The long-standing Tacony Palmyra Flea Market on the south side of Route 73 is set to close Aug. 18. The owner of the 64-acre property, National Amusements Inc., made an official announcement on the market’s Facebook page in July.
“We’re sorry to announce that the flea market will be closing. The last day of operation will be August 18, 2019. Thank you for your patronage over the years,” read the post.
The concise announcement offered little in the way of explanation. Rachel Lulay, a spokesperson for National Amusements, declined a request for further comment, stating simply, “the Tacony Palmyra Flea Market is closing for business reasons.”
On nationalamusements.com, the company describes itself as “a world leader in the motion picture exhibition industry operating more than 950 movie screens in the U.S., U.K. and Latin America.”
Before the property began operating as a flea market in 1976, it was the site of the Tacony Palmyra Bridge Drive-In, a theater that opened in 1957, according to cinematreasures.org.
Borough Administrator John Gural sees this recent development as a step in the right direction for the town and in the past has referred to the property owners as “a serious obstacle to redevelopment.”
He believes the flea market has long represented an underutilization of the property.
“The borough views (the market closure) as generally positive because certainly a flea market is not the highest and best use for that property,” said Gural.
Over the years, the borough has maintained a somewhat contentious relationship with National Amusements Inc.
In 2008, Palmyra ordered the market to close for a period of five months due to safety concerns regarding unexploded munitions left behind from the site’s former use as a weapons-testing facility by the United States Army during World War II.
National Amusements filed suit against the town that year for its loss of revenue during this time. Both parties eventually came to an agreement the market could resume operations on the weekends subject to strict safety precautions while inspections and operations relating to the unexploded munitions took place through the week. In 2012, the district court granted Palmyra’s motion for a summary judgment and dismissed the action entirely.
“Clearly that was a public safety concern, yet they sued us because they wanted the borough to pay for lost operations,” said Gural. “These were bombs on their property, that they were ultimately responsible for.”
Since being designated a Brownfield Development Area by the state Department of Environmental Protection, borough officials have set their eyes on redevelopment opportunities for the portion of Route 73 South that resides within the bounds of Palmyra and includes the site of the soon-to-be former flea market.
According to the borough’s website, the BDA designation for the area means that a qualified redeveloper will have prioritized access to technical support and state funding.
This designation as a redevelopment area supersedes any zoning designation, says Gural, however inquiries that the borough has received thus far from potential redevelopers have been for mixed use.
“Some combination of residential, commercial, industrial,” said Gural.
While the 64-acre plot is not the largest property in the redevelopment area, that designation belongs to the Fillit property at 104 acres, Gural says the property contains more developable acreage and is considered more attractive in that regard.
The flea market has always been an outdoor operation, setting up each week on a large empty lot. The lack of established buildings or businesses on the property opens up development opportunities.
“Being a vacant property, as it will be after that date (Aug. 18), makes it more attractive to redevelopers because there’s not a business they have to relocate,” said Gural.