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Golden Triangle: Here's What You Said

Patch readers had their chance last month to tell us what they wanted to see in the Golden Triangle Property.

Readers of the East Brunswick Patch aren’t shy.

When we asked readers to tell us what they wanted to see in the Golden Triangle property, the answers ranged from high-end grocery stores to small, “unique” shops not normally found in the area. The consensus, it seems, is to try and shy away from the traditional chain stores that already populate much of Route 18 and the surrounding area.

“An alternative grocery store: Wegman's, Trader Joes or Whole Foods,” said a poster named Christine. “Not having one of these is a major downside for our town. Most comparable towns in New Jersey similar in size and with similar demographics have at least one.”

Another poster, “Stacy” said she agreed. But she also was clear about what she didn’t want.

“I agree with Christine. I would love to see a Trader Joes. I would also love a vegetarian restaurant or a kosher restaurant. I'll tell you what we don't need—a hair dresser, nail salon, pizza parlor and a Chinese restaurant!”

Regular Patch user and blogger Liti Haramati pointed out that Trader Joes has said East Brunswick is the wrong demographic for the grocery store chain. However, she suggested getting involved in bringing a Whole Foods to the area.

“Keep dreaming: Trader Joes. Last time we tried to bring them to EB they said we are the wrong demographic... Whole Foods—you can suggest a new location through their web site, maybe if enough people fill it out they will at least explore the possibility. Here is the link: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/service.php?subject=12#viaemail."

According to an agreement between the township and Toll Brothers in September, Toll Brothers is allowed to build up to 220,000 square feet of commercial retail space on the site—with no one store being larger than 180,000 square feet—and 200 to 400 housing units. Under the agreement, no more than 10 percent of those units can be three bedroom apartments. Mayor David Stahl has said he expects Toll Brothers to build close to the maximum number of units allowed.

During a presentation in August, Toll Brothers presented a concept drawing of it’s basic proposal, which included a 155,000-square-foot building located in the same area as current structures on the land, and a 400 unit apartment complex behind that, at the corner of Tices Land and Old Bridge Turnpike. Entrances for the Transportation Center would remain on Old Bridge Turnpike and Tices Lane, and a new one would be built from Route 18.

The agreement brought an end to years of litigation with Toll Brothers regarding the property—which is bordered by Route 18, Tices Lane and the Old Bridge Turnpike and was formerly home to Sam’s Club,

Where most people are thinking that retail should go in, Theresa Lam proposed a unique idea: Make the area more appealing by incorporating a park and “green space” and then encourage artisan retailers to come.

“It would be great to see a green park, with trees, tall grass, and incorporate some native plants. Maybe even a permaculture display. We need more green space, less black top and concrete. A spot that's relaxing, that will to draw us to the area and make us want to stay. Make it nice and we will come and spend our money,” she said. “We certainly do not need another drugstore or bank. Make it affordable so that small businesses can afford to open some shops. Artisans! We don't have an real artisan baker in town. It would be great to have a covered outdoor market like this, http://gretnafarmersmarket.com/ or this http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Shopping/Paris_markets.shtml and this http://www.vineyardfarmersmarket.com/.

“Why not? Make it a place people want to come to. A place to buy locally raised eggs, meat, cheese, produce, locally prepared jams and preserved foods. A huge movement to buy local is what's happening. Small steps...it could be big one day.

“Communities all around us are catching up on the reasons to buy local; its good for a healthy economy, population, and environment. It's time for us to get in on the buy local movement and the Golden Triangle is a great place to start,” she continued. Lam’s idea harkens back to the original proposal for the site, an idea that poster John P. supports.

“I thought the original plan was pretty good. A cluster of upscale shops and restaurants, along with housing units. East Brunswick already has the chain restaurants, but I would like to see more unique places here. Similar to George Street in New Brunswick, or even the Shoppes at North Brunswick,” said John P.

One poster, Rob, said he’s tired of seeing the same old retail chains moving in. He also said he’s surprised that the township even needs more retail space, considering how many vacant shops and strip malls there already are along Route 18.

“We have a lot of empty retail all up and down 18. Some of those plazas, like the former Toys R Us/Soccer Stadium area and now the "Golden Triangle" seem to have more empty space than full,” said Rob. “I don't know business and demographics along with retail size necessities, but I find it strange that with so many empty retail spaces resembling a ghost town, that we need more. But hey, if the town wants tax money and some developer thinks they can make millions, what the heck? After all, I'm sure the minimal three bedroom apartments they're putting in along with all of the two bedroom apartments won't add too many more students to stuff into the schools. Because if that happened, all of the tax benefits for the town to renovate and build up the schools would kind of just be counterproductive financially. I'm sure that there will be successful businesses and not enough families moving into the housing to make it worth it though.”

On Patch’s Facebook page, poster’s expressed frustration at the project in general.

