By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — At their February 24 meeting, the Eatontown Borough Council began their part of the process in the proposed makeover of the Monmouth Mall.
The council gave a first reading to an ordinance that would change the Mall from a B-6 Zone (for business use) to a Mixed Use Regional Center Zone. Changing it to a Mixed Use would allow for the construction of a residential component to the makeover, something the Mall’s owner, Kushner Companies, says is essential to the Mall’s survival for the future.
Kushner’s conceptual designs, revealed at the February 10 council meeting, feature four- and five-story, high-end apartment buildings with one- and two-bedroom units. It also proposes an eight-story hotel as part of a $500 million overhaul.
Also in that mix are recreational uses, office space, healthcare facilities, a multipurpose plaza area and a market.
“The effect of the ordinance is to create a new zone and it is geared entirely as a mixed use zone to match the plans of the Kushner folks,” Eatontown Planner John Maczuga remarked.
“The zone would not eliminate what is currently permitted in the B-6 zone, but would add uses.”
“There is a need to change and this is a way to recognize that activity,” Maczuga said.
The ordinance states that there are to be no residential structures built on the first floor of any building, and puts a cap on the number of residential units at 800. Of that total, 15 percent of them must be set aside as affordable housing, for a total of 120 units. However, the developer has an option to build affordable housing elsewhere in the borough, as long as the council approves. If the affordable housing component is built off of the site, the total number of required units jumps to 141.
The ordinance also calls for more shared parking — think parking garages — between residents and all the other proposed uses on the property.
Maczuga said there will be a specific schedule for construction, with guidelines written for building the project in phases. The Mall is expected to remain open during all phases of the rebuilding process.
But any way you look at it, it will be some time before you see the “new” Monmouth Mall. “What you are looking at tonight is the first step in a very long public process,” said Eatontown Borough Attorney Andrew Bayer.
When it came time for public comment, most who spoke said the project was too large and created a strain on borough services and vehicular traffic in the area.
“I question going forward on anything without a traffic study,” resident Bob English said. “Eight hundred units would be at least 1,000 cars, times probably four trips a day, so you potentially have 4,000 trips in and out.”
Some felt the plans were moving forward too fast, but Mayor Dennis Connelly said Kushner’s ideas were on the table for some time since they bought out their long-time partner Vornado last summer.
“They came to us in August and started doing some of their plans,” said Connelly.
The ordinance now goes before the next Planning Board meeting on March 7 for further discussion and revision. After that, it will be sent back to the council for a second reading and public hearing on March 24. If the ordinance is then adopted, there would be public meetings by the Planning Board for site plan approval.