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).”