FAIR HAVEN: ACME CENTER CHANGES DETAILED

Forman Street resident Bonnie Moore photographs an exhibit used in the hearing. Below, an illustration showing proposed changes to building 1, on the western end of the site. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Overdue for a new look, the 1950s-vintage Fair Haven strip mall anchored by an Acme supermarket is also badly in need of a new parking scheme, its owner told the borough planning board Thursday night.

It would get both by the end of October if the board approves an extensive makeover plan in coming weeks, Dan Hughes, a principal in the company that bought it for for $5.8 million two years ago, told the board.

The plan calls for a new breezeway cutting through the former Laird’s Stationery shop at the northeast corner of the site. Below, building 1 as it appears now. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

fh-acme-center-122216-4In recent months, the 4.4-acre complex has seen the departure of two longtime tenants —  Bike Haven and Personal Touch Dry Cleaner — and the forced relocation of Laird’s Stationery  into far smaller quarters than it had for decades.

Still, “the vision is to keep the use as it is, as a neighborhood center,” Hughes told the board. Acme recently signed a longterm lease; the former TD Bank space has been leased to Chase Bank, which has begun work inside and will continue to use the existing drive-thru; and a search is underway for an independent pharmacy to take up residence, he said.

In addition, the center remains home to a post office, a liquor store, a vegan restaurant and other businesses spread across three buildings.

But with just 69 spaces in the lot along River Road, there’s not enough parking on the front side of the Acme and adjoining stores to support retail operations, Hughes said. At the same time, however, the three-building complex has space out back that could be better utilized if it was made more accessible, he told the board.

Toward that end, the plan calls for a new breezeway cutting through the former Laird’s location at the northeast corner to provide pedestrian access to the south parking lot.

“It would double the amount of car parks,” he told the board.

An engineer, Robert Freud, testified about improvements to the drainage system and addition of new landscaping, particular along the 500-foot frontage on Forman Street. The site’s current impervious-surface coverage, at 96 percent, would be reduced by five percent, he said.

All facades in the complex would get makeovers, architect Jim McGillin said. “We’re going to take off all the metal” and replace it with stonework, painted brick and wood-like trim, he said.

Little in the way of resistance to the plan was voiced at the meeting, though board Chairman expressed concern that the breezeway might become a hangout for kids. McGillin said the space would have store frontage, as well as bollard lighting and overhead skylights to prevent it from becoming a dark spot.

Board members urged Hughes and his team to relocate a proposed “monument” sign from one end of the River Road frontage to the other. Bonnie and Brad Moore, who live across Forman Street from the site, expressed satisfaction with regard to changes in driveway placement and lighting, respectively.

The hearing is scheduled to  continue, with a likely up or down vote, on April 18.

Under the terms of its lease, Acme has insisted that no construction take place during November or December, Hughes said. If approved next month, construction might begin immediately. Otherwise, the work would be done starting in March, 2018, he said.