Home Government Brick Foodtown Saga Continues: Community Center or Private Development?

Brick Foodtown Saga Continues: Community Center or Private Development?

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The former Foodtown site off Route 70 in Brick. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The former Foodtown site off Route 70 in Brick. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The former Foodtown property on Route 70 remains in litigation, though action on the dueling lawsuits between Brick Township and developer Jack Morris is expected in the coming months.

Brick terminated a redevelopment agreement with Morris’ company after, officials said, Morris failed to meet deadlines after years of waiting for a project to be formally proposed. When the company did propose a project, it was a residential condominium and mixed retail plan, which was rejected by the township council. Ever since, the future of the plot of land, which is still township-owned, has been the subject of a lawsuit filed by Morris and a countersuit filed by the township.

Discovery in the case ends June 30, after which a trial date would be set or one or both parties can move for summary judgment or negotiate a settlement. When the legal dust settles, Brick will likely find itself back to the drawing board, owning an undeveloped plot of land on a highway.

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“Maybe you can work something out with Jack Morris,” said Walter Campbell, a township resident who has pushed for the construction of a community center on the parcel for years. “Work something out, pay him off, do what you have to do.”

Dating back to 2007, there has been talk of constructing a community center that would include an aquatic center in addition to meeting space and other features. At one point, the township hired KBA Architecture, a Millville firm, which concluded such a plan would be “operationally solvent for many years to come.” A community center was discussed as a development option for the plot behind the township post office (now under construction as a mixed-use condominium and retail site), the Foodtown lot and – most controversially – the Ocean Ice Palace hockey rink, which the administration of former Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis had sought to purchase until residents drew up a ballot initiative to block the plan.

“Unfortunately, the political groups were at each others’ throats and it went by the wayside through a petition,” Campbell said. “We’ve been doing this for years, and there’s always something. Every group that comes in here puts a sign up, or something like that, and nothing ever materializes.”

“There is no place for people to meet as a community,” said Nan Coll, a regular at township council meetings who said a community center would be beneficial for residents of numerous age groups.

Campbell, at Tuesday night’s council meeting, lobbied for officials to consider a public-private partnership that would include therapy pools. Previously, he said, Meridian Health System was interested in building such a facility.

Ducey, however, has held strong against the township wading into business ventures and land purchases in light of the Foodtown debacle and the expenses associated with developing Traders Cove Marina and Park. He wants to see the plot of land eventually end up back on the tax rolls with a private owner.

“We’re looking at a number of different options, and we’ve reached out to a number of businesses,” said Ducey, who added a “privately owned” facility should open up for business at the site.

For his part, Ducey said he favors an indoor sports facility as a good match for the parcel. Such a business might resemble Goodsports in Wall Township, where teams play soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football and basketball in their facility year-round.

A publicly-run community center – even beyond the initial cost of construction – could turn out to be very expensive to operate, Ducey said.

“In Woodbridge, they have this awesome community center, but they have 300 employees there,” the mayor said. “And Woodbridge is smaller than us in terms of residents.”

Another group in town, Friends of Forge Pond, have argued that whatever development plan is decided upon for the site, open space should be a part of it. Ducey said he is not interested in spending taxpayer money to buy additional land surrounding Forge Pond or developing a new park in town.

“We already have so much open space, more than Toms River, Lakewood and Wall together,” he said.

Which Plan Do You Favor for the Foodtown Site?

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  • Mike Simone

    get Golden Corral or Wegman’s or Cabela’s

  • Kimberleely

    Hopefully we will not get any more housing there. Why not a compromise leave some of it for open space and some of it for business if possible. It would be a shame to develop the area near the water.

    • KaayC

      Now there ya go being the voice of reason.

  • Frank Rizzo

    More of this to come as Amazon shutters stores through out the country and property management companies look to use once existing malls for high density housing….Brick should obtain any and all properties than can get..,tear them down…restore nature and clean up the blight….otherwise they will be used to build more sawmill condos

    • KaayC

      C’mon Frank, the displaced populations of Lakewood need somewhere to live now that Brooklyn took them over!

      • Kimberleely

        Touché

  • Smokin

    Foodtown lot has been a nightmare for too long…Mayor in charge now hasn’t resolved the problem..

    • KaayC

      This issue is barely worth addressing because it is all legal horses-hit for years now. I love these polls that pretend anyone cares what people want. This is at least the third such poll we have read over the years. If past track record holds true, the property will become some fast food fatso palace for the Walmartians to waddle into in their best size 3x Hanes sweatpants. The town lip services about road improvements, school improvements and does little to nothing. It’s all smoke and mirrors. A community center could only manage to serve as another conduit for politically nepotistic jobs.
      Get back to basics- Fix the schools, repair the damn roads and leave recreation to children’s natural tendency to play. These kids need a water park? They have an ocean! You want a get together center, Nan Coll may I respectfully suggest Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or one of the parks largely populated by Lakewood residents (not Brick residents who are too busy working to bankroll it)? Have a party at your house; just please stay out of our pockets. Again, all a waste of breath and I am fairly confident in five years another poll will appear as the town slaps another coat of paint on lockers as an ostensible school improvement and patches, rather than repaves another thirty- five year old road.

    • KaayC

      And the Foodtown circular won’t stop littering my mailbox!

  • Brett Middaugh

    Brick’s main problem is that it has no town center. It is essentially an intersection of Route 70, 88 and Brick Blvd. This makes getting around this area without a car essentially impossible. Short trips to by a gallon of milk that could be done by walking or bike or done by car adding to congestion that is only increasing due to more condos-apartment being built. Inversely the domination of online retail like Amazon.com has crushed many small retailers and is even giving large ones like target and walmart issues. Which then gives us the suburban blight of many retail locations just sitting abandoned. Although it would be a great idea to have a park-community center at the forge pond location the stark reality is that access to it would be hugely limited due to its location. Pedestrians would have to cross a busy highway, unless a bridge was built and there is not budget for that. You also have to create funding to build something there. A source must be acquired. This is possible but you would need an activist group wholly vested in taking charge of the area to make it a reality.
    Although there are “parks all over town”, they are not easily accessible by walking to them. Our town has a massive shortage of usable sidewalks and the ones that exist are either skinny or overrun with vegetation as to be impassable. The only existing bike paths in town go essentially no where and the one by Drum Point Rd is in need of massive repair. Though this post may seem like I am just “bitching about the situation”, I’m just stating the facts about our town’s current condition. Have people looked into getting grand funding or federal funding for local parks and improvement projects? This may make some township enhancements easier as we all know that homeowners in the town are already struggling with incredibly high property tax bills.

  • KaayC

    : )

  • KaayC

    Yah agreed Brett, Brick Plaza was a town center of sorts until the big fugly orange box auto supply was plopped into it. Other towns forced them ( I think it is AutoZone) to build in keeping with the existing character of the surrounding businesses, but oh no, not Brick. All they saw was the ratables and the town’s people have to suffer with that blight. Then they shifted the megolith monster boxes to Route 70. What a nightmare! What a drunken sailor approach to town planning!