Friday, March 13, 2009
High-scale shops soon to open near county
By Jessica Beym
Even in a sluggish economy, a high-end retail and restaurant center in
Gloucester Township just a stone's throw from the border with Gloucester
County is still on track to open this spring with high hopes of being a
destination for all of South Jersey.
Gloucester Township officials and principals from Ohio-based Stanberry
Development gave a guided hardhat tour Thursday of The Shoppes at Cross
Keys a 121,000-square-foot "lifestyle center" nearing completion on
Berlin-Cross Keys Road.
When it opens in May it will feature well-known national apparel stores
and retailers such as Banana Republic, Lane Bryant, New York & Company and
Yankee Candle, as well as Bensi, an Italian restaurant found in many
locations in North Jersey.
"It offers something for everybody," said Gloucester Township Mayor
Cindy Rau-Hatton. "People are talking about it in other towns not just
in our town."
Rau-Hatton said the shopping center has been about three years in
the making. Stanberry Development first approached the township about
their concept for the site just a few days into Rau-Hatton's term,
She said the location was prime real estate because of its access to the
Atlantic City Expressway and its proximity to some of the region's most
populated communities, including neighboring Monroe and Washington
Townships in Gloucester County.
"This is just so exciting for Gloucester Township to have this lifestyle
center," Rau-Hatton said. "It's a destination spot for South
What may make it a successful destination spot is its convenient location
to the expressway. Those traveling south on the expressway only need to
make a quick left off the exit and they're right there. The property is
adjacent to the highway itself.
But to handle the influx of traffic, which is already a problem for
residents in the immediate area who take the expressway to Berlin-Cross
Keys Road, Gloucester Township is working in conjunction with the South
Jersey Transportation Authority on a project to widen the overpass.
The project, estimated to cost about $5 million, is scheduled to start in
April and be complete in nine months. The bridge itself will be lifted and
widened to six lanes instead of four, to include two dedicated turning
lanes. During that time, the bridge will be closed to traffic for one
week, according to South Jersey Transportation Authority officials.
Both Gloucester Township and Winslow Township have an agreement to have
the adjacent developers help pay for the roadwork, but the majority of the
project is being funded by the state.
"It will really make a difference," Rau-Hatton said of the road
expansion. "We don't want people to pass through here."
The Ohio-based company is also in the process of opening a similar retail
center in Hamilton Township, Mercer County, which will add to its list of
shops in northern and central New Jersey towns such as Denville,
Flemington, Old Bridge and North Brunswick.
Mark Pottschmidt, a partner with Stanberry Development, said they've
pushed back their opening at The Shoppes at Cross Keys so it won't
interfere with the road closure.
"Obviously there will be some short-term headaches, but some long-term
benefits," said Pottschmidt said.
The high-end retail shops mixed with restaurants is similar to what
Washington Township officials have envisioned for their planned town
center just about three miles away.
At the proposed town center on Fries Mill and Hurffville-Cross Keys roads,
plans call for a mix of commercial, retail and residential, with shops,
cafes, business offices and luxury townhomes. However, the developers for
the 37-acre parcel that's being planned haven't yet approached the
township planning board with official applications. The project could be
as far as 10 years out, according to the redeveloper's agreement.
Washington Township Mayor Matthew Lyons said he doesn't foresee any
conflict with the two retail centers being so close to each other.
"There's always the argument that a rising tide lifts all boats," Lyons
said. "As far as retail goes, you reach a saturation point with drug
stores and big-box outlets. We're targeting more professional uses at this
time that provide less traffic, more service and better jobs."
He said the improvements to the Berlin-Cross Keys Road overpass are needed
"Where it crosses over to the Expressway is a choking point," he said.
"It's already bad and its just going to get worse until that bridge is
widened. We've made that case clear and we're going to have that widened.
It's just going to be a time-consuming project."
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