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By Dan Moffett

    One of the last impediments to bringing a Publix supermarket to Manalapan’s Plaza del Mar seems to be one of the hardest to resolve.
    The town’s Architectural Commission tried unsuccessfully for a third time to agree with Publix and the mall landlord on what the new supermarket’s sign should look like.
    A majority of ArCom members — Nancy Butnick, Jack Doyle and Henry Laufer — said they were disappointed with the drawings that the company’s representatives brought to the board’s March 8 meeting.
    “I was expecting more,” Butnick said.
    Doyle, who is leaving his ArCom seat to become a town commissioner, said the proposed design was not right for Manalapan.
    “It doesn’t reflect the unique character of the town,” he said. “I was hoping to see something better.”
    ArCom Vice Chair Benjamin Hanani disagreed, and praised the company and the mall landlord, Kitson & Partners, for their cooperation.
    “The developer has been extremely — extremely — receptive to our suggestions,” Hanani said. “I think they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
    A significant example of that cooperation was a concession to mount a black-and-white sign over the supermarket doors, rather than the familiar green trademark Publix logo that the town has opposed.
    After more than two hours of discussion and often heated opinions from dozens of residents, the commission decided to send a list of design requests to the company and wait for its response before taking the matter up again, at the April 12 or May 10 meeting.
    Among the revisions ArCom wants Publix to consider:
    • Changing the black-and-white lettering, perhaps to an etched design such as the sign on the Publix in Palm Beach.
    • Making the sign smaller, reducing the 98-square-foot design and the 4-foot letter P in the Publix logo. Critics of the proposed designs said the height of the lettering could be reduced by roughly half without interfering with the sign’s function.
    • Offering some lighting options that might include illumination from below, soft backlighting or doing away with lighting altogether.
    • Finding an alternative to the bright red Presto! sign that marks the ATM.
    • Eliminating the words “food & pharmacy” from the sign. Most commission members agreed that the words were unnecessary and could be removed to make the sign smaller.
    • Creating a more innovative design. Some critics of the current sign said Publix promised a unique rendition, but what the company delivered is something typical of its stores throughout the state.

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