By Dan Kaplan
The organization likely to redevelop a nearly four-block stretch of West Lake Avenue [in Neptune] is hopeful no properties will be taken by eminent domain to make way for the project, its executive director said Monday night.
Trenton-based nonprofit CityWorks' Executive Director Tom Clark said at the Township Committee meeting that he is confident his organization can negotiate with the approximately 15 affected properties — including three homes — to avoid eminent domain, by which government acquires private property for public use.
"Businesses that are currently viable, we absolutely want to remain there," Clark said, citing two taxi companies, a barber shop and a restaurant as merchants he hopes to include in the $20 million to $25 million project.
The plan, Clark said, is to offer business owners the option of relocating their businesses as tenants. Or, he said, the businesses can use the money they make selling their buildings to purchase a piece of the project.
A resolution naming CityWorks to serve as the project's redeveloper was listed on Monday night's agenda but was not voted on before press time.
Tentative plans call for the construction of a minimum 30,000-square-foot medical and government office building at West Lake Avenue and Route 35, Clark said before the meeting. And 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of retail and commercial space — with 40 residential units above — would be constructed to the east, he said.
Bessie Wade, a nearly 50-year resident of West Lake Avenue, said she supports the plan, as long as it will cater to township and Asbury Park residents.
"I think it's good if they are going to develop it in the right manner," Wade, 78, said as she left the meeting. "Maybe it'll bring in other people to see what's going on in (the) Midtown (section)."
The project would reinvigorate an area with many vacant storefronts that was devastated by the Asbury Park riots 35 years ago, Clark said.
"We know that the community still exits," he said. "And we know that the community needs to be served."
"This is not gentrification," he added before the meeting. "This is economic development. This is not a Starbucks project."
Mayor Thomas J. Catley said that for the committee to endorse the project, in the works for more than five years, members need to know that jobs and business opportunities will "flow to the community itself."
That's the idea, Clark said, adding that the project will provide tax relief for all residents.
Asbury Park Press: www.app.com