Stafford Park Fact Sheet: 2011
Stafford Park is a brownfield, mixed-use redevelopment with outstanding residential, retail and recreational elements. Currently under construction, the park is situated on a 370-acre site in Ocean County’s Stafford Township. When completed, it will feature 349 market-rate single-family homes, 112 affordable apartments, 216 market rate apartments, 650,000 square feet of retail space, and 25,000 square feet of office and governmental facilities.
The redevelopment is located minutes west of Long Beach Island at the interchange of NJ Route 72 and the Garden State Parkway. It is bordered by these two highways to the north and east and by 17,000 acres of preserved state forest to the south and west.
The Walters Group, with offices in Barnegat and Marlton, NJ, is a multi-disciplined real estate development company dedicated to the design and development of environmentally responsible and economically intelligent projects. Walters was named the designated redeveloper of Stafford Park in 2004. After two years of intense scrutiny by the NJ Pinelands Commission and NJDEP, on July 14, 2006, the company received the approval necessary to facilitate the landfill closure and subsequent redevelopment.
The official groundbreaking for Stafford Park occurred May 1, 2007 and was attended by numerous high-level township, county, and state officials. The ceremony set the stage for arguably the most positive project in Stafford Township’s history. It will pay millions in real estate taxes, introduce thousands of jobs, utilize green building practices, pursue renewable energy initiatives, provide affordable housing, protect rare plant and animal species, and improve groundwater quality. The foregoing efforts stimulate the local economy and improve the quality of life for the residents of Stafford Township.
Retail Store Openings
The summer of 2008 kicked off with the grand opening of Costco Wholesale. It was soon succeeded by openings from Best Buy, Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, Target, AT&T, Ulta, and the Vitamin Shoppe. In June of 2011, Olive Garden became the first restaurant to open at Stafford Park. Local residents and shore vacationers alike are now able to frequent these stores without traveling another 20 miles north or south as was previously the case.
Remediation Process – Benefiting the Environment and the Community
Stafford Park contained two landfills covering approximately 80 acres. Both landfills were under directive from the Pinelands Commission and the New Jersey DEP for appropriate environmental closure for over 20 years. The Township was unable to close the landfills due to budgetary constraints. The smaller, 25-acre unlicensed landfill contained construction debris resulting from a nor’easter that struck Long Beach Island decades ago. That landfill was fully excavated and beneficially reused to contour the larger, 55-acre licensed landfill without increasing its footprint. The void from the unlicensed landfill was filled with clean soil from elsewhere on the site. That fill was certified, and ongoing groundwater tests indicate an improvement in groundwater quality. Capping and closure operations on the final phase of the licensed landfill were completed in February 2009. All of the site remediation work was performed in accordance with all state requirements and with private funding. The redeveloper posted the financial assurance to protect the Township and its citizens. Various contaminants that were leaching into the environment are now being contained. Economic analysis suggested that if the Township had undertaken the landfill closure project, taxpayers would have seen an immediate increase of between 15% and 20% on property taxes for a minimum of 20 years.
In addition to the two landfills, the site was scattered with outdated and underperforming private and public uses. Those facilities have been demolished and replaced by new, state-of-the-art facilities elsewhere on-site. The pre-existing private uses were relocated without the use of condemnation or the threat of it. In the spring of 2008, Walters completed construction on the brand new, state-of-the-art Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter. The previous shelter was undersized, antiquated and demolished upon completion of the new facility. Walters donated the cost of construction and materials to rebuild this multimillion dollar facility.
Investing in Infrastructure Improvements
Prior to any store openings, Walters constructed $10 million in roadway improvements. Environmental constraints limited access to the 370-acre site to one location. An innovative engineering design known as the “English Couple System” was employed to ensure seamless movements between NJ Route 72 and the project. This efficient design reduces the intersection from 3 phases to 2, thus providing more “green” time for Route 72 traffic. More specifically, left hand turns into (from Route 72) the project and out (onto Route 72) are done simultaneously. In addition, the Garden State Parkway southbound off-ramp has been modified and elongated to provide greater stacking distances. This improvement is especially important during the summer months with Long Beach Island vacation traffic. The additional stacking area helps prevent vehicles from backing up into the southbound Garden State Parkway travel lanes. This improvement, along with direct access to the Garden State Parkway, and the English Couple System reduces congestion to other local, county, and state highways.
