Read our story on the meeting: No Vote Yet for 'Clark Commons' Shopping Complex
The 241,000-square-foot complex that would include 15 retail spaces and three restaurants on the 28-acre site.
Here, more details about the proposal:
Entrances and exits: The site plan proposes four entrances and exits, one on Walnut Avenue and three on Raritan Road. The main entrance would be across from the Hyatt Hills Golf Course entrance with a traffic light, explained Lisa DiGerolamo, engineer for Krame Development Company. The other two entrances/exits on Raritan Road would be right turn in, right turn out only, while the entrance/exit on Walnut Avenue would allow left turns in, but out right turns out.
Layout: The plan proposes three large buildings in a semicircle around the property, all facing inward to a central parking area with 1,279 spaces. Fronting Raritan Road will be four separate buildings and parking areas, three of which are planned as restaurants (those to the left of the entrance) and one (to the right of the entrance) that will be for retail.
Pond, gathering area: The plan proposes a retention basin made to look like a pond, with a fountain, gazebo and benches at the Raritan Road and Walnut Avenue corner of the property. One resident suggested the pond be moved to the center of the property to provide a focal point instead of having such a vast parking lot; however, DeGerolamo explained that the retention basin had to be located at that corner of the property because it is where the stormwater would naturally flow. Another resident voiced concerns that that area could become a place where people loiter after hours.
Traffic: Details about traffic will be discussed at the board's next meeting on the project on Aug. 22 when a traffic expert for Krame testifies, but in the meantime, Krame said this at the meeting: "We develop in townships where traffic is always an issue and I'm not suggesting it's not an issue here. It is. I want to assure you, we have explored every possibility about traffic and will put no price tag on what it takes to remedy the problem. We don’t think it's right that we come into a community and have people be inconvenienced or sit at traffic lights to benefit us."
Tenants: Developer William Krame said he has already spoken to some tenants interested in the property and said they are going to great lengths to be sure there are no smaller "ma and pa" shops so as not to compete with businesses along Westfield Avenue. Krame mentioned "no dry cleaners, nail salons, things of that nature" and also "no big box stores."
"We hope to attract tenants that might not otherwise come to Clark now because the retail space here doesn’t accommodate what they are looking for," said Krame. "And we are going to great lengths to chose tenants that would appeal to the whole spectrum of residents, from new mothers to athletes ... maybe dad goes and picks out a set of golf clubs, while mom can go shop at a craft store and the kids can shop at Five Below or one of those type of stores. We are being very selective and giving a tremendous amount of consideration to what the right tenants are to keep it family friendly."
Walnut Avenue buffer: Experts for the developer testified extensively about what they are doing to buffer residents on Walnut Avenue from the project. The plan proposes a three-foot-high wall on the Walnut Avenue side of the project, over which they would create a berm with trees. The building height proposed for that side of the project would be no higher than 23 feet.
Tax revenue: Economic demographer Richard Reading testified on behalf of Krame regarding the fiscal impact of the project. Reading estimates that the complex would be have completed value of $50 million and would provide $1.1 million in annual tax revenue compared with the $298,000 the property does currently. Of that $1.1 million, the Clark School District would receive $571,000; Clark township would receive $278,000.
"From an economic standpoint, it’s a repurposing of an obsolete site and right now this property generates a nominal level of tax revenues for the township, school, county," said Reading. "Redevelopment of the site will certainly get rid of the obsolete use, and the new use will generate multiple revenues. ... It would be a benefit to the township both in terms of the tax side, the public sector side, but also the private sector side by creating 425 private sector jobs, that will also stimulate the economy in a community, as well as the demolition and construction jobs created."
Jobs: Reading estimates 425 full-time retail jobs would be created by building the complex.
Architecture: Charles P. Dietz, architect for the project, said he has a personal interest in making the complex beautiful because he lives in nearby Westfield. His plans propose earth-tone stone fronts on the buildings with various building heights and an awning to protect visitors. Most of the one-story buildings would range in height from about 23-30 feet, depending on the decorative cornices and awnings at the top. One anchor retailer would have an arch stretching up to 40 feet. A 25-foot sign made the match the stone on the buildings would welcome visitors at the Raritan Road main entrance.
"We went to great lengths to make this first class," said Krame. "The materials we are using are not like a strip center. We've chosen brick, stone, and various building heights and awnings and things to really make it very visually appealing. It's very important that this project be an attractive project. We are convinced that this project will be by far the nicest anywhere in Middlesex or Union counties."
Sidewalks: The proposal for the complex indicates full sidewalking around it linking to Raritan Road and Walnut Avenue, and Krame says the project will voluntarily continue sidewalking up the length of Walnut Avenue.
"We don’t want people to just come and shop," said Krame. "We want them to park their car, shop and stroll around. I even envision people coming and walking the property as an exercise path in the mornings or evenings because that’s how it’s set up. ... We also voluntarily have sidewalks all the way to Garden State Parkway entrance to encourage people to walk down from the office building, hotel and elsewhere to our project."
Landscaping: Developer William Krame testified that the property would be "heavily landscaped" but asked the board for flexibility as to what species of plants would be used as they are unsure yet. The plans show landscaping throughout the property and including a tree-lined boulevard along the main entrance.
Because the meeting ended before all testimony could be heard, the next meeting to hear the plan, and likely the one where the board will vote on the project, will happen on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Arthur L. Johnson auditorium.
Connectivity to ShopRite, old railroad tracks: Experts alluded to the possibility of eventually creating a connection between the complex and ShopRite, though they are not proposing that currently. Krame testified that they have acquired the rights to the abandoned tracks that run across Raritan Road near ShopRite and would remove, remediate and pave over those tracks.
County involvement: Stanley Fink, attorney for the developer, explained that the project will also have to be approved by the county as Raritan Road is a county road.
No Vote Yet for 'Clark Commons' Shopping Complex
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