New ‘Lifestyle Center’ Plan for Fort Monmouth Advances – The Two River Times

A rendering released last week by Lennar Monmouth Developers depicts the basic components of the 73-acre multiuse redevelopment planned for a large portion of Fort Monmouth along Route 35 in Eatontown. Route 35 is shown on the left border, above. Photo courtesy of Lennar Monmouth Developers.

By Laura D.C. Kolnoski

FORT MONMOUTH – An agreement has been reached with developer Lennar regarding one of Fort Monmouth’s largest and most significant redevelopment goals, a lifestyle town center blending retail, residential, entertainment, restaurants, a vibrant pedestrian environment and more in the Eatontown section of the former U.S. Army base. 

Known as “Parcel B,” the 73-acre site just inside the red brick Johnson Gates on Route 35 will be transformed into 302 housing units with 61 designated as affordable and approximately 243,800 square feet of retail space including a mix of medium and small storefronts, pad sites and a multipurpose trail, according to the purchase, sale and redevelopment agreement reached between the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), and U.S. Home Corporation (doing business as) Lennar Monmouth Developers. 

Lennar is the second developer to attempt the project. Paramount Realty Services Inc. entered into a similar agreement with FMERA for the same parcel in 2016, making the announcement at a celebratory event where large colorful renderings depicted fountains, a movie theater, public spaces and more, along with shops and housing. Paramount withdrew its proposal in February 2018 with fluctuations and uncertainty in the retail sector cited among the reasons. As the second highest bidder, Lennar was entitled to enter into negotiations with FMERA on its proposal. 

The Lennar announcement was made with little fanfare at a regular monthly FMERA meeting Feb 19. A rendering supplied to The Two River Times by Lennar depicts a green central mall area flanked by condominiums, townhomes, 62 single-family residential lots, and four three-story buildings designated for affordable housing. Two adjacent sections are marked “Memorial Park” and three stormwater retention basins are shown. The largest buildings include one labeled 48,500 square feet, another at 28,500 square feet, and three two-story structures each designated at 30,000 square feet. Some 950 parking spaces are planned. A name for the community had not been selected by press time, according to Robert Calabro, Lennar’s regional director of land.

“Lennar looks for opportunities where communities can be built with today’s lifestyle in mind,” Calabro said. “Retail and entertainment aspects, coupled with our home designs, are highly desirable in today’s real estate model. The attractive location on the former Fort Monmouth is ideal with the walkability, conveniences and close proximity to beaches, Monmouth Park racetrack and major roadways. Our intention is to promote walkability with trails, parks and a vibrant and healthy lifestyle for our homeowners. ”

Regarding retail tenants, Calabro said, “There is nothing finalized at this time, but several high end retail stores have expressed interest.” FMERA documents specify national, regional and local specialty stores and a “live, work, play” community with landscaping, improved streetscapes and connectivity between the retail and residential components. 

Lennar will pay $18.5 million for the property with the overall development cost projected at $125 million. Lennar’s demolition of 1 million square feet of existing structures should commence within 30 days after closing. 

“Parcel B is one of the most important developments we have. It’s Eatontown’s town center, right on Route 35,” said Robert Lucky, FMERA interim chairman. “We’ve been working with Lennar for over a year. Retail has been very difficult lately.” 

“Lennar is a highly respected professional operation and we enjoy working with them,” said Bruce Steadman, FMERA executive director. “They drive a hard bargain, but they say what they do and they do what they say.” 

Lennar’s first Fort Monmouth project, another mixed-use redevelopment across from the Tinton Falls municipal complex, is known as Patriot’s Square: 125 three-story townhomes and 60 two-story townhomes surrounding a community park and playground with 58,000 square feet of commercial space. On a nearby 15-acre site, Lennar is nearing completion of 45 single-family detached homes, called Anthem Place. Phase One, which went on the market in April 2019, sold 38 single family homes in nine months above original listed prices, Calabro said, adding the final phase will open in late March or early April.

“There has been tremendous response to this community,” Calabro said. “Savvy homebuyers have gotten in early and we have been able to increase pricing, ultimately increasing the home values faster than anticipated. Final home prices are coming in around $650,000.”

With construction in the early stages, the first phase of Patriot’s Square’s two and three-story townhomes is sold out. The next phase should be released for sale this spring. Current pricing ranges from $354,000 to $494,000. Lennar anticipates the first closings there will occur this summer. Calabro said several parties have been “engaged” for the retail aspect. Those details are anticipated by late summer. 

The article originally appeared in the February 27- March 4, 2020 print edition of The Two River Times.

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