“I want land owned by the town and leased for a profit without any idiotic and infuriating deals with land developers...,” said Bill Scanlon.

Catherine Vekony, a 20 year resident, said she too would like to see one of the high-end grocery stores move in. She also said the complex has become an eye sore and that the sooner something is done with the area, the better.

“I only wish that they would build something there already, due to the sad eyesore and ghost town that they have left there while the litigation is going on. As someone who lives directly across the street, I want to see some action already! And I would like that area to be filled with some taxpayers already also, so maybe OUR tax burden can be reduced (speaking as a 20 year resident).”

Sharon Schork February 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM
I would like to see something put in the Golden Triangle. More housing is really not an answer. Since the schools are overcrowded now. We could use some stores but not the high end stores like The Shoppes at North Brunswick. At this time the economy still is not stable enough to warrant high end stores. Only someone with money can afford to shop them. I would like to see a Super Walmart like they renovated in Freehold. I have been to some of them in Florida and the Grocery section is great and more affordable for the middle class and lower class.
Ralph Wiggums February 17, 2012 at 03:44 AM
No Walmart, Please! There was already a Sam's Club in there and they packed up and headed to Edison to settle in across the street from BJ's and down the street from Costco. There's a Walmart on Rt. 1, Edison, and Piscataway. They all seem to attract the lowest life forms possible. Don't want the extra traffic on Rt. 18 and I don't need the extra cars to be the same type of people that show up at the other Walmarts. Anything but a Walmart. Sorry Sharon, it's not personal. I have been to them and bought some things at a discount there, but only if it's a last resort and then I feel the need to shower when I get home.
Madzi February 19, 2012 at 11:46 AM
LOVE to see a Whole Foods there or even a Farmer's Market for us locavores. I think a well-organized FM would be extremely successful, especially if local restaurants get on board. Could be a win/win situation for all!
Jack Murray February 19, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I hate to break it to your readers, but Whole Foods is anything BUT "alternative". Their entire business model is patterned exactly on Walmart's. They move in to places that can already support locally owned natural food stores and cooperatives, offer lower prices until they put the local business OUT of business, and then raise prices, and you pay more. It's fine and understandable that you may want to shop there if you feel they offer products you don't have access to, but please don't think they are 'alternative' in any way. They are just another greedy national corporation.
Dano February 20, 2012 at 04:10 AM
I agree with Kelly. I refuse to shop at the un-American Walmart. They should change their name to "We Outsourced Everything to China, Destroying the American Dream In the Process". I think a Wegman's would be nice in the triangle. How about a NICE Mexican restaurant - not a Taco Bell or Baja Fresh. Something that isn't a chain.
John Romano February 20, 2012 at 03:05 PM
"...I feel the need to shower when I get home (from Walmart)." - Rob ....so glad I'm not the only one that feels that way.
John Romano February 20, 2012 at 03:55 PM
....in the case of Whole Foods...the word "alternative"...should simply be replaced with "ridiculously expensive". And, based on the sky-high rents that Rte 18 landlords feel are warranted (probably due to ridiculously high taxes)....I highly doubt that a "mom & pop" type farmers market could be financially sustainable. Sorry to crush the dreams of those who envision some form of organically grown produce utopia springing up there.
John Romano February 20, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Given the fragile state-of-existence for most of the Rte. 18 merchants...this town would be completely irresponsible to allow a big-box "category-killer" into the "Golden Triangle Money Pit" site. Then again..given the track record of decisions that have gotten us this far with that property...who knows? That land is a complete embarrassment. It reeked of back-room deal brokering carried out by well-seasoned incompetents. How someone can sell a property...with a provision to, "buy it back...with INTEREST....if things don't work out"...is the most asinine thing I've every seen. I WANT THAT DEAL when I buy my next car!! "Hey Mr Car Dealer...I bought this car from you 5 years ago...and now gas prices are too high for me to really think I made a proper choice at that time. So I want my $40K back..plus 8% interest"! After all the expensive legal fees, the developer got a $30.4 million tract of land for $22.5 million. To top it off, the developer will now shove some big-box store down the town's throat...whether they (WE) like it or not. And..the town is in NO position to argue with the developer...not after the legal battle that was just lost. Get ready folks...open wide and say "'aaah"...the throat shoving is about to start, because the mayor's office is "not at liberty" to say who's likely to move in there. They're not at liberty to tell you who will move into the space...and affect your quality of life in numerous ways.
Madzi February 20, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Who said anything about a "mom & pop" farmer's market? I'm not thinking that small. Have you ever visited the farmer's markets in Atlanta, GA or Charleston, SC? So much more than just local farmers dumping their excess produce... Permit me my dreams, John R, before the nightmares of yet another nail salon, pizzaria or Chinese fast food joint come strolling in.
