The Ross Dress for Less location in Glassboro NJ opened this past Saturday (Oct 24th). They join a recently opened (relocated) Big Lots store. The third new store for the repurposed Collegetown K-Mart building is a Lidl Grocery, and there doesn't seem to be much construction activity inside.
In 2002 the Wegmans Supermarket company made a major commitment to Washington Township, by purchasing 30 acres of land on Watson Drive for $4.6 million. But as the Cherry Hill and Mt Laurel stores opened a few years later,,, not a shovel of dirt was turned in Gloucester County. Today, 18 years later…. the Turnersville property is up for sale.
The Metro Commercial site features the property… 30 acres directly behind the Lowes Home Improvement store… with an asking price of $5 million. The listing went up earlier this year.
The 42Freeway area has been clamoring for a premium supermarket for years. This is not an exaggeration, but every single one of my posts will have comments in Facebook stating “We need a Wegmans! We need a Trader Joes!”. And then someone will explain Wegmans demographic rules of why we don’t fit the mold, which doesn’t exactly explain things since the Company made a major real estate investment in Washington Township 18 years ago.
I am convinced that if I posted an obituary, someone will say in the comments “We need a Whole Foods!”
So three years ago, 42Freeway posted about the property and reached out to Wegmans head of Real Estate, who told us that they no longer had interest in the property and they would be selling it. But a few more years passed with no sign of “for sale”, so there was still some hope. Always that little bit of hope that Wegmans was coming. But now unless they surprise us with plans in another area location… with the property up for sale, well you can fill in the blanks.
But it wasn’t always like this. There was no mystery almost 20 years ago. It was as sure as a bride on her wedding day, lock solid.. this is gonna happen.
In the early 2000s the prized Wegmans Supermarket chain first entered into the market with plans on opening stores in Cherry Hill, Mt Laurel and Washington Twp. At the time the newspapers wrote of all three locations on an equal footing. Well actually, Washington Township was the first of three stores to come to the Planning Board, all the way back in December of 2001!
A Courier-Post article on Nov 13, 2001, Councilman Ray Rapposelli is quoted as saying “the kind of market that township has been searching for, for a couple of years because of the demographics we have“. It sounds like Washington Township was on board.
And how sure was Wegmans of Washington Township? Two years later WEGMANS SPENT $4.6 MILLION ON LAND at which is now known as 300 Watson Drive (Behind Lowes).
It sounded like a marriage made in grocery store heaven.
Over the next few years the newspaper articles chronicle the progress of the Cherry Hill and Mt Laurel stores. But things got quiet around Washington Township. The plans of a store in Turnersville just faded from the papers. In a 2006 Inquirer article touting the opening of the Cherry Hill location, they simply say “Development of a Turnersville site has yet to be scheduled”. And that was it, I don’t see it mentioned again. Mt Laurel also opened in 2006. By 2010, the same paper was touting the now six stores in the Philadelphia area, and the don’t even bother to mention the undeveloped Washington Township property.
So Wegmans has continued to pay the $100,000 a year in taxes on the property, and the lack of any movement was actually a positive for residents… maybe they were just waiting for better times? They only have 101 stores and don’t build many in a year… so maybe they wanted to knock out some stores in other areas that are ranked just a little higher than Turnersville, and they’ll be back.
No… doesn’t look like they will be back.
No one knows what happened. Wegmans isn’t talking. They obviously were dealing with local politicians at the time. A project this big doesn’t happen unless you are talking in advance to the town leaders. The initial announcement of Wegmans coming was in the fall of 2001 under Mayor Randee Davidson. The property was purchased in 2003, and soon after Paul Moriarity took over as Mayor in the prime time of when construction should have started.
I’ve reached out to those former mayors, and if I hear of anything you know I will post on it.
Today the Washington Township Wegmans remains 42Freeway’s biggest mystery. I may have to give it its own special section in the site.
Below is a video from EXACTLY 2 years ago in 2018. To the day. That’s strange, I didn’t realize it until now. And damn, I’ve lost a lot of weight since then.