2013-01-17 / Front Page
Holmdel digs into Lucent development plans
Somerset’s new conceptual plans outline housing, lack details on building
HOLMDEL — In a special closed-session meeting last week, the Holmdel Township Committee met with legal counsel to discuss its pending redevelopment agreement with Somerset Development for the Alcatel-Lucent property.
Without divulging specifics of the meeting, Township Attorney Duane Davison said its purpose was to review the document submitted by Somerset, which sets milestones, deadlines, penalties and other requirements for the development of the 472-acre property.
“There has to be a lot of sitting back and thinking, playing out possible scenarios, to make sure the end product is exactly what was expected,” Davison said.
“There’s obviously a lot of interest in this property and, from a financial standpoint, as soon as we can get it back on the tax rolls, the better. But we don’t want to sacrifice our goals and expectations for the property by being too hasty.”
Davison said the committee members were addressing some concerns for the property and revising the agreement to include them before meeting again with Somerset’s engineers and planners to hammer out the finer details.
While the specific concerns being included in the agreement are for now not public record, Mayor Patrick Impreveduto explained some of his own personal concerns in a Jan. 14 interview.
“What I want to see there is obviously the building being retrofitted as a town center, with offices, a recreation facility for our kids, those sorts of things,” he said, referring to the 2-million-square-foot former Bell Labs headquarters building, which has stood vacant on the Crawford’s Corner Road property since 2006.
“I want the vista to remain the same, so that when the townspeople drive down Crawford’s Corner Road they wouldn’t see anything except the building. I wouldn’t want to see anything too intrusive, anything that would have a negative impact on that view.”
He said the most recently proposed set of conceptual plans for the site, which Somerset submitted to the township earlier this month, are similar to previous proposals the developer and the committee had discussed more than a year ago.
Those plans, currently on file with the Township Clerk’s Office, propose two differing layouts for the development’s 185 age-restricted townhouses and 40 singlefamily homes.
Both sets of plans include space for a sports complex and data center or fitness facility.
Even though the plans call for more than 200 new housing units, Impreveduto said they are an improvement over some of the previously submitted proposals for the site, including one Somerset had submitted in 2009.
“That plan had 468 townhouses in there. So we’ve obviously come down significantly from there in our negotiations.”
Aside from the residential layouts, however, the conceptual plans don’t offer much in the way of specifics regarding the repurposing of the building, an aspect of the redevelopment that would be particularly beneficial to the township and its tax-paying residents.
“Quite honestly, they were not exactly what we were looking for,” Impreveduto said. “I was kind of disappointed.”
“But the devil is in the details,” he added, “and that’s where the redevelopment agreement comes in.”
One of the concerns he said is shared among the committee is a desire to have the building at least partially occupied before the homes are built.
After the township released an updated redevelopment plan for the site last May, Township Planner Jennifer Beahm said Holmdel would not issue certificates of occupancy for residential development on the site until 20 percent of the building was under contract by tenants.
In October, when Somerset agreed to purchase the property from Alcatel-Lucent, President Ralph Zucker told the Independent he was already engaged in discussions with potential tenants and several had expressed an interest in moving into the building.
Tom Michnewicz, vice president of development for Somerset, said in a Jan. 11 interview that plans are in the works for health and wellness, hospitality, retail, and general office space at the site, with the possible addition of a satellite campus for an area school.
“The plan is pretty much what we have been working on with Holmdel for some time now,” he said.
Last year’s redevelopment plan for the property also included the requirement that “all residential dwelling units shall connect to the public water system and sanitary sewer service,” meaning that the 225 new homes would be hooked up to the township’s existing sewer lines.
When asked if the proposed development would necessitate installing new sewer lines or adding infrastructure, Impreveduto said no.
“The property there is sewered and it is going to remain sewered,” he said. “We have a wastewater management plan and we are going to adhere to it.”
In both sets of conceptual plans, the 185 age-restricted homes are arranged in 60 clusters of two, three or four units, split into two large, separated tracts near Crawford’s Corner Road. A grass and landscaping buffer separates the units from the road.
The only difference in the two conceptual plans is the layout of the 40 single-family units, which sit closer to Roberts Road.
In one set of plans, the more than 1-acre lots are arranged side-by-side in an almost rectangular fashion and take up less vertical space. In the other plans, the lots are arranged in a semi-circular pattern, and take up more space. In both plans, the single-family homes are available in five styles and have between 3,385 to 4,432 square feet of living space. The age-restricted homes, available in four styles, range from 2,791 to 3,494 square feet.
After the redevelopment agreement is approved and enacted, Holmdel would have to designate Somerset as the official redeveloper of the site. Then Somerset would submit an official site plan to the township planning board.
Sometime prior to that, Impreveduto said, the public would have an opportunity to see the plans and provide comment.
“We’re waiting to see an actual visual from Somerset that includes the berms, housing, the building — a true conceptual plan where the townspeople and committee can get a true idea of what it’s going to look like upon completion.”
Davison said defining the township’s needs and concerns now is vital to ensuring the property turns out exactly as expected.
“We need to have a total list of what our expectations are so that, as we proceed down this road, the governing body or those in township, don’t end up saying, ‘This isn’t what I thought was going to happen.’ ”