John Romano February 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
.....okay...no mom & pop. How 'bout brother, sister, aunt & uncle, second cousin thrice removed...market? I'm well aware of large "destination" market-places such as Pike's Place in Seattle....Reading Terminal in Philadelphia......and smaller "inner city" markets such as Sweet Auburn in the Five Points section of Atlanta. If that's what you're envisioning......they can just taken over the existing buildings....and start up the Route 18 Flea Market again...because that's what you'll get. It'll be a minimal collection of local farmers....and a 90% collection of schlock merchandise peddlers. The rents that will be charged will result in higher than average merchandise (produce) prices....and stores like ShopRite will always be able to under-sell them. If you want to pay inflated prices on food/produce because it makes you feel "special"....there's always shopping in Colt's Neck. And...who said anything about nail salons and Chinese restaurants? There's plenty of retail space vacancies on Rte 18 already if they want to fill in there. If there is to be an "up-scale" development there...then it needs the draw of some sit-down restaurants....with availability of liquor. There isn't a decent restaurant on Rte 18. There isn't one legitimate steak-house. This town needs to open it's eyes to what makes for a viable destination shopping district.
Theresa Lam February 23, 2012 at 04:23 AM
I envisioned a market similar to what you would find here: http://www.friendsebec.com/wintermarket.htm
Theresa Lam February 23, 2012 at 05:22 AM
I imagine though, that since a Wal-Mart is going up, the chance of a farmers market is nil. They are be opposing forces. http://www.prisonplanet.com/monsantos-bt-gmo-corn-to-be-sold-at-wal-mart-infowars-nightly-news.html There are better places in town to hold a farmers market. Real farmers markets that sell real food are good because industrial agriculture is not sustainable: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/impacts_industrial_agriculture/costs-and-benefits-of.html Everyday, more people are choosing to buy locally produced food over foods produced by big ag which is sold in the supermarkets. If the high cost of farmers market products is a concern, keep in mind if you buy what is in season locally, you will find a bargain. Buy a lot of what's in season and then preserve it by freezing, canning or pickling. Those who consume more fresher, healthier organic products may rack up fewer health related costs. I would like to have the choice of locally raised grassfed beef, cheeses, produce, local wines and beer, but I don't want to find them next to a Wal-Mart. A good restaurant is an excellent idea. Or a local bakery that sells fresh artisan bread, but I don't have too much hope for this either, they probably won't want to be located in this area. We'll probably end up with P.F Changs, a big buffet, or some other ubiquitous chain.
Kelly February 23, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Where is this Walmart rumor coming from? Do you have reason to believe our Mayor or council would actually support something like this?
Madzi February 24, 2012 at 02:13 AM
See the latest Sentinel for an article about a winter farmer's market coming to The Community Arts Center on March 10...http://eb.gmnews.com/news/2012-02-23/Front_Page/Inaugural_Winter_Market_a_buy_local_opportunity.html And as far as no good restaurants on 18, I beg to differ. Bluewater Seafood Company is quite good and our go-to restaurant when we want quality seafood. I agree about a good chophouse on 18, though. Hasn't been one in years. It seems they simply don't do well...at least on 18 South. I sincerely hope we're not in for yet another Walmart.
Theresa Lam February 24, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Here's a link to the market info: http://www.localharvest.org/east-brunswick-winter-farmers-market-M50534
Madzi February 25, 2012 at 10:42 AM
Thank you for the link for market, Theresa. I mentioned it at work and was pleased ...and a bit surprised...to find that several of my co-workers were interested in going, so we're going as a group.
Theresa Lam February 25, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Madzi, you may also be interested in Dr. Heckmans presentation this coming Monday, http://ebgreenbookclub.blogspot.com/2012/01/february-27th-2012-meeting-dr-joseph.html
John Romano February 25, 2012 at 06:47 PM
....as good as Bluewatert may be...I'm sure that there are others out there, like myself, who don't care to have to B.Y.O.B. as part of a dining experience. Additionally, Bluewater's prices...are WAY over the limit for a B.Y.O.B. establishment. Perhaps if they had a good assortment of competition on Rte 18...they'd come back into the real world with their prices. Of course...for competition...it first needs to be desirable to have a restaurant on Rte 18.
John February 26, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Is GSA Application Services owned by James Dale Sprecher? Was he arrested at least four times for falsifying official records, fraud, money laundering and RICO? Was he sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison for some or all of the above? Was he sentenced to pay more than three million dollars restitution to his fraud victims? Or is GSA Application Services owned by his son, Phillip Louis Sprecher? Was the younger Sprecher arrested at least eight times in the past ten years, for multiple heroin and marijuana charges? Was he labeled a ‘habitual offender’ in 1996? If PharmaSource partners with criminals, what does that say about PharmaSource’s ethics and judgment?
John Romano April 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM
......well....I'm pretty sure that we know where they stand now....don't we.

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