The dilapidated Laurel Mill shopping center on Warwick road in Stratford is no more. Most would remember the center as the home to an Incollingo’s Family Market location.
Over the last few weeks the property owner leveled the shopping center buildings, ahead of development of a new mixed-use residential and commercial project.
The Rite Aid store at the corner still remains, and is open.
The Laurel Mill shopping center opened in 1963 at the corner of Warwick and Longwood Drive, and at the time was simply called “Stratford Shopping Center”. (Images courtesy John Flack. Check out his Flickr photo page!)
The center opened to great fanfare, with an A&P Supermarket on the left side, and a Grants general merchandise store on the right.
Connecting the two larger buildings was a center strip of smaller stores, which included a Sun Ray Drugstore, a Bakery, Card & Gift Store, a Laundry/Dry Cleaner and Ralph Campetti’s Hair Styling (to name a few)
But the two featured big stores only lasted a few decades.
The supermarket building saw life again as a grocery when locally owned Incollingo’s Family Market operated in the building.
The larger Grants store building on the right was never again operated as a retail establishment, and most notably was utilized for Camden County Offices.
I visited the Laurel Mill shopping center last July and took a few drone photos to capture the before shots. Well, they were photos taken before demolition… But after the usefulness of the buildings was reached.
In my visit today all that was left of the shopping center buildings was rubble. Demolition workers were on site to remove the piles of debris.
I also reached out to Stratford’s Acting Borough Administrator for an update on the new project.
Laurel Mill Redevelopment
In the latest Stratford Times bulletin which was just put online, Mayor Josh Keenan states that in the next two weeks all of the asphalt will be removed and the property will be just bare soil.
Site work excavation is the next phase which will include grading of the lands, and installing all of the underground utilities such as drain pipes, sewer lines, electric, water and gas.
After those infrastructure elements are added, curbing and sidewalks will appear ahead of the construction of the townhomes.
The new development will have 80 homes total consisting of 64 townhomes, as well as a multistoried building featuring16 one-floor condominiums (those 16 are designated as affordable housing).
At the front of the property next to the Rite Aid, a 14,000 square foot retail building will be developed. No tenants are known at this time.
I don’t know if it was intentional or not but that retail space to be developed is almost the same size as the middle small store segment of the old development.
The approved site plan provided to 42Freeway shows that there will be two access roads coming off of Longwood Dr. (Which is the side street to the shopping center)
One entrance will line up with Evergreen Rd. The other mostly lines up with Winding Way road.
It does appear that there will be access from within the property to the Rite Aid and new retail.
The configuration is mostly a center block of four different townhome units surrounded by an outer perimeter of additional townhome units and the larger 16 unit building.
The 16 condo units in the single building are positioned in the area behind the upcoming retail building.
Laurel Mill Redevelopment – History
Back in 2011 Stratford put together a redevelopment plan for the Laurel Mill property which at that time stated they did not want residential uses for the property.
But two very significant things have changed since then.
Amazon and other online stores have obviously taken over the retail marketplace reducing the need for retail stores, and laws were changed in the State of New Jersey, which required municipalities to develop affordable housing… including Stratford.
in 2016 a redevelopment update was published where the town stated they had met with a redeveloper for a mixed-use project of housing and a small retail commercial building (which is basically the same project which is being developed today)
The project went before the Joint Land Use board in 2019, and while there were a few residents speaking out against the project, it was approved. (South Jersey Observer)
That meeting was in September of that year. and just five months later the world moved into a global pandemic, impacting construction projects… and literally everything.
While that likely had an impact on additional delays, the Mayor has shared another aspect which caused delays for the project.
There was a lawsuit filed by the developer against Stratford and the joint land use board related to the action of designating the property “in need of redevelopment with condemnation”
But today in the current Stratford newsletter the mayor states that the litigation was resolved which is why we are seeing the demolition work start this month.
42Freeway will follow along with this project as construction starts… particularly the retail component.
Links and Location
Laurel Mill Stratford – Housing and Commercial
Warwick Rd and Longwood Dr