Lakewood Township’s iconic community center building on 4th Street is getting demolished to make way for an expansion of the Kikar Shabbos shopping center, and LNN has learned that plans for its replacement at John Patrick Park have been shelved.
Demolition work is underway at Lakewood Township’s iconic community center building on 4th Street. An application is pending before the planning board for approval to expand the adjacent shopping center onto the community center lot.
In February 2018, the Lakewood Development Corporation which owned the community center, struck a deal with the adjacent shopping center developer to do a real estate swap. The agreement was for the LDC to give the shopping center developers the land in front of Kikar Shabbos, including the community center, and the shopping center developer would construct and maintain a public parking lot at Monmouth Avenue and 4th Street. They would also need to build a replacement public community center in the John Patrick Park on Vine Street.
The Lakewood Development Corporation understood that an environmental permit known as CAFRA would be required before construction could begin on the community center. Included in the 2018 agreement is a clause that construction on the community center must be completed within one year of acquisition of the CAFRA permit by LDC.
The LDC then embarked on plans to obtain a CAFRA permit for the community center as well as to build a new playground nearby, and a bike path around the park.
In January 2019, after submitting an initial CAFRA application, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection notified the township that besides for a CAFRA which is required for the proposed community center and playground, a CAFRA was also required – and never applied for – for the entire John Patrick Park which was built over 10 years ago.
In the meantime, plans were drawn up for the new community center, and in May 2020, plans were presented to Lakewood Township’s planning board for the new community center.
The township submitted an application for the required CAFRA on Sept. 2, 2020 to legalize the existing park as well as for the proposed community center, bike path, and playground.
The next day, on September 3, Lakewood’s Township Committe adopted on final reading an ordinance to bond $21.5 Million to fund various capital improvements, including $2 Million for the cost of construction of a new building for the construction department employees currently working at the 212 4th Street location.
Later that month, DEP responded saying the township’s CAFRA application was deficient and required major work including traffic improvements and expensive drainage work in order to receive CAFRA approval.
Plans for the new construction departments building were recently presented to the planning board. At the planning board hearing, LNN learned that the township is not planning on bidding out the construction for the $2 million construction departments building. Rather, the township is shelving plans for the new community center and the shopping center developer will be awarded the job of building the new construction departments building instead.
Township officials have not explained how they can do this major construction project without bidding it out. They also have not explained if or how much money will be paid to the developer of the shopping center for the construction, in light of the agreement that they originally agreed to build a replacement community center for the residents at no cost as part of the swap deal for the 4th Street lot and building.
They also have not explained what they will do with the remaining $2 million of bond money originally earmarked for construction of the construction departments building.