Movement to redevelop four downtown sites in Metuchen on the horizon


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METUCHEN – Movement to redevelop and rehab four locations in the downtown area are on the horizon, bringing in residential units and potential for live and work spaces.

The four sites include 410 Main St., the former What’s the Scoop location; 429 Main St., the former Metuchen Savings Bank; 67 Pearl St., the former Sherwin-Williams store; and 581-587 Middlesex Ave., which was home to a camera shop in the 1980s and the home and law office of Daniel Lebar, who passed away in 2018.

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Jay Muldoon, borough’s director of special projects, and Jim Constantine, principal at LRK, presented the sites at a Borough Council meeting on Nov. 23.

“All sites have done preliminary site reviews with LRK [architect, design and planning firm],” Muldoon said. “They will continue with the site review process and we received commitment [from developers] they will comply with affordable housing requirements.”

Muldoon said it is remarkable that with the global pandemic and economic crisis gripping the country, Metuchen continues to attract private investments in the downtown area, which will add to the well over $150 million that has already been invested in the downtown.

“When you see the downtown now, even though we’re struggling, it’s still vibrant with restaurants and stores open,” he said. “I believe to a large degree that’s been enabled with people living in our downtown. If we didn’t have that, I can’t imagine what Main Street would look like now.”

Constantine said Metuchen officials made a lot of the right planning moves coming out of the great recession a decade ago.

“[Officials] thought big and did not sit here in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and think the world was ending,” he said. “All the redevelopment we see – the Hub, Whole Foods, Greenway Village, Woodmont, the parking garage, Town Square – were conceived during that period.”

Constantine said in the 2016 masterplan, officials tried to think of an evolving downtown strategy to coordinate an economic base and infill.

“The MDA [Metuchen Downtown Alliance] came out of these evolved efforts,” he said. “We also focused to promote downtown reinvestment leveraging public, private investment with the Metuchen Plaza and garage.”

Since MDA’s inception in 2016, Metuchen has seen more than 100 business starts, more than $100 million of investment, and added 387 apartments downtown, according to the MDA.

The district area, which consists of only commercial businesses and/or commercial businesses with residential units, includes the Metuchen SportsPlex on Durham Avenue down Middlesex Avenue with the new development to Main Street and Amboy Avenue.

410 Main Street

The site of 410 Main St. sits next to one of the two tallest Main Street buildings at 48 feet tall, the former Metuchen National Bank. Across the street is the tallest building, Robbins Hall, which stands at 50 feet tall.

The proposal for the mixed-use building is 15 residential housing units including affordable housing units and a setback into a second-, third- and fourth-story building onto Station Place similar to buildings next to it. A terra space is proposed above the former What’s the Scoop façade on Main Street.

Constantine said one of the tools that came out of the 2016 masterplan and a Metuchen parking study is the use of payment in lieu of parking. Residents who live at the site would use the Station Place site for parking. The parking space would be included in rental fees.

429 Main Street

The site of 429 Main St. is at the corner of Main and New streets and includes three buildings glommed together over time and sits on an irregular lot. It is the site of the former Metuchen Savings Bank.

“The site was a given a neo colonialization at some point in the 1970s,” Constantine said, adding the corner is not a great corner for how significant the corner should be in the heart of downtown Metuchen. “We want a corner that wraps the corner, engages the corner and makes a statement.”

A classic Main Street building is proposed for the new Manasquan Bank branch building. It will be screened by a brick wall, which will close the ingress and egress driveway on New Street. A drive thru is also proposed.

67 Pearl Street

The site at 67 Pearl St. includes three one-story storefronts including the former Sherwin-Williams store. The site currently has a slightly deeper setback, no street lamps, landscape or shade trees.

What is proposed is a similar scale of what is across the street at the Seemore Appliance Center. Twenty years ago, two stories of Victorian Bay apartments were built on top of the service business.

Constantine said the residential units will bring in tax ratables to the site, which are currently struggling with the one-story commercial tenants.

581-587 Middlesex Ave.

The current site at the corner of Middlesex Avenue and Center Street is a vacant lot.

Constantine said the forethought 30 years ago was not to allow a retail use for the area because there was no street parking. If retail was allowed as a permitted use, the area would have been left with a strip mall at some point, he said.

“It left us with what do we do with the site,” he said.

A three-story building is proposed with 20 units of living and work space on the ground floor and parking on site.

Constantine said a site like the proposed site has been waiting for dynamics in the neighborhood to change.

“A couple decades ago the area was harsh where you would not want to walk,” he said.

Fast forward to 2020, the highway is a livable town center avenue with a pocket park, Costello-Runyon Funeral Home and the Franklin Square community across the street.

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