The contract owner of the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance yard on Route 202/206 in Bedminster presented his plan Thursday, which includes a supermarket and a hotel, for redeveloping the site across from that township's entrance to The Hills Community.
The plan that was outlined before the township’s Land Use Board meeting has a long way before becoming a reality.
Carl Freedman, of FC Development which is partnering with ARC Properties on the Bedminster Village plan, presented plans for a 50,000-square-foot supermarket, a 120-room, four-story hotel, two restaurants a drug store, a bank and other retail businesses in separate structures on the approximately 10-acre site along the highway across from Hills Drive.
The development would have a little less than 200,000 square feet of commercial space with about 600 parking spaces. The exact numbers would depend whether the existing jughandle from the highway to Hills Drive is used as one of two entrances or if a direct entrance from the highway at a roundabout with Hills Drive is used.
“We’re looking at a first-class development here,” Freedman told the board.
Although a developer has not been chosen, Freedman has a contract to acquire the property from the state DOT as part of a swap for land along Route 22 in Readington. The DOT has said the Bedminster property can no longer meet its needs.
Since Freedman proposed the mix of uses for the site, the proposal has drawn fire from residents of The Hills and other parts of Bedminster Township. More than 50 residents attended Thursday’s meeting moved to Bedminster School to accommodate the attendance.
Paul Henderson, former chairman of the Bedminster Planning Board, said Freedman’s proposal was “very unimaginative” and like a Disney theme park interpretation “of what a Colonial village should look like.”
“I just don’t see Washington marching his army through there,” Henderson said.
The Land Use Board now is in the process of drafting a redevelopment plan for the site. Once the plan is approved, then a developer will be chosen. At that point a site plan will be submitted for approval and, then if it is approved, construction may begin.
Board attorney Thomas Collins said that although FC Development has not been formally chosen as the redeveloper, the likelihood of another firm being chosen is “near zero” because of the contract with the DOT.
Bedminster Township officials have designated the property for redevelopment because of environmental problems associated with seven underground storage tanks, which have been removed.
“If we don’t do anything, the environmental problems will get worse,” Freedman said.
The visioning process for the redevelopment began in 2009. No schedule has been determined for the project.
Comments from others on the plans
Freedman’s proposal also prompted some skepticism from board members.
Board member Lawrence Jacobs suggested that the township should consider commissioning a market analysis to determine if Bedminster can support two supermarkets. Currently the township has two supermarkets; Kings in the Hills Village Shopping Center and A&P at the intersection of Washington Valley Road and Route 202-206. However, A&P is expected to close once its lease expires.
Freedman said he was “shocked” to discover from his own study that “a large portion of people in Bedminster leave Bedminster to do their shopping.” He said that Kings doesn’t have “a lot of choices” and that its prices are “astronomical.”
“A little competition is a good thing,” Freedman said. “There is no question that Bedminster can handle two supermarkets.”
The Kings is located across the highway from the proposed Bedminster Village.
Board chairman Lance Boxer said he was “not sure” that Bedminster needs a hotel and said he was worried about the effect Bedminster Village would have on existing businesses in the township.
Freedman said the hotel would not be a “Super 8 or Red Roof Inn” and would cater mostly to area corporations. Most of the hotel’s business would be done from Monday to Thursday, he said, adding that the closest hotels are “miles away.”
John Montoro, Bedminster Village’s architect, said the development would be “a unique project” and “not a standard shopping center.”
Montoro said the project’s appearance would be “not alien to the community” and serve as a “gateway” to Pluckemin. He said the project’s”mix” of styles and materials, with each building designed individually, would create “visual eye candy.”
The architect emphasized the project would be pedestrian-friendly with promenades along the highway and leading to the supermarket. Freedman also proposed a pedestrian bridge over the highway that would link Bedminster Village with The Hills.
Gary Dean, the project’s traffic engineer, said the traffic impact from Bedminster Village could be mitigated with a number of measures, including changes to the intersection of Washington Valley Road, Burnt Mills Road and Route 202-206, designing a new ramp from northbound Route 287 that would allow left turns at a traffic light to northbound Route 202-206 and installing a coordinated traffic signal system on the highway.
This could all affect traffic heading into Bridgewater.
“The single biggest issue is the traffic,” Freedman said.