iterations of the plan,” said Robert Lucky, FMERA interim chairman. “It looks a lot better, more livable and less like a strip mall, or big box stores surrounded by parking lots.”
Paramount’s plan envisioned a $130 million “mixed-use lifestyle destination” with residential, office, entertainment, food and 350,000 square feet of retail inside the red brick “Johnson Gates” on Route 35, with fountains, a playground, ice skating rinks and a movie theater.
“The layout has been altered,” said Dave Nuse, FMERA director of real estate development. “The proposer has added retail and open space in the center of the project that gives it more of a sense of place. A grand entrance is lined by retail and open space with a mix of landscaped and park-like areas.”
“The center area can now be cordoned off for special events like parades and more,” added Bruce Steadman, FMERA executive director.
The current plan stipulates 250,000 square feet of retail and 302 housing units.
Amendments to Oceanport Waterfront Redevelopment Site
Requests for Offers to Purchase (RFOTPs) Allison Hall and Barker Circle along Parker Creek in Oceanport were issued two years ago. Bids for the parcels – located inside the Oceanport Avenue entrance across from the Parade Grounds in the fort’s Historic District – opened in early 2016 and closed between December 2016 and May 2017. At its September monthly meeting, FMERA officials revealed a contract for the Allison Hall parcel is anticipated before the end of this year. Further, members introduced and approved an amendment to the original reuse plan for the two parcels that basically switches their development scenarios for improved access to a planned boutique hotel.
The original plan envisioned the area’s redevelopment as approximately 1.75 million square feet of nonresidential space and 720 residential units, to include a high-tech/green industry cluster, education/medical campus, a neighborhood center, a boutique hotel and spa, and “expansive” green space including the adjacent Parade Grounds. Allison Hall was intended for office space while the hotel was slated for Barker Circle.
“It has been determined that the Allison Hall parcel would provide better access and be better suited to accommodate a boutique hotel given its proximity to Oceanport Avenue,” staff wrote in their recommendation to move the amendment, adding, “The amendment transfers the residential units proposed on the Allison Hall Parcel to the Lodging parcel, and permits the boutique hotel on the Allison Hall parcel.”
The scenic waterfront promenade along Parker Creek will be extended from Oceanport Avenue to link with the adjacent Lodging Area. Officer Housing developments, now for sale and/or under construction on either side of the Parade Grounds, are considered part of the Lodging Area. The amendment still allows for the reuse of Allison Hall as office space but, in addition, permits retail and commercial uses.
Staff said the action responds to “market driven responses to RFOTPs and provides flexibility to more effectively attract potential nonresidential users to the Oceanport section of the fort.” This signals the bidder may have made development requests that do not strictly adhere to FMERA’s reuse plans, a scenario which has occurred several times as the authority stresses they are willing to entertain “outside the box” proposals which still result in the “best use” of a fort parcel.
The hotel will fill 55,000 square feet of up to three stories with 110 rooms, as well as creation of an entrance from Oceanport Avenue to Signal Avenue, subject to the approval of Monmouth County and the municipality. The amendment does not impact the 720 residential units but transfers a portion of those units to the Lodging Area.
“These parcels will help to attract investment and jobs and result in substantial tax revenue,” Nuse said.
“It’s in the spirit of the plan,” added Lucky.
The amendment has been sent to the three boroughs the fort encompasses – Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls – for a 45-day comment and recommendation period. Staff will review and analyze reports from each host municipality and prepare an analysis with reasons for accepting or not accepting FMERA’s recommendations.
This article was first published in the Oct. 18-24, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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