Board continues discussion on former Stop & Shop site

Proposed grocery store point of concern for board members, residents

BY JAY BODAS Correspondent

METUCHEN – Discussions continued on the proposed redevelopment of the former Stop & Shop on Central and Middlesex avenues.

“The proposal is an ideal transit village smart-growth-oriented proposal, one that is appropriate for the borough of Metuchen,” James Higgins, planner for the applicant, said at the Dec. 11 Planning Board meeting.

“Basically, on the site itself, the buildings are vacant except for ACE Hardware and La Rosa,” Higgins said. “The site is not in good condition and has been underutilized for a number of years. The applicant is proposing to invest $75 million in the site itself. The existing tax revenue from the site is about $170,000. The combined after-tax revenue would be $813,000, with about $680,000 for school and approximately $130,000 would be for municipal purposes.”

However, as part of the back-and-forth discussion, there were concerns raised about the grocery store that would be included as part of the new development.

“Everyone in town is going to drive to that grocery store,” said board member Roseann Misrahi. “I wanted to focus on that because I know the grocery store is an important part of this project.”

Developer Robert McDaid referred to the grocery store as a “specialty” store, but that it would still be “larger than a Trader Joe’s.”

“They will have meat, fish, produce and bakery,” McDaid said. “It is a nice store. Anything more than that, they are nonexistent. Supermarkets today, other than Whole Foods, etc., are in the 40,000- to 45,000- square-foot range or 65,000 square feet.”

At a previous meeting, McDaid had said that the planned new grocery store would be about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet in size.

Resident Sharon Taylor said that she was in favor of the development of Metuchen, but she had concerns about the location and accessibility of the application’s proposed parking deck in relation to the grocery store.

“I am not clear how far a walk it is to go from the parking deck all the way to the front to, say, Boro Hardware,” Taylor said. “If you have young kids with bags, and it is raining, and there is nothing in front, people are not going to do it. What I am asking for is an entrance and exit from the parking deck into the supermarket.”

Higgins advised that such a decision should be left “up to the supermarket.”

“The board could make that a condition, but it could be a condition that is fatal to the development if you cannot get a supermarket that will come in and do that,” he said. “If they don’t want to do it that way, then they won’t come here.”

Resident Jacqueline Schwartz said that traffic in the borough would get worse after the new development has been built.

“I am a pedestrian,” Schwartz said. “I walk to and from the train and along Main Street, from High Street to the train station. I encounter problems with drivers at intersections at traffic lights and at crosswalks, but the traffic is not nearly as bad as it will be in this neighborhood. It says in smart growth ‘walkable neighborhoods,’ but I don’t see it, I really don’t.”

Discussions have been continued to the Planning Board’s Dec. 20 meeting.