Eatontown Residents have continued to voice their objections about the residential component of a proposed plan to redevelop the Monmouth Mall.
The second hearing regarding the redevelopment plan took place on April 16 before the Planning Board at the Eatontown municipal building.
A third hearing on the matter has been scheduled for May 7.
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, according to the Planning Board.
On April 16, lead architect Edward R. Bradford presented the design layout for The Heights of Monmouth, an aspect of the plan that calls for the construction of almost 700 apartments at the mall’s property at the intersection of Route 35 and Route 36.
Bradford said the developer is proposing the construction of three five-story buildings, containing 340 one-bedroom, 340 two-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom apartments.
Bradford referred to the project as a “mixed-use” building, with a design that proposes the construction of connected apartment buildings and a multi-level garage providing 1,681 parking spots.
The apartment complex would include a public square, an outdoor swimming pool and what Bradford described as a “generous” amount of landscaping that will account for 3 acres.
“We have created a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that proposes a diverse mix of housing, retail offices and public spaces that complement and integrate with the mall … our client wants to be a good corporate neighbor,” Bradford said.
In a subsequent interview, attorney Patrick McNamara, who represents the applicant, said all of the apartments would be marketed as rental units. He said 88 apartments (a combination of various sizes) would be designated as affordable housing and rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines. The remaining units would be rented at the market rate.
For the second consecutive meeting, community members who spoke did not express significant concern about the proposed redesign of the commercial aspects of the mall property, but they continued to take issue with the residential component of the application.
Addressing the apartments, residents expressed concern about what they called the absence of storage space in the units; the length of time trees that are planted as a buffer will take to grow before they block the apartment buildings from neighbors; potential fire hazards; an increase in the number of vehicles leaving and entering the property; noise violations; and possible environmental issues.
“I think we should change the name from The Heights to The Connolly Projects!” one resident shouted in reference to Mayor Dennis Connolly.
Resident Sarah Breslow said, “If there is a fire, you have about 1,500 people trying to get out of this one building. How do you do that?”
In response to Breslow, Bradford said there would be exits from the three apartment buildings and that all of the residents would not be attempting to exit from one location.
Breslow said the apartment complex plans do not show the use of solar energy panels or provide outlets at which an electric vehicle could be charged and she questioned why that was the case. Her comment was not answered directly.
Another resident said, “Most of your concern is on building 700 apartments and not on revitalizing the mall. So the main goal is to shove 700 apartments in and just make the mall a little fancy to appease the residents.”
Residents specifically took issue with the visual aspect of the apartment buildings and said to them, the proposed apartment complex resembles “a prison.”
Therese Pactwa asked, “As residents, what are we going to see when we look at the back of the building? What will I see? Where’s the fire lane? Where are the garbage trucks going to go through?”
Board members said the issues raised by the residents will be addressed as the hearing on the application proceeds.