Neptune officials have terminated the contract with the sole designated redeveloper for the township’s blighted West Lake Avenue section and will seek multiple developers to move the project forward.
CityWorks, a Trenton-based nonprofit development corporation, was designated by Neptune officials to oversee the West Lake Avenue project. The contract was awarded in 2005 and called for redevelopment of the street with mixed-use retail, commercial outlets, and residential units from the Asbury Park border to Route 35.
“They have not completed the redevelopment in the set timeframe so we have terminated their contract. We have been having significant difficulty with CityWorks and have been overly-kind about extending their timeframe,” Committeeman Randy Bishop said.
The only building developed under the project is a commercial office building, which is occupied, at the corner of West Lake Avenue and Route 35.
The intent of the overall project was to redevelop a once-busy commercial area that has become blighted over the years.
Committeeman Michael Brantley said at this week’s Township Committee workshop that he wants the governing body to “be creative” in moving the redevelopment project forward.
“Hopefully it works better than the last time. We need to decide how to move forward and see what kind of things people want to see. We need to do it sooner rather than later. We need to the Planning Board look at the site plan and see how it will affect us moving forward,” he said.
Township Attorney Gene Anthony said any development must not be violation of the original redevelopment plan.
“It has to be developed according to the plan. The original plans never started,” he said.
He added that appraisals would have be done to determine the value of the properties scheduled for development.
Governing body members suggested they offer projects to various developers that would redevelop block sections at a time. The township already owns most of two blocks on West Lake Avenue.
“We can divide the plan up among multiple developers and each can get their own site plan approvals. It makes sense to break it into block and lot parcels,” Bishop said.
Anthony said developing by lots is quicker but that the look may not be as coordinated as having multiple blocks rehabilitated by one developer.
And Bishop agreed.
“If we do it by lot we may get a hodgepodge and we want some unity,” he said.
Bishop said that the Township Committee should review the matter at its next meeting and then issue requests for proposals so the project could move forward a soon as possible.
The township does have the right to impose eminent domain to move the project forward. It is the only redevelopment project in the township in which eminent domain can be used.
“It’s the only place in the township that in not exempt from eminent domain. We can still use it if we have to,” Bishop said.
CityWorks joined with the locally-based Midtown Urban Renaissance Corporation (MURC) on the redevelopment project. MURC is a non-profit community development corporation made up of community residents, local officials, business owners, religious and civic leaders, and other stakeholders.