Plan to redevelop Chuck E. Cheese site gets preliminary OK

Photos by Brian Trusdell
A 6.5-acre plot including the Garden State Motel and Chuck E. Cheese on U.S. Route 22 would be redeveloped under a plan adopted by the Union zoning board.

UNION, NJ — The Planning Board unanimously voted Jan. 24 to send redevelopment plans to the Township Committee that would turn a 6.5-acre property along U.S. Route 22 that includes the Garden State Motor Lodge and Chuck E. Cheese into one with a Wendy’s, Wawa and Fairfield Inn.
A vacant service station and an office building are also included in the lot, which was originally three different properties; the properties were combined and declared “in need of redevelopment” by the Planning Board in August, a designation approved by the Township Committee in October. In addition to the fast food restaurant, convenience store and hotel, the plan includes the construction of a CubeSmart self-storage facility.

Kendra Lelie of Clarke Caton Hintz, an architectural and planning company hired by the township to evaluate the property, presented the board with plans for the new businesses. She told the board that, in her opinion, the redevelopment is consistent with the township’s master plan, as well as the county’s master plan and the state’s redevelopment plan.

“One of the goals is not only to revitalize this area from a use perspective but the other part is really looking at Route 22 and thinking about how we can upgrade it from an aesthetic standpoint,” she said.

Plans for the redesign call for consistency between the multiple buildings, meaning that they will all be constructed using similar materials that will make them look as though they were “meant to be together,” according to Lelie.

There will also be internal pedestrian paths constructed to connect the buildings to one another and provide easy access to a bus stop on Route 22.
As of now, there will be two free-standing signs on the property. One will be an overall tenant sign and the Wawa will have its own.
“When you start to drive down 22, the idea behind all of this in the future would be that you know when you’re in Union Township because it may have a specific design vocabulary and this is where it would start,” Lelie said.

She said other surrounding uses will include a residential area to the east, a park to the south and commercial uses to the southwest and north of the site.

The property borders borders Vauxhall Road and Sayre Road in addition to
Route 22.
As a buffer between the residential and nonresidential areas, there will be a 50-foot setback for buildings and a board-on-board fence with evergreen and shade tree plantings.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever was going in this redevelopment area was compatible and certainly sympathetic to what’s happening in existing residential neighborhoods,” Lelie said.

She emphasized that the development will limit the number of access points to and from Route 22. Currently, there are several access points which cause “conflict in the area,” she said.

When she first testified in front of the board, Lelie said she had analyzed police reports from the Garden State Motel from 2015 to 2017, when there were 244 arrests associated with the property.

“There’s about 30 times more arrests at the Garden State Motel than at a similar-sized property with a similar size number of rooms,” she told the board. “That gives evidence that there’s a criminal element coming from here more so than what we’re dealing with in other motels.”