Pad Sites Planned for Middletown Municipal Complex

September 17, 2018
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Part of the Township Committee’s plan to construct a new municipal building includes two on-campus pad sites that can be leased or sold outright to offset costs of the $20-plus million project. Photo courtesy of Middletown Township

By Chris Rotolo |

MIDDLETOWN –A unique aspect of the township’s municipal campus is its location just off state Highway 35.

In their plans to completely upgrade the 57-year-old town hall, township officials say they intend to leverage its valuable location to the advantage of their residents.

During their June 19, 2017 meeting, the township committee identified its municipal campus at 1 Kings Highway and adjacent planning department and EMS facilities on Penelope Laneas “an area in need of development,” citing archaic infrastructure, an outdated HVAC system and a lack of parking as the reasons for a redevelopment project that would cost upward of $20 million.

More than a year later the township is taking steps to move forward with the construction of a new 23,000-square-foot, multistory structure to replace the current municipal building, police department, the Johnson Gill Annexand the Penelope Lane properties. The result will be a unified municipal headquarters with the new establishment of two independent commercial or retail units on site (pad sites).

According to Mayor Kevin M. Settembrino, the committee has introduced a subdivision plan for the 15,700-square-foot Kings Highway property, which would allow for the construction of the two pad sites.

We’ve made a conscious decision to go the redevelopment route, which gives the township the option to create these pad sites for revenue offset, and/or to sell those pad sites outright,” Settembrino said in a Sept. 10 interview with The Two River Times.

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“We could potentially receive cash for those sites, which would turn into an annuity. But we haven’t really decided on that financial vehicle yet.”

Township administrator Anthony Mercantante said the design will allow Middletown to benefit from the complex’s proximity to a major state roadway.

“What we’re trying to do is take advantage of the fact that we have a municipal complex right on a state highway. It’s valuable land and we’re trying to capitalize on that and use it to reduce the cost of the overall project,” he said.

Settembrino, an architect, added that this is not a conventional design project, but a partnership between a public entity, the Township of Middletown, and a private entity, the redevelopment firm of Brandywine Acquisition & Development, LLC of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Choosing this path provides the added advantage of setting a fixed price for the project.

“The governing body is employing multiple items here to make certain that not only can the building be built with the guaranteed maximum price, but to reduce the risk to taxpayers and to generate new revenue based on a new lease payment,” said Settembrino, who noted that Brandywine would be tasked with acquiring tenants for the independent pad sites.

As for the permitted uses of these pad sites, Mercantante affirmed that most retail and commercial operations could be accommodated.

“The only restriction we’ve put in place on them is that they can’t be drive-thru restaurants,” Mercantante said, explaining the safety concern of having too many cars circulating. “There can be retail or commercial uses but no drive-thrus. Anything else that could normally go on the highway would be permitted.”

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Mercantante said the redevelopment project could begin in parts this winter, but should be in full swing by spring 2019.

Both Settembrino and Mercantante said efficiency is the theme of this construction, not only in terms of green energy but for residents who, for the first time since the complex’s construction in 1961, will have access to all municipal and government departments under the same roof.

There will be cutting-edge innovations to help residents, such as computer kiosks where residents will be able to apply and pay for permits, licenses, classes, camps and various other township-related items and experiences.

“In addition to having everything in one place to maximize convenience, everything will be new, because what we have right now is dinosaur-age,” Mercantante said. “This project is all about efficiency. And it has to be that way. The future of municipal government is all about efficiency, because costs are going up every year and we have to be creative to keep costs and taxes down.”

This article was first published in the Sept. 13 – 19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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