2007-04-19 / Front Page

Planners OK first phase of Broadway Arts Center

Architect: Project aims to create a residential urban community
BY CHRISTINE VARNO Staff Writer

BY CHRISTINE VARNO
Staff Writer

Rendering of the Broadway Arts CenterRendering of the Broadway Arts Center LONG BRANCH - - Plans to redevelop the downtown Broadway sector as an arts and entertainment district were approved by the city Planning Board last week.

At a special meeting April 12, Planning Board members voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of the revitalization plan after almost four hours of testimony, granting preliminary site plan approval to developer Broadway Arts Center (BAC).

BAC is expected to appear before the board again within the next two months for final approval, according to the managing director of the project, Patience O'Connor.

"When we first started working on the planning aspect," O'Connor said, "we did not want to divide the city. It needs to be a walkable, working city.

"How do we make this a place where the community will come again and be a part of Broadway?" she asked. "[To make] it a year-round community."

Principals in BAC are members of the Katz and Siperstein families, owners of Siperstein's home decorating centers, and of the Pereira family, owners of Pax Construction, Long Branch.

The development will encompass the two-block downtown Broadway redevelopment zone, which extends from Second Avenue to Memorial Parkway and from Union Avenue to the north and Belmont Avenue to the south.

The entire project site is bisected by Broadway and is broken down into three phases, according to BAC attorney Steven Tripp, of Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer, Woodbridge.

BAC was seeking approval only for the first phase of the project, according to Tripp, who added that the subsequent phases will be submitted for approval before the board at a later date.

In designing the plans for the Broadway Center project, architect Roxanne Edwards, of G. Niles Bolton Associates, Atlanta, said she had several goals to meet.

Among those goals were to create a substantial retail main street, establish a connection between the city and the oceanfront and to develop a vital residential urban community.

"Every project is a site specific creation," Edwards testified at the meeting. "It is an intersection between the community section to the left and the ocean.

"This location, being this close to the ocean, it is the key, core place to do this kind of development."

Plans call for BAC to raze the properties in the 8.9-acre zone, with the exception of two theaters, and construct a mixed-use, residential/retail and arts entertainment project in the lower Broadway sector.

The theater buildings, which have been vacant for years, will remain intact and be renovated, according to Tripp.

The three-phase project calls for constructing 138,000 square feet of commercial space, 543 residential and live/work units, 41 office spaces and will provide parking for 1,700 vehicles, according to Eric Ballou of LGA Engineering, Long Branch.

Of the 543 residential units, 341 units are slated to be sold at market-rate prices, 100 units are to be affordable and 102 units will be marketed as live/work units.

The majority of the units will be for sale, but the plans do include rental units, O'Connor said.

According to O'Connor, the project will provide a minimum of 440 jobs.

The first phase of the project calls for the construction of commercial and retail areas as well as live/work units.

The retail space will line the streets at ground level, O'Connor explained, adding that a single floor of office space will be constructed over the retail with live/work units constructed over the offices.

This phase will contain 77,000 square feet of commercial space, 41 office spaces, 641 parking stall and 138 live/work units, according to Ballou.

The live/work units will make the zone "more of a 24-hour community and not one that empties at the end of the day," Edwards said.

The live/work units will act as a residential homes and office space for tenants, according to Edwards.

"We are aiming to attract artists, producers, software designers, choreographers," she said, adding, "They will have their businesses and their lives located in this block."

The benefit of incorporating live/work units into the project is to attract a tenant who would be spending an 18-hour day in the unit, Edwards said.

"When you look up and see light [in the live/work units] ... that is important," she said. "Having people coming out of the theaters and seeing activity and life on more than just one floor is important."

Plans for the project also include constructing iconic shaped buildings at the intersection of Broadway and Second Avenue to designate the area as an Arts and Entertainment district, according to O'Connor.

"We want it to be a community," O'Connor said. "It has to be an excellent program to attract and keep people here."

Upon final site plan approval, construction on the first phase is expected to begin at the end of the year and will require approximately 18 months to complete, according to O'Connor.

The second phase is expected to begin within three months of completion of the first phase, O'Connor said.

To date, BAC has acquired 42 of the 48 properties in the zone, according to O'Connor, who said of the six property owners who are not willing to sell, three have legal representation and are fighting the taking.

The remaining three property owners are currently in negotiations with the developers for the sale of their properties.

To date, the city has not used eminent domain to acquire any properties for the project, according to O'Connor, who said if property owners and BAC do not reach a settlement, the city could then move to condemn the properties.

The second phase of the project, which has not been before the board yet, includes construction of three parking decks with approximately 500 spaces.

The third phase calls for construction at the corners of the project, on Memorial Parkway and Liberty Street, at the west side of the redevelopment zone.

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