Park N Shop plans revised
Drive-thru gone; student apartments remain
In response to concerns from the community, owners of the Park N Shop have eliminated a proposed drive-thru coffee shop from their plans to redevelop a portion of the South Main Street shopping center.
However, the gist of their proposal remains the same. The plan, submitted to the city last month, calls for demolishing the shuttered M&T Bank building and replacing it with a 10,600-square-foot, three-stor y building containing retail space on the first floor and 12 student apartments on the second and third floors. There would be eight four-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments for a total of 44 occupants.
Most of the existing, recently renovated retail space at the shopping center would remain, though plans call for demolishing the western-most portion of the building – which Park N Shop Liquors occupied before it moved elsewhere in the shopping center – to provide more parking and create an end-cap unit.
The project requires a comprehensive development plan amendment, rezoning, major subdivision, special-use permit and parking waiver.
A review by the planning commission has not been scheduled, but last week, representatives of DSM Commercial held an informal public meeting to talk about their project and attempt to win support from community members.
“There’s a shared vision for this site,” DSM attorney Mike Hoffman said, affirming the company’s desire to bring in commercial tenants that will benefit the surrounding residents.
The Oct. 4 meeting was the second DSM has held at the urging of councilmembers Jen Wallace and Chris Hamilton. At the first meeting in June, residents expressed several concerns, including that the proposed drive-thru would bring increased traffic and noise from the speaker.
DSM eliminated the drive-thru, causing the coffee shop tenant to pull out of the project.
“That particular tenant really only wanted to be the tenant if the drive-thru was there,” DSM Managing Partner Tripp Way said, without naming the company in question.
Both Way and Hoffman said they want to attract “community-type amenities” to the proposed retail space as well as the three existing vacancies. Such businesses could include a coffee shop, an ice-cream shop or a restaurant, they said.
Recently, the center welcomed two new student-centric businesses: D.P. Dough, a late-night calzone spot, and Good Uncle, a delivery-only food service that operates out of a building behind the main retail strip.
DSM would not disclose any other possible tenants.
“We’re approached very often by potential tenants, but we’ve been extremely selective,” Way said. “We don’t want to just fill it with any tenant.”
Despite the removal of the drivethru, many of the attendees at last week’s meeting still had some concerns, with several noting they don’t want more student apartments in the area. Others worried that if the entire property is rezoned, as DSM is requesting, the company could later replace the existing building with apartments as well, though a separate specialuse permit would be required.
“I know more money can be made putting students in, but we need to think about the community,” resident Jean White said, suggesting office space instead of apartments.
Way said he doesn’t believe that would be feasible.
“Office space in the city of Newark is not in huge demand at this point in time,” he said.
Robert Wittig, another DSM official, added that residential space is necessary to create a sense of place and argued that it fits the character of South Main Street, which in recent years has seen a number of new apartment buildings. He also hinted that eliminating the apartments would imperil DSM’s ability to continue with the project.
“It’s not about making more money, it’s about making this work,” Wittig said.
A proposed project at the Park N Shop would replace the vacant bank building with a three-story structure containing retail space and 12 student apartments.