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Updated: Maplewood Launches Business Recruitment Campaign

Township plans strategic approach to attract a successful retail mix to meet estimated $2.2 billion customer demand. Read the full report of retail prospects, attached.

 

What will Maplewood look like in the next five, 10, 50 years?

That question is at the heart of a new initiative the township is launching to fill what elected officials see as a vast, unmet retail demand, while taking a proactive approach to shape the business landscape for decades to come.

The township unveiled its plan at a breakfast gathering of the local business and real estate community on Monday. Mayor Vic DeLuca and Mark Lohbauer, a principal at JGSC, consultants hired by the township, led the meeting.

"Too many shoppers, not enough stores," said Lohbauer, summing up his firm's overall assessment. Lohbauer said JGSC had calculated a $2.2 billion unmet retail demand among people living within a 10-mile radius of Maplewood.

He singled out the advantages of the township's two main retail corridors — Maplewood Village and Springfield Avenue — including improved streetscapes, surrounding affluent populations and strong business improvement districts.

But, he said, "we need a better mix."

The township will try to attract retailers in certain categories such as home furnishings, sporting goods and restaurants.

"We can work with property owners to recruit these types of stores rather than another salon or convenience store," said DeLuca. 

Lohbauer said the plan included a strong push for "high-end" business recruitment. 

"We are looking to avoid check cashing, tattoo parlors, nail salons and pizza places," he said. "We have plenty of those."

A list of preliminary retail prospects includes a wide variety of retailers such as HomeGoods, The Container Store, Pier 1, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizza, T.G.I. Fridays, Five Guys, Chipotle's, Hale & Hearty Soups, Curves and EMS. A complete list of prospects is attached as a PDF to this article. 

The township is currently reaching out to a number of these prospects by postcard and letter. Lohbauer asked the brokers in the audience to also be proactive in reaching out to retailers.

The plan calls for fashioning the village into an "entertainment destination" with a mix of high-end boutiques, while attracting larger retailers and chains to Springfield Avenue to make it a viable alternative to a shopping mall.

"One of the things we want to convey to both property owners and real estate brokers is that they can seek high-end retail establishments and do not have to take the first offers that come their way," said DeLuca in a follow up interview.

Lohbauer noted while Springfield Avenue doesn't currently have a space for a big box store such as a Target, the township is willing to talk to developers to create the right space for a suitable tenant.

He said the Maplewood Village Alliance and the Springfield Avenue Partnership could offer financial and other incentives to attract the right kind of retailers.

"This retail recruitment campaign is designed to focus on Maplewood as a whole – One Maplewood – rather than its parts," said DeLuca. "It talks about the vitality of the entire town, recognizing the unique characteristics and strengths of each commercial area."

Verjus owner Jane Witkin expressed concern about Springfield Avenue's "impediments to success" which she listed as a lack of contiguous properties, no tax incentives and the current 35-mile-per-hour speed limit.

DeLuca emphasized Maplewood should attract shoppers that reflect the area's economic diversity.

"We are not just a white, upper-class community," DeLuca said, noting the area's large Caribbean population as an example.

"Walgreens is a case in point," said DeLuca later. "It serves people from Maplewood and adjacent towns...if we can bring in a national, full-service, family chain restaurant or national brand furniture store, that will help all of us and meet the needs of Maplewood's already economic and racially diverse population."

KIM December 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Thanks Stockard. Can you tell me what the two French restaurants are? I know of Verjus on Springfield, but the atmosphere is pretty bad. Is the other one Lorena's? I think that's more American than French. I was hoping for a French restaurant right on Maplewood Ave... Also, I don't feel like there's a dedicated coffee shop. The restaurant called the Village Coffee Shop is sort of a hodgepodge of everything (I think they even advertise Indian food or something in their windows?). Not sure what you mean by endless litany- to me, serving mediocre coffee on the side does not qualify as a coffee shop. Even Strawberry Fields attempts to serve coffee & that would be the last place I'd want to lounge & have a cup of coffee... as much as my kids & I love their fro-yo.
Suzanne G December 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
What about a wine bar there are none in the area, perhaps the franchise the wine loft? Smoothie bar, or what about a healthy food franchise like Energy Kitchen?? These lack in wider than a 10 mile radius and people who have lived in the city...well this brings some city aspects closer to them!
Suzanne G December 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I get there is coffee around but I do feel that a Starbucks would be amazing and adds a high end sense to an area.
gheri burke January 10, 2013 at 05:35 PM
I applaud the efforts of the township to bring in new franchises. My questions are: Would these franchises be obligated to hire a percentage of residents from the township and offer summer employment to our youth? I have visit the 7Eleven's on Springfield and Parker and noticed the one upcoming by the high school and it doesn't appear that either has hired any resident youth!! Oh by the way something other than Burger King would be nice!!
Victor De Luca January 11, 2013 at 12:54 AM
The Township has no authority to force any business to hire locally. We do encourage it though. The 7-Elevens are owned by individual families and they hire within their family/friend network. Walgreens has hired local residents. We are not looking for fast food businesses.

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