Building “Green” for New Jersey’s Future
Stafford Park is being designed and built with the future in mind. Every commercial and residential building in Stafford Park will achieve LEED Certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design was created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and is essentially a report card for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. To date, approximately 413,733-square-feet retail space has been constructed, including Best Buy, Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, Target, AT&T, Ulta, the Vitamin Shoppe, and Olive Garden. Each of those stores has achieved LEED Certification. Another example of LEED is the dozens of green parking spaces reserved for motorists who drive fuel-efficient vehicles or carpool to the stores.
Stafford Park also aspires to become the first net-zero energy community in New Jersey and perhaps the country. Walters plans to achieve this through the deployment of large-scale renewable wind and photovoltaic (solar panel) electricity generation. In 2010, Walters received approvals to build the state’s largest proposed solar project. The developer is currently constructing a 6.5-megawatt solar farm on a portion of the capped/closed Stafford Park landfill, which was previously designated as deed-restricted.
The Walters Group projects that it can provide 70 percent of the project's electricity through renewable energy. It has already installed solar panels on stores that have been constructed, meeting about 30 percent of their energy needs. The initial phase of the solar project will supply 800 kilowatts of power, which will include 100 percent of the electricity needs for the Ocean County municipal building and the township’s public works facility. Plans call for another 1.5 megawatts of solar power to be supplied to Stafford Preserve, an apartment community under construction. The developer anticipates that 2.3 megawatts of solar power will be provided by the end of 2012.
Stafford Park Apartments
The Walters Group completed Stafford Park Apartments, an eco-friendly, affordable housing community. Stafford Park Apartments achieved LEED Gold Certification and is the first affordable housing project in the State of New Jersey to obtain this level of certification.
The development consists of 112 units in five low-rise buildings, featuring a variety of energy efficient one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts. Community amenities include a clubhouse with fitness center, washer/dryer in every unit, a tot lot playground, 24-hour on-site management and maintenance, and on-site parking. The project is owned and managed by Walters.
In June of 2011, Walters Group broke ground on Stafford Preserve, an eco-friendly LEED-certified rental community. The community will be comprised of 18 three-story buildings, totaling 216 units. Layouts will consist of one- and two-bedroom garden-style apartments as well as two-bedroom townhouses. The project is slated for completion in April 2012. Leasing for spring 2012 occupancy is currently underway.
A Prime Example of Smart Growth
Stafford Park is located in the Regional Growth Area of the Pinelands Region. Contrary to what many think, this is an area within the Pinelands where development is specifically encouraged. The New Jersey State Development and Redevelopment Plan also recognize Stafford Park as a regional growth area on the State Plan Policy Map. The project is consistent with township and county master plans as well as the Redevelopment Study and Plan adopted by the Township. Stafford Park is by legal definition “smart growth.”
Preservation of nearly all of the one million acres in the Pinelands was achieved through a “transfer of development rights” program. Walters is purchasing a near-record number of “TDR’s” known as Pinelands Development Credits. This coupled with the Township’s purchase and deed restriction of 580 acres will preserve approximately 1,500 additional acres of land in the Pinelands.
There are several other unique features to the project. One is a 300’ buffer from all commercial and residential development to wetlands and a 200’ buffer from all residential development to the State Forest. Another is the use of indigenous, drought-tolerant plant species which require reduced amount of water. In Stafford Park, that irrigation water comes courtesy of clean rainwater that is captured from the retail rooftops. Other storm water is treated through special bio-swales and bio-retention basins which greatly reduce total suspended solid and other pollutants.
The redevelopment is surrounded by 17,000 acres of permanently protected State forest. Walters worked with the Pinelands Commission and the NJDEP on a long-term species management plan. The plan called for, among other things, the creation of habitat for rare plant and animal species. These species are constantly monitored by nationally recognized herpetologists, biologists, and botanists. .
The Walters Group’s approach has been validated with recognition by the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance (DVSGA) for meeting the Alliance’s stringent criteria for smart growth. Such criteria include location, density, design and diversity of use, transportation, environment and community assets and participation. The Alliance’s goal is to “help good smart growth projects gain local approvals through an early-stage recognition program.” Walters was named a finalist in the 2009 NJBiz Green Leadership Awards for its green building practices. Also, the Stafford Township Environmental Commission presented Walters with the 2009 Community Steward Award at its annual Arbor Day event, and Walters Group received the Brownfield Renewal Award from Brownfield Renewal magazine for their work at Stafford Park, transforming a former brownfield site into a successful mixed-use redevelopment.