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14 FEBRUARY 2020
 East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen addressed the crowd gathered at the town’s municipal
complex, many of whom were longtime residents who could recall Route 18’s heyday as a commercial corridor lined with bustling big-box stores and strip malls.
For parts of the highway, those days are long gone.
“Many of us here today actually remember back to the 1970s and the ’80s and
the ’90s, when Loehmann’s Plaza and the Gap and the old Wiz plaza were really areas that were a rich
Brad Cohen and vibrant commercial-
type of community,” Cohen said during a Feb. 4 news conference.
“You couldn’t find parking spots in most of those areas because all of those stores were busy.
“That’s changed. That was over two decades ago and, unfortunately, most of our children don’t have those memories.”
As the first-term mayor noted,
“the changing nature of retail” has exacted a toll on suburban shopping corridors such as Route 18. So he and other stakeholders could hardly be blamed for their optimism late last year, when the township signed a developer’s agreement to raze
and repurpose 44 acres of blighted property at the northern end of the highway.
That optimism is now fueling a partnership between the municipality and River Development Equities LLC, the designated redeveloper for the site, an alliance that has emerged at the earliest stages of the project.
Township officials joined members of the project team recently to offer their vision for the estimated $500 million project, which calls for a dynamic, mixed-use destination with residential, commercial and hotel components, along with a mass transit hub and a network of trails and park space.
“I feel like what you’re about to see unfold and the thought we’ve given to it is
significant,” said
need and getting out of the way and letting it take place.
“It’s those that we’re listening to that really are going to make this unique.”
River Development, which is
based in Red Bank, is now focused on acquiring the parcels within
the redevelopment zone, which
sits on the southbound side of Route 18 between Ruth Street and Lake Avenue, largely comprising underused or abandoned retail structures. Waters said the first phase of the project spans four main properties, adding that he expects to have two of them under contract by early spring as he continues negotiations with the other owners.
“Guys usually come to the table when you’re reasonable,” Waters said. “And that’s exactly what we intend to do. For phase one, it’s very important that we get it going and that we don’t mess around and we
East Brunswick, River Development eye transformation of aging Route 18 retail corridor
By Joshua Burd
 Warren Waters,
a principal and
partner of River
“So it’s not
about guys like
me with gray
hair running
around wanting to redevelop because the opportunity is there, but really about listening to the next generation, understanding what they
 Warren Waters
  River Development Equities LLC has proposed a conceptual master plan for a 44-acre redevelopment area along Route 18 in East Brunswick, which aims to replace and revitalize a collection of blighted retail buildings between Ruth Street and Lake Avenue. The project team includes Melillo + Bauer Associates and Shore Point Architecture PA.
Courtesy: River Development Equities LLC

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