Big Changes in Store for Stafford Commerce

Nov 08, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Ahoy, Old Navy, Panera Bread and more – the shopping and dining landscape of Stafford Township will see several changes at once.

Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread are coming to a vacant lot on the north side of Route 72. They have already received Stafford Township Planning Board approvals. What remains is a state Department of Transportation access permit.

At a separate location, other new stores are on the drawing board for the Manahawkin Commons Plaza and adjacent Kmart plaza, while at the same time, two existing stores there are proposed to relocate within that same area.

At the Oct. 24 meeting of Stafford Township Council, Township Administrator James Moran outlined reported plans.

“The Kmart plaza is under new ownership and there will be some major changes there,” Moran said. “So the rumors stay at a lower level, the Kmart itself will become an Old Navy,” he said, “and T.J.Maxx and HomeGoods and Michaels will move down there.

“And in place of where T.J.Maxx and HomeGoods is now, there is going to be a Burlington Coat Factory, at least that’s what they anticipate,” Moran reported.

“Those are all in play at this point in time. They are in the process of preparing plans for submittal and permitting. So I do believe they’ll be underway and we’ll see a lot of these changes by spring.”

Moran, giving his administrative report at the meeting, went on to say that Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread have “received their approvals and are in front of the state DOT for final access permits.”

He said, “With any luck we’re going to see a Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread under construction in the spring, as well, on the site of the old Nat West bank on 72, the white building that was torn down.”

In a later phone conversation with The SandPaper this week, Moran added that very little of the reconfiguration of stores in Manahawkin Commons and the Kmart plaza has to go before the planning board. An exception to that is reconfiguration of loading docks.

“Moving the stores from one location to another just needs building permits,” he said.

Meanwhile, less was known about the sudden closing of the older McDonald’s on Route 72 westbound, until surprised patrons saw the notice on the door Wednesday, Nov. 1. The sign thanks customers for 40 years of business, and directs them to the other McDonald’s in front of the Kmart plaza. The golden arches sign was taken down.

Owners/operators of the two Manahawkin McDonald’s did not return a phone call, but had provided the following press statement through corporate offices.

“We are grateful to our hardworking restaurant team who provided years of dedicated service, all of whom have been offered jobs at our other restaurants, and we thank the Manahawkin community for their patronage. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers at one of our other McDonald's restaurants in the area.”

The township had “no knowledge” of the closing beforehand, Moran said, nor of the fate of the nearby Chinese buffet whose doors are also closed.

East Road Work

Coming This Spring

Long-awaited reconfiguration of the East Road area is on schedule for spring 2018, Moran said, as part of his update on the business landscape. The area involved includes the intersection at the Exxon station and a new access to the Kmart plaza. Paving of Route 72 from ShopRite westward is also connected.

“We are really going to have that done (starting) in the spring of ’18,” Moran said at the meeting. “There is finally a time that the state has the money and the plans and they’re moving forward. I expect that to start in the spring of ’18.

“The money is there and the contractors are there; the plans are being let in December. That will be finally completed after 14 years of fighting with the DOT and the state and trying to get funding, everybody on the same page, engineers going out of business, all kinds of different problems and issues.”

— Maria Scandale

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