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Planners Question Proposal to Split Hooper Ave. Retail Space

Decision on subdividing former Coconuts store into multiple retail spaces put on hold

A proposal to split a Hooper Avenue building — once home to a video store — into multiple retail spaces was met with resistance by Planning Board members, leading the applicant to reconsider the plan until next meeting. 

The applicant, Toms River Equities, needs a use variance to divide the former home of Coconuts Music and Movies at 1258 Hooper Ave. into at least three spaces, two of which would house a Jersey Mike's Subs and a Chipotle Mexican Grill. But board members had concerns Monday evening that the plan may turn what was meant to be a single business site across from the Ocean County Mall into a strip mall.

"I just don't see this building working divided into two or three units, or five units," said board Chairman Bill Suchodolski. "It would be nice if it could be divided in half, though I can't tell you to do that."

Applicant planner Brett Skapinetz contended that the space had adequate parking and would not resemble a strip mall. Further, finding one retailer to occupy the space, which has been vacant for about two years, would be more difficult than attracting several smaller businesses.

"There are fewer tenants than there used to be in that mid-size range," Skapinetz said. "If it's multi-tenant, it doesn't become a strip center. It's the same building that's already there. All of the characteristics of the neighborhood stay the same."

Suchodolski compared Hooper Avenue to other busier areas around both Toms River and the state and said that allowing for the multiple divisions could lead to more congestion on the roadway and the beginning of a change to feel of the area.

"Hooper Avenue is pretty darn nice," he said. "Subdividing a building like this is going to lead to [a change]."

With two restaurants in the space drawing constant traffic, board member Maria Maruca said that she is concerned parking could become a problem for any other businesses that may move in. 

But parking is up to code, the applicant's engineer said, and it may be possible to move a landscaping island to the rear of the building, making room for about 3-4 spaces. Township Planner Jay Lynch said that plan, however, may conflict with the entrance to the building. 

Board member David Ciccozzi said that he may be agreeable to dividing the building into two spaces.

"I might be persuaded if you could do that," he said. "But no more."

When it appeared as though the application as is would not win the board's approval, the applicant asked for a continuance to the next meeting on Dec. 19 so that they can consider other options. The request was granted by the board.

