Student apartments planned at Park N Shop
Proposal also includes drive-thru coffee shop
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.
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.