In what representatives for a developer pitched as a mixed-use project that would breathe new life into Drum Point Road and serve as an example of how the corridor might be developed in the years to come, a proposal for a multi-unit apartment complex mixed with retail got its first hearing before the township’s zoning board Wednesday night – though the plans changed before the hearing even began.
Property owners Joanne Marie and Jim LaConti, represented by attorney John Jackson, presented a proposal for a sprawling complex with high-end architecture, a grand facade wrapping around the entire building and stunning landscaping. The proposal called for the construction of two buildings at 305 and 307 Drum Point Road, as well as a corner parcel on Sky Manor Boulevard. Before the hearing occurred, however, Jackson and his team of professionals held an informal consultation with township officials, and agreed to modify their application to condense the uses of the two buildings into one single, larger building.
While several mixed-use properties have been proposed in the township’s new Village Zone along Drum Point Road, Jackson held out the LaConti project as a “flagship” that he believes will be influential in the redevelopment of the Drum Point Road corridor and, perhaps, the Village Zone districts along Mantoloking and Herbertsville roads as well. The three busy roads were rezoned several years ago to accommodate mixed-use development, which reflected existing stock and was aimed at spurring revitalization.
“They’ve proposed a beautiful upgrade for this intersection on Drum Point Road,” said Jackson. “To say it’s been a mess for many years – a site that is not exactly the pride of Brick Township – is an understatement.”
The parcels of land, all of which have frontage on Drum Point Road near Sky Manor Boulevard and across the street from the Pioneer Hose Fire Company, are in indisputably poor condition. While some debris has been removed in recent months – the property was purchased in August 2022 – deteriorating buildings, rusted fencing and dirt surfaces dominate the properties. LaConti is seeking to redevelop all three lots with a mixed-use complex that will feature eight three-bedroom apartments, six retail units and garage bays that would support businesses in the construction trades.
The apartments, which would average about 1,300 square feet in area, would be constructed above the first-floor retail spaces. The project includes both stairways and elevators for residents, who would have private entrances to their units as well as private balconies. The building was designed by notable local architect Dan Governale, whose firm has designed many of the highest-value homes and businesses on the barrier island and mainland that arose in the post-Sandy era.
“We believe this project will be sort of a flagship of development on Drum Point Road,” said Jackson. “We’ve designed something that is very upscale.”
Despite the fanfare, some neighboring residents are expected to object to the proposal. A few who spoke to Shorebeat at the hearing said they were concerned with overdevelopment.
The project, as originally proposed, consisted of an anchor building with 7,946 square feet of retail space, topped by six apartment measuring 1,324 square feet each. A second building, housing the garage bays, would have been located in the rear. That building was to measure 4,000 square feet in area, divided between four 1,000 square-foot units. The presence of the second building, however, generated the need for numerous variances for impervious lot coverage and parking specifications – representing all of the bulk variances the developer requested. After consultation, Jackson said his client would update the application to eliminate the rear building and expand the main building with the garage bays and two additional residential units. One of the units will be designated “affordable” under the state’s Mount Laurel doctrine. The project will include 59 parking spaces.
“Architecturally, the theme of the rooflines, the dormers, the materials and the overall interest of the facade is going to remain, and we will thoughtfully expand the building to accommodate the slightly larger size,” Governale testified. “The Village Zone has some clear architectural goals – generally consisting of buildings that you would see on ‘Main Street.’ In the Village Zone, the township is trying to push for more character.”
The zone mainly includes smaller parcels rather than the 1.59-acre site that is the subject of the LaConti plan. Normally, just two residential units are allowed in the zone, however Governale said his clients’ parcel was ripe for an exception.
“It’s about seven to eight times the contemplated lot size, so naturally, putting two apartments on this type of lot would be rather small,” he said. “When considering what this lot could be developed as if it were further subdivided – it could have been divided into six pieces of property with a 12 unit potential.”
Renderings, some of which are included with this article, showed meticulous landscaping, a facade representing a fusion of classic and modern styles with black-and-white accents, and an overall building style reminiscent of projects such as Hotel LBI and other recent high-end coastal construction.
“The building is centrally-located on the site – there’s plenty of light and air available to the structure – and it fits very nicely on the corner as well,” Governale explained. “We feel the variety of landscaping and building will work together.”
Jeffrey Carr, the project’s planner, testified that the complex would turn a haphazardly-developed parcel with mud and gravel surfaces to a centrally-located anchor property for the business district.
“This will be a major upgrade, and it will probably be the best looking building on Drum Point Road,” Carr said. “I think it really meets the zone’s intent of getting the residential and commercial together. It fits well.”
The hearing, complete with testimony that will reflect the updated site plan, will continue in March. Jackson told board members he planned on sending a second notice to neighboring residents, updating them on the changes to the application.
“This is a very important case and a very important application,” said Board Chairman David Chadwick.
The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex at the board’s March 15 meeting.