Cosma December 06, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Way too many useless strip centers in this town. How about one decent restaurant to go to other than all the unhealthy fast food dives around town. Use one of the many strip centers that are presently vacant in the town.There are plenty of them. The illustrious planning board should seek out decent road planners. They created a traffic disaster at the corner of Oak and Hooper Ave. I know, why don't they build a nice tatoo palor there ....lol.
mjmjr December 06, 2012 at 01:56 PM
IF YOU HAVE THE PARKING THEY SHOULD BE ALLOW TO DO IT,NOTHING CHANGE FROM THE SAME FOOTPRINT OF THE BUILDING.THE BOARD WOULD RATHER SEE IT EMPTY THAN FULL,THIS PLANNING BOARD NEED THERE HEAD EXAMINE.THIS TOWN STINKS FOR NEW GROWTH,GO TO BRICKTOWN,THEY WILL LOVE YOU.WHY WASTE YOUR MONEY IN TOMS RIVER FOR APPOVALS,IT WILL TAKE MONTHS.
mjmjr December 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM
NOBODY IS GOING TO PAY TO OUTFIT A RESTAURANT WITHOUT A LIQUOR LICENSE,THATS COSTS AROUND 600,000 DOLLARS IN TOMS RIVER,WHAT A JOKE THIS TOWN IS.
Chief Wahoo December 06, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Hooper Avenue is pretty nice ??????..... Compared to Detroit..... This guy doesn't get out much , does he.
mjmjr December 06, 2012 at 02:00 PM
LETS PUT HOOTERS OR LOOKERS,THEY MIGHT APPROVE THAT.
Rachel December 06, 2012 at 02:10 PM
i would love a chipotle to go into that space. we certainly don't need another IHOP, diner, nail salon, or pizza place.
Donna December 06, 2012 at 02:39 PM
If the current building can house more than one business without changing the outside dementions than maybe they will be able to stay in business and we won't have so many empty building that create Zero revenue Zero jobs Zero taxes .... Brilliant move board members lets just have All empty stores and Zero Business !!! Are you kidding me
PRD December 06, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Is this really that big of a deal? It's two food places. Not exactly a "strip mall". I would love a jersey mikes and I know for damn sure chipotle would be packed
patrick kappock December 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
They must be out of their minds! With the eye sore of so many empty buildings in Toms River they should be receptive to anyone willing to use existing space to open new businesses which will help create jobs, and as previously stated it will also help to offset some of the pending tax hike which is looming because of the storm. At least it’s not another bank or medical building!
grace December 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
maybe they can move the bubble there since that was voted a yes and thats attractive
grace December 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
me too rachel hey if tr doesnt want it try another town.. maybe forked river would love to have it and i bet there are open strip malls
Marynary December 06, 2012 at 03:39 PM
This story screams for followup. Same size footprint, same size parking lot and they are turned down in an economy that is desperate? Somebody else mentioned other restarants in the area being the reason. Good point. What ever it is, the logic is wrong or looks wrong. More investigation please PATCH.
Fedup December 06, 2012 at 03:56 PM
"Hooper Avenue is pretty darn nice," has got to be the quote of the year. He must have been smoking the same sh$t the mayor of Seaside Heights was when he suggested leaving the rollar coaster in the ocean. Where do they get these people from?
Hart December 06, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Granted, mall rents are probably higher, but in a nice world Chipotles and Jersey Mike's should go in the space vacated by Benihana and the Mexican restaurant whose name I've forgotten. Use space already there rather than build new ones or spend time and money in variances and subdivisions.
LiveinTR December 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
@Hart -- Good thought but both of those spaces at the mall are way too big for a Jersey Mike's or Chipotles.
Ray C. December 06, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Chipolte and Jersey Mike's tend to go into smaller locations than those stores. You could probably fit both of those into one of those spaces, and I doubt the mall developers are ready to chop up the space just yet. Given how many empty businesses are around town (Denny's is still closed, and the strip mall across the street is bare), maybe the planning board needs some fresh blood or a new perspective.
Scott Derek December 06, 2012 at 05:48 PM
This has been done before in other parts of the country...what's the issue here? http://urbantallahassee.com/v4/index.php/projects-topmenu-28/complete/778-w-tennessee-blockbuster-redevelopment
Peter Jones December 06, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Scott Derek - Great research! They should also put in a golden Corral in Seacourt Shopping Center.
Donna Griffin December 06, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Hart - What is wrong with letting the investor determine the best location for his business? Again, they are not talking about setting up a nuclear power plant. Perhaps the mall setting is not in their wheelhouse, and a business decision was made to seek a free-standing site. Do we want businesses in this town or do we not? Do we make the environment attractive to economic expansion or do we get so bogged down in the politics and bureaucracy of decision-making that the investors ultimately pick up their toys and play elsewhere? Wake up Toms River! Stop shooting yourself and the taxpayers in the foot.
Mike December 06, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Someone needs to interview this board chairman to see if any brain cells are left in his head . . . look at all the EMPTY buildings in Toms River, especially on Hooper, Fischer and 37. Why in the world would anyone turn a business proposal like this down is beyond me. The parking and outside dimensions would not change, so what is the problem?
PJ Ortley December 07, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Just another example of Toms River turning away tax dollars we need. Brick and others welcome new business, while Toms River makes life miserable.
Samantha Ruth prabhu December 07, 2012 at 07:01 AM
I think you all have to Visit India once so that you guys would totally changed your mind on this issue.. coz you gonna see Stores aside the road where ever there is enough space to stand for 5 people around ;) http://www.retail.co.in/
Debbie-Joleen Gallo-Faber December 07, 2012 at 10:34 AM
To Board Chairman Suchodolksi, I personally invite you to take a leisurely drive with me around Hooper Ave. Not only is Hooper Ave. not "pretty darn nice", it's downright annoying. Hooper Ave. has got to be one of my most loathed roads to travel in Toms River! I will chauffeur Mr. Sucholdolksi, making sure that I take jughandles on and off Hooper at major intersections like Oak Ave and Main St. I will travel this delightful little piece of road during rush hour and school bus hours. Oh what a glorious wonder Hooper Ave is to behold! Anyway, let's cut the crap and put in some businesses. It's not going to ruin this town or make Hooper Ave any worse. I'm tired of seeing business after business closing up shop. Did you notice Palumbo's Restaurant in the Kohl's plaza closed after I believe 25 years? I'm utterly depressed at seeing these businesses close; each one is like a death. What do you suggest, Mr. Chairman, sitting on your hands, waiting for your business in shining armor to come and rescue the former Coconuts? Wake up and smell the lost revenue, you Coconut! That building is going to remain empty another 2+ years and get all graffiti-ed up like the old bank on 37 that is just now being refurbed and turned into a new business.
Debbie-Joleen Gallo-Faber December 07, 2012 at 10:43 AM
OOPS, meant the intersection at Hooper Ave and 37, not Main Street. (main st & 37 is a whole other mess) Guess I need to wake up and have my coffee.
~Barb~ December 07, 2012 at 11:42 AM
The whole town is stuck in the 1970's.
mjmjr December 07, 2012 at 04:50 PM
THEY MUST BE RELATED
mjmjr December 07, 2012 at 04:52 PM
WHAT THIS TOWN NEEDS IS NEW BLOOD,THE OLD BLOOD MUST DIE TO GET THEM OUT.THIS TOWN IS GOING TO THE DOGS FOR THE LAST 30YEARS.
grace December 07, 2012 at 11:56 PM
uh no thanks
Cosma December 09, 2012 at 05:00 PM
@Debbie... you are so right! This town was born on nepotism and will die on nepotism. Hire some proffesionals that know how to fix the problems and finally get rid of all the dead wood. The problem is they are all relatives of each other and don't give a crap living in a time warp.
DJ December 10, 2012 at 12:47 PM
It's time for Toms River to get rid of this planning board. Are you kidding me they did not approve this. The times are changing and this board is still stuck in the 70's

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