The long wait to find out what major retailer will call the redeveloped Golden Triangle site home is finally over.
The East Brunswick Planning Board voted unanimously April 18 to approve a site plan by developer Toll Brothers that will bring a 151,500-square-foot Walmart to the intersection of Route 18 and Tices Lane.
The 24-acre site was previously home to Sam’s Club, the Route 18 Indoor Market and Jason’s Furniture, but has been vacant for several years.
Under the approved plan, the existing 236,809-square-foot structure will be demolished and replaced with the smaller, single tenant retail facility to be occupied by the discount department store. The retail construction will represent the second of three phases for the Golden Triangle redevelopment project. The first phase involved the township-funded construction of a $32 million, seven-story commuter parking garage, which opened in 2008 on the north side of the property, near Old Bridge Turnpike. The third phase, which will consist of up to 400 residential units located behind the Walmart and will also be developed by Toll Brothers, is still in the planning stage and was not included in the site plan approved last week.
In its application for the Walmart, Toll Brothers sought several variances regarding the number of parking spaces, shade trees and loading docks. Whereas a township ordinance requires 758 parking spaces for a facility the size of Walmart, the site plan called for 709. The applicant proposed 112 shade trees, though the ordinance required 142, and four loading docks to the required seven. The board granted all three variances. In spite of the lower number of shade trees, the site plan allocates 1.4 acres of green space on the property, with over 2,000 new vegetative plantings. In addition, at the suggestion of township Business Administrator James White, the applicant agreed to make a donation to East Brunswick’s shade tree fund in light of the granted variance.
Other highlights of the approved plan included parallel parking stalls for handicap spaces that allow for safer loading and unloading of wheelchair-equipped vans, a standard feature at Walmart stores, and energy efficient LED lighting fixtures in the parking area.
According to Daniel Condatore of MMA Architects in Neptune, who was retained byWal-Mart Stores Inc. for the building’s design, roughly 60 percent of the retail store will be devoted to general merchandise, with the remaining 40 percent being a grocery department.
Langan Engineering’s Karl Pehnke, who conducted the traffic studies for the project, testified that 40 percent of the new store’s traffic will come from Route 18; 30 percent from Tices Lane; and 30 percent from Old Bridge Turnpike. Though the new building will be considerably smaller than the old structures, traffic conditions are expected to remain relatively stable, he said.
“We’re really not going to see any major changes,” Pehnke said.
Aleft-turn lane from Tices Lane into the new facility has been included in the plan, and the western exit onto Tices will have both left- and right-turn lanes to ease entry and exit from the store. Several Planning Board members expressed concerns over traffic and safety issues at that entry point, but Pehnke said that only about one car would be exiting every two minutes from that point during peak hours.
Toll Brothers will pay the township a minimum of $550,000 per year based on a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program, included in the redevelopment plan.
Following the board’s approval of the site plan, the applicant’s attorney, Kelso, said they were looking ground on the project as soon He said the developer hopes the end of the year.
No members of the public commented during the sparsely attended April 18 hearing. The absence of comment stands in contrast to the debate that has surrounded the redevelopment project for nearly a decade, since the township resolved to sell the property. After a period of litigation between the township and Toll Brothers, the two sides reached a settlement last year that dropped the purchase price from $35 million to the $22.5 million that Toll Brothers had already paid .
Wal-Mart Stores operates a store on Route 9 in Old Bridge and has approval to build one at Route 18 and Marlboro Road in Old Bridge. Contact Adam Joseph Drici at firstname.lastname@example.org.