By DON STINE
Redevelopment of the North End section in historic Ocean Grove will proceed under a revised developer’s agreement – but an exact timeline for the project has not yet been announced.
Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop, who was mayor during the initial hearing to adopt the 2008 plan, said at Monday’s workshop that recent meetings were held with the main principles of the redevelopment project.
“It was very hard and there were very frank discussions. Everyone at the table gave up things to make the plan better,” he said.
“No plan will give everyone exactly what they want but this plan takes into consideration many of the concerns that have been expressed by all parties, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Grove Homeowners’ Association. It has significantly less impact than the original plan but still allows for development of the site,” he said.
The North End area, which once boasted a pool, a large hotel, and retail establishments on the boardwalk and along Wesley Lake, has been abandoned for decades.
Although a plan was put together to develop the site in 2008, changing market conditions and the impact from Superstorm Sandy delayed implementation of the plan, Bishop said.
“Consequently, everybody has taken a serious look at what is feasible, manageable and marketable at the site,” he said.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association will no longer be a co-developer in the project but will still own the land, like it does in all of Ocean Grove. Wesley Atlantic Village Enterprises (WAVE) will now be the sole developer. William Gannon of Ocean Grove is the attorney for WAVE and one of the principles.
Gannon said it was the desire of the Netpune Township’s Redevelopment Entity to reduce the density based on input from residents.
“Which we have done. This new plan offered up is a drastic reduction across the board and everybody gave up something- there were three groups compromising,” he said.
The OGCMA gave up income from potential leases; WAVE gave up density and, thus, potential sales; and the township gave up potential tax revenue.
Gannon said that he would like to get the revised project before the Planning Board within the next several months. He said the proposal includes the historic elements of the old hotel and retail on the boardwalk.
“Ultimately, I think this is going to be a great project for the town and hopefully we can get something done after 35 years of having vacant lots there. It’s been too long,” he said.
J.P. Gradone, executive director for the OGCMA, agrees that the association also had to give up potential income from leases.
“But I think this is a great plan that takes in the concerns and needs all parties. It does a good job and allows the association to steer our resources in the right way. So, we feel good about it and excited to have back a hotel was there many, many years ago,” he said.
The revised project has 20 units per acre, while the average in Ocean Grove is 24.2 units per acre.
“This plan calls for less density than what exists in Ocean Grove today,” Bishop said.
The original redevelopment plan allowed for 78 multi-family units (condos), with 39 now proposed under the revised plan. Originally the plan called for seven homes and now 10 are included.
The revised plan calls for 20 surface parking spaces and another 139 underground parking spaces, which more than satisfies the parking requirement.
The original North End Hotel had 255 rooms. The original redevelopment plan called for building a new hotel with 80 rooms and that number has now been reduced to 40. Retail business spaces along the boardwalk has been reduced from 15,000 to 12,000 square feet.
“The density is now more massed along Wesley Lake and not into Ocean Grove, allowing for more open space,” Bishop said.
Bishop said all of WAVE’s principles and financials will have to be given before it is declared the sole redeveloper and that a timeline for the project will probably be announced once this happens.
“I think the timeline for the project will start then and we can move the plan forward,” he said.
Flaired setbacks on the streets will be put in place like occur on many, but not all, streets in Ocean Grove.
The project must still obtain approval from the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Committee.
“This is the time to move, indeed,” said Committeeman Michael Brantley. “This is a great start and we have a lot more talking to do,” he said.