Hotel, Assisted Living Center Approved For Former Econo Lodge Site

An artist’s rendering of the hotel proposed for the Easton Avenue site.

A gateway to the township will get a much-needed upgrade, thanks to an Aug. 3 Zoning Board of Adjustment approval.

A site plan application for an assisted living facility and a 119-room hotel, targeted for the roughly 9-acre Easton Avenue location of Venue 1850 banquet hall and the former Econo Lodge hotel near Route 287, won board approval.

The plan, submitted by the Engel Burman Group of Garden City, N.Y., has been under development for about three years. Original plans called for a Hilton hotel, the assisted living center and a QuickChek convenience store and gas station.

The plan approved by the Zoning Board features a generic five-story hotel and the assisted living center, which will carry the Bristal name. A deal for the location formerly targeted for the convenience store has not yet been struck, said Peter Lanfrit, the attorney representing the developer.

The assisted living center will be partly two stories and partly three stories, said F. Mitchell Ardman, an engineer for the project.

The 136-room facility will feature a wellness center, a fitness center, a cinema, a performing arts center, libraries and an outdoor swimming pool, said David Mammina, the project’s architect.

“It’s not a health care facility it’s really a lifestyle (center) for people who are in their 80s,” he said. “If someone is in a wheelchair here, its because they are handicapped in a wheelchair,” he said. “These are well seniors, generally.”

The facility will also include a 40-unit memory care center, he said.

The hotel will be of the :limited service” variety, with no restaurant or banquet facilities, Mammina said.

It will have an indoor swimming pool, he said.

Board member Joel Reiss questioned the advisability of building a hotel without a definite brand.

“So you’re gong to build a generic building, and the hotel brand is going to accept that building,” he said.

“This is a pretty typical stock hotel,” Lanfrit said. “Depending on the flag, there may be some tweaks and changes If they are significant, we will have to come back here. If they are less than significant, then they can be brought before the Technical Review Committee.”

Gary Dean, the project’s traffic engineer, said the two developments will have “very limited traffic impact.”

The two uses are “fairly static, with different peaks” he said. “A hotel is empty during the day, by and large, and toward the evening hours it fills up. We have the exact reverse for the Bristal.”

“This use will generate less traffic than a more vibrant rejuvenation of the site,” he said.

Board chairman Robert Thomas told Lanfrit that the board will expect the third project on the site to tie-into the other two.

“We don’t have a user, but I understand what your concerns are,” Lanfrit said.

Previous owners of the site won approval for a sports club, a small retail strip and a restaurant, Lanfrit said. Plans fell through when the sports club – New York Sports Club – opened in a different part of the township and the owner could not find a national restaurant chain willing to open a location on the site, he said.

“We have a viable, substantial, world-renowned developer … who will deliver what we proposed this evening,” Lanfrit told the board. “The hotel that is currently there, has for many years been an eyesore. I think more of an eyesore now for people who come into our community and the first thing they see is a sign that says ‘hotel closed’.”


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