Stu­dent apart­ments planned at Park N Shop

Pro­posal also in­cludes drive-thru cof­fee shop

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

Res­i­dents will get the chance to weigh in on a de­vel­oper’s pro­posal to build an apart­ment build­ing and cof­fee shop in the Park N Shop plaza dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing next week.

The meet­ing will be­gin at 7 p.m. Wed­nes­day in coun­cil cham­bers.

DSM Com­mer­cial, the firm man­ag­ing the Park N Shop, wants to re­place the va­cant M&T Bank build­ing at the cor­ner of Ap­ple Road and South Main Street with a three-story mixed-use build­ing that has a driv­ethru cof­fee shop on the first floor and stu­dent apart­ments on the floors above.

“A cof­fee shop is an in­te­gral piece of what we’re

try­ing to do and our vision for the site, and the driv­ethru is a key com­po­nent of that,” said Mike Hoffman, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing DSM.

A group of 10 lim­ited li­a­bil­ity com­pa­nies bought the plaza in June 2014 and pro­moted a plan to re­vi­tal­ize the ag­ing shop­ping cen­ter. Façade ren­o­va­tions were com­pleted last year, and DSM has been work­ing to at­tract new ten­ants.

D.P. Dough, a fa­vorite of col­lege stu­dents be­fore it closed its Main Street lo­ca­tion three years ago, is slated to re­open in the Park N Shop this fall.

Un­til now, how­ever, DSM had re­mained mum about the fu­ture of the bank build­ing.

Be­fore the mixed-use project un­der­goes any for­mal reviews from the city, Hoffman said DSM wants to gauge how the res­i­dents feel. That’s why he helped or­ga­nize the pub­lic meet­ing on be­half of DSM and with the help of coun­cil mem­bers Jen Wal­lace and Chris Hamil­ton.

The Park N Shop plaza and M&T Bank site is in Wal­lace’s dis­trict, but Hamil­ton rep­re­sents ap­prox­i­mately half of the neigh- bor­ing res­i­dents, in­clud­ing those who live on Winslow, Sun­set and Bev­erly roads.

“Jen wanted us to get in­volved be­cause it’s right next to our houses,” Hamil­ton said. “It’ll di­rectly im­pact her peo­ple and my peo­ple.”

Hoffman said DSM will present ren­der­ings and pro­vide more de­tails about the project dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, in ad­di­tion to tak­ing ques­tions from the pub­lic. He said DSM of­fi­cials will be look­ing for feed­back and are ea­ger to hear what the com­mu­nity wants, but there are lim­i­ta­tions and chal­lenges when it comes down to what can fea­si­bly be built there.

“The whole point of the meet­ing is to have that con­ver­sa­tion, have that di­a­logue and make a de­ci­sion go­ing for­ward,” Hoffman said.

Hamil­ton said his con­stituents aren’t against re­de­vel­op­ment there, but they want to see some­thing that im­proves the area and cre­ates a more walk­a­ble com­mu­nity. If DSM de­cides to build hous­ing there, he said, sev­eral res­i­dents told him they would pre­fer 55-and-older hous­ing, rather than stu­dent apart­ments.

Some res­i­dents are also com­plain­ing about the pro­posed drive-thru cof­fee shop, cit­ing in­creased traf­fic and idling as ma­jor con­cerns. Hamil­ton said one of his con­stituents lives roughly 125 feet from the site and is wor­ried about the noise from the drive-thru speaker, es­pe­cially early in the morn­ing.

“I can tell you, you will hear ob­jec­tions for that,” he said.

Hamil­ton claims he has also heard from peo­ple who are threat­en­ing to boy­cott the Park N Shop if they don’t like what is built there.

“They want the shop­ping cen­ter to suc­ceed as well; they don’t want some­thing there that is go­ing to be empty. I think the neigh­bors are try­ing to be rea­son­able and they’re will­ing to work with the de­vel­oper, and we’re hop­ing the de­vel­oper is will­ing to work with the neigh­bors,” he said.

“This area is one of the most po­lit­i­cally-ac­tive in Ne­wark, as been ev­i­denced by the Wawa and ev­i­denced by the power plant, and every­body would like to see some­thing bet­ter in that shop­ping cen­ter,” Hamil­ton added.

The Park N Shop was first thrust into the spot­light in Fe­bru­ary 2013 when Wawa un­veiled plans to build a 4,999-square-foot store and 12 gas pumps in the shop­ping cen­ter. The plans called for the store to be built the site of the va­cant M&T Bank build­ing.

Con­cerned about traf­fic and light pol­lu­tion, many in the com­mu­nity formed a grass­roots cam­paign and signed pe­ti­tions to fight against the project. De­bate over the Wawa drove the con­ver­sa­tion in the city for sev­eral months and was a fac­tor in the res­ig­na­tion of Mayor Vance A Funk III.

At that time, the prop­erty was man­aged by Delle Donne & As­so­ciates, which later parted ways with the landowner. The plan for the Wawa never moved for­ward.

Hamil­ton be­lieves the process will be dif­fer­ent this time be­cause DSM is will­ing to work with the res­i­dents and make sure the project is a good fit. With the Wawa, he said, there was no flex­i­bil­ity.

He called next week’s meet­ing “the per­fect opportunity for a win-win sit­u­a­tion” and a model for how ev­ery de­vel­oper should ap­proach work­ing in the city.

“I’m hop­ing they’ll lis­ten and I hope it’s a two-way con­ver­sa­tion be­cause if turns out to be a one-way sales job, I think you’re go­ing to have a lot of dis­ap­pointed res­i­dents,” Hamil­ton said.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

The own­ers of the Park N Shop hope to re­place this for­mer bank with a three-story build­ing con­tain­ing a cof­fee shop and stu­dent apart­ments.

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