By Jay Cook |
HAZLET – A redevelopment plan is in the works for one of Route 35’s most underutilized shopping centers. Once completed, it is expected to pave the way for major redevelopment at a 20-acre site along the busy commercial corridor at the intersection with Bethany Road/Poole Avenue.
Dubbed the Hazlet Town Center Redevelopment Plan, the project earned its first seal of approval on Aug. 17 when township planners unanimously agreed a third-party’s report aligns with the township’s existing master plan.
The plan will now be reviewed by the Township Committee. If approved in coming months, a formal application by the developer can be filed.
Once anchored by major national chains Kmart and Pathmark, both of which closed shop in the past two years, the shopping center with nearly 204,000 square feet of retail space is now only partially open.
According to the report prepared by Heyer, Gruel & Associates, the redevelopment plan allows for the “rehabilitation or construction of a viable, modern shopping center that is also sensitive to its context.”
Falling under the “area in need of rehabilitation” designation, the township has the power to approve or disapprove what uses it wants to see on site. In 2014, the Hazlet Land Use Board and Township Committee found the entire township, spanning 5.6 square miles, as an area in need of rehabilitation.
Helen Zincavage, the planner who produced the report, said the “big ticket” changes to permitted uses were allowing for fast food drive-thru restaurants and gas stations with attached convenience stores.
Other additions are for medical uses for long-term care, hospitals, out-patient treatment centers, and urgent care facilities; and educational uses for private, public, or vocational schools, according to the report.
One of the uses planners did not want to see on the property was for hotels.
The entire developed shopping center, shaped like an “L,” provides a unique setting to design an outdoor space for shoppers to enjoy some green space or an outdoor meal, said board chairman Jeff Tyler.
“Why not have something where people congregate so maybe it does start to become more of a town center,” he remarked.
The Hazlet Town Center property is currently owned by Onyx Equities, based in Woodbridge. Oynx purchased the entire 20-acre lot in July of 2016 for $26,150,000, according to Monmouth County public tax records. It was valued at just over $23 million.
Currently, 18 of the 23 possible storefronts in the center are occupied. The biggest tenants on site are Planet Fitness, located perpendicular to Route 35, and a TGI Friday’s restaurant in the parking lot.
Of the nearly 204,000 square feet of total store space, about 150,000 remains vacant, according to Onyx Equities’ brochure of the Hazlet Town Center. A majority of that is from the former Pathmark and Kmart stores.
Per Onyx, over 53,000 cars travel on Route 35 and Bethany Road each day.
According to Hazlet Land Use Board attorney Gregory Vella, Oynx Equities has been working with Hazlet officials to “create a redevelopment project for that site.”
CJ Huter, vice president of The Goldstein Group, the exclusive leasing brokers for the Hazlet Town Center, said Hazlet residents should be excited about the site’s future.
“You’ll have new national tenants that will definitely draw new customers into the property,” he said by phone last week. “The whole center is going to be brand new.”
Huter said once the Hazlet Township Committee approves the redevelopment plan, which he’s confident will happen, then Oynx Equities can roll out their redevelopment project for the property. There will be no formal announcement of tenants or project site plans until the plan receives approval. Expect that to happen in the “next coming months,” Huter said.
What Huter could reveal was that it would be a “multimillion dollar renovation.”
“It’s a good location; good dirt,” Huter said. “It just needed a facelift, repositioning within the center, and coordination with the right ownership.”
This article was first published in the Aug. 24-31, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
Correction, Sept. 8: A previous version of this story misstated the cost of renovations. The total cost is yet to be determined, according to Huter.
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