The Deptford Planning Board on Wednesday April 6th unanimously approved Inspira Health’s plans for converting the former Dick’s Sporting Goods building into medical offices on the first floor and a surgical center on the second
Inspira is looking to move fast on the project, stating they will start filing for permits in a few weeks.
That being said, the expected completion time for the first floor medical offices is end of 2023… possibly into the 1st quarter of 2024. Inspira representatives stated that ongoing global supply chain issues will be a big factor in the project completion timeline.
Inspira originally was looking to develop an all-new building on Clements Bridge Rd in Deptford. While they still own the land on Clements Bridge Rd, we believe that this new Almonesson Rd project replaces those earlier plans.
The 3D front rendering obtained by 42Freeway shows an all new front facade with a lot of windows, and an all new entrance. The building style will absolutely improve the overall look of the Mall area.
A representative from LongHorn Steakhouse also spoke at the meeting asking the Planning Board to not approve the Inspira project at that time, so that LongHorn could further address their concerns around parking.
As mentioned, the Deptford Planning Board did go on to unanimously approve Inspira’s plans.
Inspira Health Deptford : The Plans
The free-standing building in question is located at 399 Almonesson Road, and was previously the home to Dick’s Sporting Goods before they recently moved over to the mall.
Originally the building was developed around 1980 as a Best Products Showroom store (more on that down below!)
The Inspira project will be developed in two phases.
The first phase will feature the exterior upgrades; front façade and parking lot improvements.
In the initial phase they will also develop the larger first floor of the building (49,981 sq. ft), which will house a variety of medical offices.
Most of the planned uses are listed below, although we may have missed one or two of them
- Urology practice
- Imaging center
- Rehab care
- Inspira Cardio Diagnostics
- Inspira Medical Group
- Cooper Care Alliance
- Medical Timeshare offices; Dietician, podiatrist, etc.
- and others
The second phase will be to build out of the smaller second floor (15,019 sq. ft) as a same-day surgical center… which won’t be completed for about 2 years after the first floor is open.
Planning Board Meeting Summary Comments
While there are several requested variances (which were all approved), the general theme of the meeting was… Inspira is really not changing the size of the building, and the building has operated for 40+ years in the current configuration, so the variances were approved. “Existing Conditions”
As an example , with the new development Inspira will be creating additional grass/landscaping areas… specifically islands within the parking lot. This will actually reduce the “impervious coverage” and allow more grass and landscaping, but it would still not meet today’s requirements.
Traffic Considerations – A Good Match for a Shopping District
Significant time was spent discussing traffic impacts in what is a very busy commercial/retail district.
It was stated that all of the medical uses would be Monday-Friday and in almost all cases, the offices were closed by 5pm. There was one office which on a few days a week would remain open until 7pm.
A traffic expert spoke on his company’s research findings in analyzing the traffic impacts.
Simply… the area is highly retail and restaurant focused, which has traffic patterns leaning towards the evening as most shoppers are working during the day or have child care responsibilities.
The new medical usage for the building tho is basically 99% during the day, when there are very few retail shoppers.
The traffic expert stated the largest spike in traffic for the Inspira Medical Offices would be before 7am as staff reports to work, and all restaurants and retail stores are closed.
Parking was also a key topic, focused on “Is there an adequate amount of parking spaces for employees and patients/visitors?”
A full analysis of needed parking spaces was done, even to the extent of every medical tenant was asked how many employees they would have and the number of in-office patients.
The experts stated there was more than enough parking spaces.
It was noted that there is a shared parking agreement between the buildings in the complex (LongHorn Steakhouse, K&G Fashion Building)
The K&G / Mattress Firm building has approximately 200 parking spaces in front of their building (separate from the Dick’s building parking), and from my own opinion I don’t think those two business would utilize even 10% of those spaces even at their peak times.
LongHorn Objection – Do Not Approve This Today
At the end of the presentation and questions, the public comment portion started.
A representative from LongHorn Steakhouse Deptford spoke, reading a letter from his management regarding the project.
It was clear he was sent more to deliver a message and have it added to the official planning board records, and was not personally responsible for the letter’s content.
Simply… well it seems LongHorn has concerns over the parking needs of the new Inspira usage of the building, despite expert analysis and commentary saying there were no concerns.
LongHorn provided a strongly worded letter against the project. At times it sounded as if they were fully against the project, calling out the variances and change of usage.
But then the reading of the letter closed with a request to not approve the Inspira plan during Wednesday’s meeting, so that the LongHorn can continue talking over their concerns with Inspira and K&G.
I do not have a copy of the letter and don’t want to delve too far into this, but I feel that’s a fair summary.
The Planning Board did not agree with the LongHorn concerns, and cited the expert research and testimony.
Honestly, I was very surprised by the letter’s content. I honestly thought when the gentleman introduced himself he was going to read a letter saying that LongHorn fully approved of the project… boy was I wrong!
I mean… Going back to the comments that the mall area is much quieter during the day… well honestly I think the restaurant is going to win hugely to new revenue from Inspira employees and patients stopping over at LongHorn for lunch, early dinner or happy hour. I mean.. that’s just common sense, right?
Two Floors? Yes, Thanks to Best Products
While most know the building from it’s Dick’s Sporting Goods days, it was originally developed as a Best Products showroom store… which adds a significant aspect to the Inspira plans.
Back in 1978, Best Products purchased 10 acres of land from the Diocese of Camden on which to develop their store. This was just 3 years after the Deptford Mall had opened… and at the time the mall was beating all estimates for number of shoppers and sales.
For those old enough to remember, Best Products had a unique showroom model in that the sales floor featured just one of every product.
Each product was removed from their box, and set up on shelving or tables so that shoppers could fully inspect the item.
When it came time to order, shoppers would fill out a paper order form with the product code and have that product number punched in to a computer.
So where did the products come from after you ordered them?
Despite what seems to be high ceilings in the store, there was actually a second floor which functioned as the warehouse for Best.
As a kid I remember the angled conveyer belt coming down and excitedly looking for our new food processor or other item riding down the belt. Ha!
In 1998 Dick’s Sporting Goods took over the building and was approved for a small addition to the building to enlarge the first floor shopping area… and they also continued to use the second floor “mezzanine” for backroom product storage.
I would bet that 99% of the Dick’s Sporting Goods shoppers in that building had no idea there was a second floor in the building.
Links and Location
Inspira Health at Deptford
399 Almonesson Rd