Where should an outpatient facility for veterans go in Ocean County? Toms River officials hope the answer could be off Hooper and Caudina avenues.
Currently, the Brick Veterans Administration outpatient clinic off Route 70 is often severely overcrowded and parking is virtually non-existent. The VA wants to build a new 80,000 square foot clinic in the vicinity, whether Brick, Toms River or Wall Township, the federal government said.
Toms River has thrown its hat into the ring, and will ask its township planning board whether several parcels, undeveloped land and paper streets would be a good fit for a VA facility and even a new location for the post office.
Brick Mayor John Ducey has said he wants to keep the facility in Brick, albeit at a new location. Brick proposed to the federal government two potential locations for a new clinic: the triangular piece of land at the corner of Route 88, Jack Martin Boulevard and Burrsville Road – where a condominium and retail project is currently proposed – and a vacant lot of Cedar Bridge Avenue.
The 24-acre Toms River plot that sits between Hooper, Caudina and the back entrance to the Seacourt Pavilion shopping center was carved out for its proximity to other county services just south on Hooper Avenue, but also because it could accommodate the parking demand that overwhelms the current site in Brick, said Toms River Councilman Mo Hill.
Toms River Township Council quickly acted on a resolution at its July meeting that will seek planning board endorsement for several parcels that currently exist as small lots, undeveloped land and paper streets. Hill suggested the resolution be added to the agenda, so that the Planning Board could make a recommendation ahead of a site visit federal officials were planning later this month, Hill said.
The area the council wants the planning board to issue a recommendation on includes portions of Caudina, Hooper, Salerno, Sarno, Reggio, Cipriano and Castlebuono avenues, some of which only exist as paper streets, Hill said.
Another step in the process would be declaring it as an area in need of redevelopment, which would allow for the condemnation and possible purchase for the government buildings.
According to the interest solicitation request by the federal General Services Administration, the VA is looking to rent 81,000 square feet of space at a new location in either Brick, Toms River or Wall townships to use for a new outpatient clinic. According to the document, the space could be an existing building or a sufficient plot of land available where a new structure could be built. A requirement is that there be at least 480 parking spaces.
If a building is leased, the term would be for a minimum of 20 years. The project’s budget would range from $50 million to $100 million, but it has faced numerous delays over the course of several years.
In March, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3) penned a letter to then-VA Secretary David Shulkin asking for the project to be expedited.
“As the Brick Clinic stands today, it does not provide full services to our veterans and does not provide adequate parking which has caused many veterans to park far from the clinic,” he wrote. “This is burdensome and difficult and our veterans deserve better.”
Hill said though the site could be seen as a place for a new post office for Toms River, after twice flooding during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
Recently, a plan to revamp the entire downtown riverfront area to make the post office a more flood-resistant building that would include multi-use, multiple stories there was passed by the township council.
However, Nick Zorojew, the director of the downtown improvement district, told Shorebeat a plan to move the post office out of downtown would serve both the post office and the overall redevelopment of that neighborhood.
“They do need a new facility, based on the issues being in a floodplain,” Zorojew said. While the post office does bring people to the downtown area, its absence could mean another amenity could go there, he said. “We could see something there in that block that could draw even more people — something that would be a destination for people to live, with riverviews, would be a game changer and it is what the redevelopment plan calls for.”
For the downtown redevelopment plan documents, visit http://tomsrivertownship.com/index.php/downtown-redevelopment
For the planning board meeting schedule, visit http://tomsrivertownship.com/index.php/meetings-and-events/category/197-planning-board