Application to develop restaurant, office space at 71 East Broad St. continues

ANDREW HARRISON/STAFF

The Hopewell Borough Planning Board completed the first part of the restarted public hearing for a commercial retail and restaurant project, re-purposing the former automobile service station building of Castoro & Company Inc.

The public hearing will continue on March 3, as representatives for the application continue their revised presentation for the renovation of the existing structure located at 71 East Broad St. The applicant is seeking preliminary and final site plan approval for the proposed project.

The proposed project at the intersection of Maple Street is before the board again after the original application’s public hearing had been delayed in 2020, due to issues regarding noticing. Board members heard testimony for the revised project plans on Feb. 3.

“We are technically starting this application over because there was a concern about the notice, plus there have been some changes. There have been a handful of changes to both the application and the building being proposed,” said attorney Gary Forshner of Law Offices of Gary Forshner, who is representing applicant 71 East Broad, LLC.

He added that they have eliminated three different variances from what we had originally proposed.

“We have eliminated the outdoor lighting for the seating. The only outdoor lighting is the typical building lighting shielded as appropriate, so we have eliminated that relief,” Forshner said. “Number two, we have eliminated any outdoor music, and last but not least we have minimized the size for each of the restaurants to 2,000 square feet.”

Originally, the project only proposed one restaurant. The proposed project would now construct space for two restaurants that would operate independently from one another and office space in the reuse of the former service building.

The restaurant spaces are set up for different owners, but it was indicated by representatives of the applicant that initially it is unknown whether there will be two separate owners for the restaurant spaces or one.

There would be a restaurant (2,000 square feet) on the first floor, restaurant (1,748 square feet) space on the second floor that would include a rooftop dining area, and second-floor office space (1,213 square feet), according to application documents.

“The new application shows the three separate uses and our ordinance really does not address how uses work together within a building. It is a little vague, so it basically provides two requirements in the same paragraph and subsection,” Board Planner Joanna Slagle said. “We restrict retail stores to 2,000 square feet and service stores to 1,000 square feet, but then goes on to say that no individual building housing housing any such uses shall exceed a total ground floor area of 12,000 square feet.”

The buildings total floor area is 9,742 square-feet and the project includes the removal of a portion of the rear of the building. The applicant is also adding back in the garage.

“What they have proposed here is three uses under 2,000 square feet, but there is also this common space that you would have in a strip mall or tenanted office building that is calculated separately. The board typically has not heard this that is why it is a little bit unusual,” Slagle added. “We typically have not done a lot of tenanted spaces in my time here.”

During the Feb. 3 public hearing, the board through a straw voted not to require a D-variance for the interior common space areas and that they would not be allocated to the individual uses for retail space, which is restricted in an ordinance to 2,000 square feet.

The first floor contains the enclosed parking garage, lobby, two-story atrium for the entire building, dining area, kitchen, common area and restrooms. The second floor would have the rooftop dining area, the second restaurant space, in office space above the parking garage, and building mechanical space.

The applicant still is requesting variance relief for an existing non-conforming condition for the front setback from Maple Street, size of parking spaces and parking setback.