EATONTOWN – April 16 is the date when the testimony on the proposed redevelopment of the Monmouth Mall is expected to be heard by the Eatontown Planning Board.
Eatontown Monmouth Mall LLC, a joint effort between Kushner Companies and Rouse Properties, is seeking municipal approval to remodel, renovate and repurpose the Monmouth Mall for commercial and retail use.
The proposed redesign includes the construction of 700 residential rental apartments, to be called The Heights at Monmouth, according to the Planning Board.
Testimony on the application got underway at the board’s April 2 meeting when representatives of the developer began presenting their plans for the mall that is located at Route 35 and Route 36. Residents who were in attendance heard the developer’s vision for the mall and had a chance to make their initial comments on the application.
Attorney Edward Liston, who represents four members of the community who are objecting to the proposed site plan, argued that the board lacks jurisdiction to hear the application because it requires variances.
Attorney Patrick McNamara, representing the applicant, described a “national crisis” that he said is affecting the retail industry. McNamara said the hope behind the plan to renovate the mall is to “survive and thrive during the age of Amazon.”
“We want to make Monmouth Mall what is should be – a thriving, viable center,” said Eric Dinenberg, the executive vice president of development and operations for Rouse Properties. “The headlines speak for themselves. If we don’t act now … with new solutions for new problems … Monmouth Mall will continue down a path to meet the fate of so many shopping centers around this country.”
Community members who eventually spoke did not express significant concern about the proposed redesign of the commercial aspects of the property, but did take issue and expressed apprehensiveness with the proposed residential component of the application.
Addressing the proposed Heights of Monmouth rental apartments, resident Sarah Breslow said, “We’ve heard a lot about the selling points regarding what is best for Eatontown, but you have not actually asked any of the residents in town what they think of this plan. Do you have intentions to do so? Who have you involved from the community when formulating these plans? What groups have you spoken to?”
“Now, I’ll ask the question, what groups have you spoken to?” said resident Therese Pactwa. “We agree with the whole mall thing, it’s the apartments in our backyard we are concerned about. There are fire issues, evacuation routes, snow and so many other things we are worried about. You are not considering us.”
Board members said the issues raised by the residents will be addressed as the hearing on the application proceeds.