2005-12-22 / Front Page

Movies nixed out of The Village at Manalapan

BY DAVE BENJAMIN Staff Writer

BY DAVE BENJAMIN
Staff Writer

MANALAPAN — Plans for a multiplex theater and performing arts center are apparently off the table at The Village at Manalapan, a retail shopping center planned for the intersection of Route 33 and Millhurst Road.

Attorney John Giunco, representing Manalapan Retail Realty Partners, made the announcement during a Dec. 8 meeting of the Planning Board.

As the board was considering a site plan for a 500,000-square-foot shopping center, Giunco was asked what type of entertainment activities will be available at the site.

He responded by saying, “My clients are not seeking this board’s approval for a movie theater nor seeking any longer the Township Committee’s authority to rezone for a theater and consequently that includes a performing arts center. At this point or any point in the future.”

His statement was a change of course for a project that has been discussed in two ways over the past year; first as a 500,000-square-foot shopping center, which is a permitted use at the site; and second as what developer Richard Brunelli has referred to as a “vision plan” with the 500,000-square-foot shopping center, plus a hotel, entertainment center and tennis complex.

Brunelli had asked the Township Committee to consider making zoning changes that would allow the hotel and entertainment center to be constructed in an area that is not presently zoned for those uses.

The committee did not take action on his request this year.

Giunco’s comment appears to remove the movie theater and performing arts center from The Village equation.

Testimony on The Village continued from project planner Christine Cofone, who said the developer was seeking a waiver for foundation plantings.

“It’s just not practical to have plantings where you have wide sidewalks and a considerable amount of pedestrian activity and also where you have retailers who have loading areas,” she said.

Citing the financial benefits of the project, Cofone said she used the project evaluation and applied the 2005 tax structures. Cofone said the regional school district would realize approximately $1.3 million in annual revenue, the local municipality would realize $315,768 and the county would realize $344,177.

Using a formula to determine the municipal costs allocated to the project, Cofone said the cost would be $46,151 annually. She said there would probably be additional police presence in the area due to the 2,500 homes that are being constructed in the area surrounding The Village property.

“You’ll probably recognize additional police presence in the area,” she said. “So The Village may not require the dedicated services of say one police officer as we think there will be additional police officers in this area to service the development that is coming.”

There will also be some level of security on site provided by the individual retailers and operators of the center, according to the planner.

Cofone reviewed recommendations made by the Office of Smart Growth and changes made based on those recommendations. She said a 95-car commuter parking lot has been added and buses will be able to pull into the site. The commuter parking lot will be near Millhurst Road, just east of what is designated as Building H, which will be a Borders book store.

The developer is proposing 180,000 square feet of non-retail space in the form of offices, a health club, a bank and three restaurants, she told the board.

Project architect Charles P. Dietz described the buildings that will be included in the lifestyle center of the project as structures that will be made of brick, stucco and natural stone.

The lifestyle center has previously been described as being similar to the Grove in Shrewsbury.

Dietz also described the project’s Main Street area and its design theme. He compared this section of The Village to the Georgetown area near Washington, D.C., Red Bank and Westfield, with retail uses on a single floor.

“We’re proposing a three-story false facade with lighted windows behind it,” the architect said, “but there will be a single occupiable floor as planned.

“The community shopping center [portion of The Village] anchored by a supermarket and other retailers, a bank, possibly a drug store and health club facility, will have a strong traditional look,” said Dietz. “There will be earth tone colors and natural stone at the base.”

The Planning Board did not vote on the project at its Dec. 8 meeting.

It is expected that the next date for The Village hearing to continue will be determined on Jan. 12 when the board reorganizes for 2006. An extension of the application has been given to Jan. 26 and the hearing may continue on that evening.

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