A Sprouts Farmers Market grocery proposed for Egg Harbor Rd in Washington Township cleared its largest hurdle when the Township Zoning Board approved the project Monday night.
Sprouts Farmers Market is a healthy grocery store offering an open layout design, featuring fresh produce, full deli, seafood and meat counters, as well as a focus on organic products. A new Sprouts opened last month in Westmont. I visited open day; photos and details here.
The Egg Harbor Road Sprouts project will be developed directly next to the existing Harbor Place shopping center which is home to TD Bank, Dollar Tree, Rita’s Water Ice and more. The parking lots of the two properties will be connected.
Currently the land for the Sprouts project is undeveloped and wooded. If you’ve sat at the Salina Road traffic light at Egg Harbor, the woods located there along Egg Harbor Road are where Sprouts will be developed.
The plans call for the development of a 23,256 square foot Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store and a connected smaller 6,400 square foot retail space
This land was already approved back in 2007 for a slightly larger development, indicating the Township was already in agreement to commercial development on the lot. This zoning hearing was presented as an adjustment to the prior approval.
Like most large commercial/retail businesses, Sprouts has a distinctive exterior look to their stores. Washington Township’s Sprouts will follow that design, but with housing developments backing the property it appears care was taken in the design to accommodate the residents and their concerns.
A large buffer will be allocated between the store and the homes… as well as trees will be planted for visual and noise reductions.
One interesting twist that surprised me is there will be no loading docks in the back of the Sprouts store.
They’ve positioned the docks to be on the right side of the Sprouts. Effectively tractor trailers will be backing in to the loading docks from the front of the store (but off to the side).
Definitely not a standard configuration for a store but obviously something done to minimize any impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods.
Both the larger Sprouts building and the secondary retail space are expected to be developed at the same time. That being said the smaller unit was only granted preliminary approval and would need to return for approval to fully build out that space.
Two Key Approvals Still In Process.
It was determined that the developers will return next month to Washington Township Zoning to review the signage request for the property. It seems there were some changes requested which came out close to Monday’s meeting date meeting date and the Township Planner felt it best not to hold up the entire meeting.
Another approval that is needed is from Gloucester County
Because Egg Harbor Road is a County maintained road, and one of the Sprouts driveways will access Egg Harbor Road at the Salina Road traffic light… Gloucester County will need to review the plans and give an approval also.
Several conditions of approval were also noted. This means during the hearing questions from the board and experts led to small changes in the presented plan which the developer agreed to. More on that later in the article
Sprouts Will Be A Tenant. Not A Harbor Place Project
It’s important to call out that Sprouts will be a tenant in the new property and the grocer is not developing the building.
Also, while the undeveloped property is currently owned by the Harbor Place center owner… they also are not developing the project. Instead they will be selling the undeveloped portion to a different owner/developer, who will build out the Sprouts project.
That being said while the two retail properties will have separate owners, there are some connected aspects such as tractor-trailer access, car access and sidewalks which the Zoning Board had to consider.
This had some impacts on the Zoning hearing as at times the Board were asking questions related to aspects which carried over to the Harbor Place center, and that owner was not present.
It’s not unusual for Sprouts to be a tenant in the building. This appears to be a common scenario for them as in both Marlton and Haddon Township I believe they are leasing space in buildings owned by someone else.
I’ll add that most will find it surprising that all of the new Wawas being developed on our area… are not developed or owned by Wawa. Sprouts and Wawa have a similar pattern “Here is where we want to be, this is our store design, now you go build it and we’ll lease the space”
The company on record for the proposed Egg Harbor Project is Progood Sewell LLC. That address leads to Goodman Properties in Jenkintown, PA. Using separate LLC companies for individual projects is VERY common in the development industry as it makes for cleaner separation of the finances, taxes and more.
Goodman Properties is a leading Delaware Valley real estate development and management firm.
Additionally, in the meeting Monday night one of the gentlemen was introduced as being “of Provco”.
Provco is another recognized Delaware Valley Developer who developed the Panda Express building on the Black Horse Pike in Washington Township.
A quick Google search of the two names shows that they have partnered several times on projects including recently paying almost $25 million for the Creekview Center in Warrington PA.
They also joined together to redevelop the former Philadelphia Nabisco bakery in a $60 million effort which included the development of a Topgolf facility
Simply, Provco and Goodman Properties know what they’re doing when it comes to developing commercial properties
Sprouts Washington Township
As mentioned the new Sprouts Farmers Market will be just under 24,000 square feet.
The building will sit back off of Egg Harbor Road with the bulk of the parking spaces in front. The building will be in line with the Harbor Place shopping center but the buildings will not be connected. As mentioned the two parking lots will have access roadways to allow traffic to move through, both in front of, and behind the buildings.
As mentioned, to minimize impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods. a buffer space was allocated in the back of the store with tree barriers. The Sprouts loading dock was also moved to the side of the building. The water retention basin will be placed in the rear also.
There were a few adjustments to the plans, as well as just some clarification of elements such as operating hours.
One interesting item was Sprouts is asking for more parking spaces than Washington Twp Zoning allowed. Normally it’s the other way around… developers are typically trying to develop buildings with not enough parking!
