Site plans for the historic property are still forthcoming, says developer Peter Lazaropoulos, but could be expected by year’s end.
By Matt Skoufalos
As developers for the historic Westmont theater push forward with their plans to restore the dilapidated structure, a few hurdles remain to be cleared.
NJ Pen spoke with Lazgor, LLC principal, Peter Lazaropoulos, for an update on the project. Here’s what he had to say.
NJ PEN: What’s the latest with the Westmont theater project? Are you still working with the same timeline?
PETER LAZAROPOULOS: We’re still on track for breaking ground in the spring. There’s a lot of layers of permits. We have received approval from the historic commission. We have finished our environmental reports. We’re doing budget analysis and finalizing the lease with Planet Fitness. Everything has been moving forward. We’re hoping to be in front of the planning board in the next two months.
NJ PEN: Are there any mock-ups available for folks to see yet?
LAZAROPOULOS: We’re working on the drawings. Before we can go before the township planning board, we have to have site plans. We’re doing those right now. Then we will need township approval and county approval, because it’s a county road. After that, in a sense, we’re ready to build. We anticipate that to be a fairly easy approval.
NJ PEN: When we last spoke, you talked about the condition of the property being in need of urgent action. Is that still the case—pigeons roosting in the roof, and such?
LAZAROPOULOS: The roof, and the water is going in, and everything else. In another five or six years, the roof could collapse. If the roof comes in, it’s going to blow out the walls.
NJ PEN: Parking has been a critical component of prior plans for the space. How will your design address those issues?
LAZAROPOULOS: We’re going to improve the parking lot, [and add]more buffers to the residential side [along Cambridge Avenue]. We will repave the parking lot; install concrete curb islands at the proper places. Within the islands we’re going to install landscaping and lighting.
NJ PEN: You’ve also talked about closing off rear entry to the theater parking lot.
LAZAROPOULOS: Right now we do not want to take the traffic from our commercial site and dump it into a residential street. We’re going to put curbing and install a landscape buffer.
NJ PEN: How about the vacant, grassy lot adjacent to the property (bordering Albertson Avenue)? Do you have plans to acquire that space as well?
LAZAROPOULOS: It is our understanding that the township has some interest in that to create a public parking lot. If you go today to the parking lot of the theater, you’ll see at least a dozen cars parked there. Once we develop the theater, those patrons will not be able to park there.
We can see that there is a public need for additional parking, and of course, it is a tight urban area. The township is aware of that, and they are taking the necessary steps to acquire that property and convert it into a public parking lot that will relieve the pressure of parking on the street.
NJ PEN: The theater lot is also used pretty heavily every Wednesday for the Westmont Farmers Market. Do you think there will still be an opportunity for that arrangement to persist?
LAZAROPOULOS: I’m not really sure how that’s going to work out. I would think it would be a major problem if the gym is operating there and the patrons have no place to park because of the farmers market. I can see that becoming an issue.