Township officials were told more national retail stores could set up shop in the strip mall
When many construction vehicles appear in one location and mounds of busted concrete pile up, people begin to ask questions. Within the past few months, questions began to flood social media chat rooms and other places all concerning the future of Eagle Plaza.
Nearly one year ago, the owners of the almost 50-year-old plaza sold the structure on 700 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, and soon after multiple restaurants shut their doors to the public.
When breaking down the order of events, Voorhees Township Planning Board member Mario DiNatale said the new owners presented to the board on the stance that they wanted to give the structure a major facelift.
“It has not been modernized since its inception. Not a nickel went into it in the last 50 years, 45 years,” he said.
The project manager for the renovations at Eagle Plaza is Jeff Ratnow, of Real Projectives LLC, a Maryland-based company. Ratnow could not be reached for comment about plans for the plaza.
However, DiNatale said the tenants of Eagle Plaza were told by the new owners the company will pay for all renovations; however, to avoid a rise in rent, the tenants must agree to a 10-year lease agreement. He said he believed the price would go up if the tenants pushed for a shorter lease to cover the cost of renovations.
Tenants that have left include New Yong’s Village and Pasta Pomodoro. Five Guys has closed its doors; however, DiNatale said this is due to a disagreement between franchisee and franchisor.
As of now, multiple stores, including Hallmark and Crystal Nails, have temporary signage as renovations are carried out. All existing stores are open despite renovations.
Residents can expect to see different lighting in the parking lot, new doors to businesses and construction to the islands located in the lot.
While the new owners did not tell the planning board what stores are definitely coming to Eagle Plaza, multiple members of the planning board, including DiNatale and Deputy Mayor Jason Ravitz, mentioned the owners expressed interest in larger, more national type retail stores.
In the window of a vacated storefront is a photo with a headline that reads, “Good Things are Happening at Eagle Plaza.” The picture depicts a structure with white brick, a darker-tiled roof and abundant shrubbery in the parking lot. It also includes the names of companies involved in the project: Real Projectives LLC, Fulcrum Construction, ci and Hutensky Capital Partners.
The questions of what stores will occupy now-open space is still unanswered; however, what is clear is some residents are concerned about the loss of local retail.
In a Facebook community group called What’s Up in Voorhees, multiple members responded after The Sun asked for public opinion about activity at Eagle Plaza.
Susan Taylor Cola said, “I am a proponent of bringing more business into Voorhees, but not at the expense of small business owners. I would prefer to support small, local businesses in our community and save the national retailers for larger retail spaces, like the mall. Just my two cents.”
A number of residents echoed Cola’s comments, many of whom said too many chain restaurants exist in the township already.
Lindsay Tomlinson said, “… To my knowledge, the companies that left are not relocating. I am much more concerned with supporting local small businesses at a cost that allows them to compete than I am at fancy facades and name brands that cause a rent raise that pushes out small local companies.”
The topic of other vacant strip malls and structures surfaced in the thread.
DiNatale also discussed the topic of empty locations in the township.
“We have about six strip centers that have vacancies that they can move into. But they have elected not to move. So what does that tell you?” he said.
“We don’t like it being empty but they pay their taxes,” he said, referring specifically to the vacant Genuardi’s.
He added, “Some of the tenants who had short-term goals wanted to retire or had no intentions of signing the long-term lease.”