Nearly 18 years after its purchase, Brick Township no longer owns the former Foodtown property on Route 70.
Mayor John Ducey said the property’s two new owners, who will develop a sports dome and retail stores at the site, officially closed on the sale Tuesday afternoon at about 4:30 p.m. The property has been split in two – with one lot fronting Route 70 and one behind it – at a cost of $2.5 million each, for a total of $5 million. Local entrepreneur Peter Tasca is planning to build an indoor sports dome complex in the rear portion and developer Jack Morris will develop the front portion of the plot of land with a mix of retail space and room for a restaurant or food market.
Purchased for $6.1 million in 2003 to avoid the placement of a Home Depot there, the site has been one of the most polarizing issues in Brick for years, with chronic stagnation outlasting three mayors before Ducey canceled contracts and settled a lawsuit with Morris, who backed out of an agreement to build a hotel on the site and proposed multi-family housing in its place.
“It took four years and about three months” from the time the deal with Tasca and Morris was announced to receive state, county and local approvals, said Ducey. “It’s off our plate for now, and it was a lot of hard work the people at town hall.”
The township’s planning board approved the construction of the project in 2019, meaning work should begin sooner rather than later, though an exact construction start date is not yet determined.
According to planning documents outlined at the meeting where approval was granted, Tasca’s portion of the property will contain a “multi-building sports complex which includes indoor basketball and soccer, outdoor volleyball, a jogging path and outdoor turf area.” The M&M portion will contain three buildings consisting of one restaurant and two retail buildings.
Getting the property back on the township’s tax rolls has been a priority for Ducey, and represents a major accomplishment months before the two-term mayor will run for re-election. He has said on numerous occasions that the township should not have purchased the site to begin with, and developing the site with taxpayer dollars was not an option.
“The township should not be the in the real estate business and the property should never have been purchased,” Ducey said in the early days of his tenure in office. “It was not pristine land; it was a developed site. The potential costs for the township to develop this site or create a park would create a substantial burden for taxpayers, and that is not something I would do.”
The parcel of land was home to a Foodtown supermarket and Bradlee’s department store before being purchased by the township. At the time, the site was being considered for a community center of some sort – a plan which never materialized. The previous buildings on the site were demolished by Morris in 2009.