The maximum number of parking spots called for by Township Code for the development size is 89, and Sprouts proposed 135. This is likely to accommodate peak shopping times such as the holidays.
The number of parking spots were approved with one small adjustment.
Washington Township code requires parking spots to be 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep. While most of the parking spots are configured that way (including the entire front portion of the parking lot), a small area to the left was set as 9 by 20 initially. At Washington Township’s urging the developer agreed to make all parking spots a uniform 10 by 20 (reducing the total count of spots by just a few)
A change that was made seemingly closer to the meeting date was an adjustment so that tractor trailers heading to Sprouts via Hurffville-Grenloch Road would travel behind the existing Harbor Place building.
Based on commentary in the meeting. originally it was expected the delivery vehicles would drive in front of Harbor Place right in front of the stores. This was determined by the Township planner to not be adequate.
Changes were made to the site plan so that when trucks were coming from Hurffville-Grenloch Road, they (and other traffic) could drive behind the existing Harbor Place shopping center from that side road, reducing traffic in front of Harbor Place.
A significant amount of time was spent on this as currently there are trash enclosures behind Harbor Place situated in a way that they would possible impede traffic flow. It was agreed by the developer that they would work with the Harbor Place owners to have those trash enclosures relocated, to make dedicated and wider passage for trucks and cars.
Another aspect which received significant commentary were sidewalks.
The new Sprouts development will have sidewalks in front of that property, but the Zoning Board was looking to have sidewalks added in front of the existing Harbor Place… and then down to the corner.
Initially it wasn’t clear to all board members that the properties would be two different owners, which is when the attorney who was leading the developer presentation further clarified the ownership.
This initially led to additional discussions around the fact that the Sprouts property owner and developer do not own Harbor Place, and it was tougher for them to agree to changes for another person’s property… but in the end the developer agreed to contingencies in those aspects which would require them to work with the other owner (who will be selling the property to the developer)
For the Harbor Place project there has never been sidewalk on Egg Harbor Road.
Commentary from both the developer and even some of the board members called out that there was limited space to build a safe sidewalk of proper dimensions in that area, factoring in the existing water basin, utilities and other blockages. It was theorized that likely when Harbor Place was developed decades, they faced the same challenges leading to no sidewalk.
The outcome came down to a cash contribution in lieu of developing those sidewalks, which appears to be a common practice in other towns/counties and is covered in Washington Township code.
It was stated that the developers would pay 10% of the total estimated sidewalk improvement cost.
It was then a question of “did Harbor Place already pay this contribution when it was developed decades ago?” So it was agreed that if it was previously paid then there’s no changes for the new developer, and if it was not previously paid, the new developer would pay for the “in lieu of sidewalks contribution”
The Zoning Board also asked for clarity on operating hours and delivery hours.
Operating hours are expected to be 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM, seven days a week. I’ll add that they expect to have 25 to 30 employees working in the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery at one time, and likely will be hiring 60 employees total.
Delivery hours were something that went back and forth a bit as the two groups tried to clarify times when deliveries could be made.
In the end a cleaner “inverse” definition was set… no deliveries will happen from 6:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next morning.
The clearing of trees on the lot and the Township’s code regarding the replacement of them was also a topic of discussion.
A town environmental expert said there were 390 trees on the lot that were greater than 10 inches wide in the trunk. Unfortunately i don’t recall the number of trees that are required to be planted but they said only 25 trees added to the property actually count towards that allotment.
The developer stated there isn’t enough space to accommodate all of the Township required new trees.
The Township expert calculated the cost of the trees replacement at $172,000. Similar to the “in lieu of, contributions” for the sidewalk request, for the tree replacement the developer would have to pay a 10% cash contribution of the estimated tree replacement costs.
Three members of the public did speak in the public section.
This meeting was scheduled weeks ago long before any Baseball playoff schedules were known, but honestly with the first game of the Phillies NLCS taking place at 8pm it likely reduced the public participation.
It also seemed that right after Schwarber and Harper started the first inning with homeruns, several in attendance left, which was still somewhat early in the Sprouts hearing.
That being said three different residents spoke.
Two of them were residents living behind the commercial properties who shared concerns regarding buffers not being adequate, as well as concerns over the water management.
Some of the issues were related to the existing Harbor Place development to which zoning board personnel directed the homeowners to reach out to the zoning office, and they’ll give them guidance.
The owner of the Willow Creek Ranch on Hurffville-Grenloch Road spoke.
According to their Facebook page they own 48 acres of land in this area, where they have a petting zoo and horseback riding lessons including trails. The owner was concerned that the buffer for the development would not be enough to maintain the serene wooded experience when riding horses on the trails adjacent to the proposed Sprouts. I don’t believe her questions were addressed.
The board did vote on the proposal, and with several adjustments to the plan and some tough questions raised by one board member.. the Sprouts Grocery and Retail project for Egg Harbor Road was unanimously approved.
Links and Location
Sprouts Grocery and Retail Washington Township (Proposed)
288 Egg Harbor Road
Washington Township NJ 08080