Event center contemplated for double hotel site in North Brunswick

NORTH BRUNSWICK – With proper approval, an event center could be built between the Staybridge Suites and Holiday Inn Express and Suites on Route 1 in North Brunswick.

Experts testifying on behalf of Koyal Realty LLC came before the North Brunswick Planning Board on Feb. 11 to discuss a building that would sit between the two properties at 2195 and 2095 Route 1, respectively.

Attorney James Stahl said this is technically a new application, but in actuality is the second or third revision of an existing plan. He said a 12,000-square-foot facility accommodating 400 patrons at a catering and meeting facility has been downsized to a 9,868-square-foot facility with maximum occupancy of 250 guests and 30 catering employees.

“This is going to be used for business meetings, conferences, life cycle events … political events, a soccer club, could be any number of events,” he said.

“We designed this around the visitor experience, the guest experience … the primary customer we designed around is the millennial … who is the next kind of person who is going to book this type of facility or participate in a conference next door,” Suchita Shah said.

As proposed, a full kitchen and storage will be in the basement; the atrium and colonnade hall will be two stories high; two “green rooms” will be pre-party areas on the first and second floors for the guest(s) of honor to prepare; the second floor will house the manager’s office; a rooftop terrace will be open during nice weather for pre-party events or a cocktail hour; and a garden area will be located in the back.

Rita Courville, the general manager of the hotels, said extended stay hotels accommodate guests for seven to 30 days, usually. Such hotels typically cater to business traffic, with Sunday through Thursday nights being the busiest, with a lapse on the weekends.

Courville and Stahl said there will be no permanent staff, as a company will be contracted out. They said the company would bus in their employees, as there would be no employee parking allowed on site. The catering company will accommodate any dietary restrictions. They would also be responsible for an offsite liquor license.

Stahl said hours of operation would be “unlimited” since guests could come and go, but not 24/7.

The Holiday Inn contains 93 rooms while the Staybridge has 84 rooms, Courville said.

There was a concern about an increase in weekend occupancy, especially during Rutgers University football games during the fall. Courville said currently, the average weekend occupancy is about 50 percent, and she can block out rooms should they be needed for a special occasion.

Courville also noted that not everyone attending an event in the conference center would be staying overnight, allowing for more available hotel space.

Professional engineer William Lane said there are 124 parking spaces proposed on site, or 128 if the four electric vehicle charging stations required by township ordinance are doubled up. The requirement is 147.

Lane said that during the first weekend of February, he counted 25 cars on Friday night and 20 cars on Saturday night in the parking lot of the Staybridge; and 20 cars on Friday night and 48 cars on Saturday night at the Holiday Inn.

“It never seems to be that full of a lot, especially on the weekends,” Lane said.

“On Friday and Saturday evenings we see a consistent parking demand of 20-27 vehicles at the Staybridge,” professional engineer John Rea added, citing parking details accumulated in April 2017 and April 2018, taken from 6-9 p.m. every half hour on Fridays and Saturdays.

Board members said they want to ensure parking will not flow into the neighboring business’ lot.

“The balance of the parking supply in the Staybridge Suites will be adequate to handle even a maximum capacity event at the event center on a typical weekend a Friday or a Saturday, I have come to that conclusion,” Rea said.

There is no current plan for valet parking, though Rea said it can be considered.

There was also discussion on the entrance and exit to the property and between sites. Lane said there would be a one-way driveway out to Elizabeth Street; those leaving the event center would turn to the side entrance by the Holiday Inn.

“We can’t have a line of cars from the intersection trying to turn into a singular driveway [because] they can’t find places to park, especially with some of the bottleneck issues that occur,” said Ralph Andrews, a township councilman who is the liaison to the planning board.

Board Chairman Richard Zangara noted no parking is allowed on Elizabeth Street. Township planner Tom Vigna said the front driveway is only 35 feet from the intersection of Route 1. It was noted that a gate from the event center to the Holiday Inn could be opened if need be.

Stahl said Koyal Realty is seeking four variances for parking, a retaining wall, lot width and a height variance for the elevator.

Additional clarifications and testimony are expected. The plan was not voted on Feb. 11. The planning board will announce the next meeting date.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.