When Wakefern Food Corp. opened its first warehouse in Newark in 1946 (in a 1,000 square foot storefront) on Miller Street) it seemed like the fledgling co-op’s roots would be forever attached to New Jersey’s largest city. In 1949, Wakefern moved to a new, 15,000 square foot depot in Port Newark and in 1953 it moved to an even larger facility in Carteret, NJ.
A lot has changed in 67 years, and after decades of blight and crime, Wakefern is returning. Late last month, the Keasbey, NJ-based wholesaler and the City of Newark announced that a new 67,000 square foot ShopRite will be the anchor tenant at the Springfield Avenue Marketplace in Newark.
Wakefern member Neil Greenstein, third generation owner of the ShopRite of Brookdale in nearby Bloomfield, will own the Newark unit, which is located at the intersection of Springfield Avenue and Jones Street and should open next year.
“This is a homecoming of sorts for Wakefern,” said Greenstein. Noting Wakefern’s long connection with Newark, he added, “Now, nearly 70 years later, this site is set to become the city’s premier retail destination, and it is an ideal time to open a supermarket here. “We’re real focused on being a partner in the community.”
The vacant 11-acre site, which has been empty for 20 years, had been long rumored as one that Wal-Mart would acquire, but Newark Mayor Cory Booker (who is running for the U.S. Senate) pledged his support to ShopRite. Wal-Mart’s potential entry also faced stiff criticism from many community groups opposed to the Bentonville, AR retailer’s potentially harmful effect on local businesses.
“Today’s announcement is wonderful news for our city,” Booker said. “Newark residents deserve convenient access to fresh and healthy food options, and there is no better place for a large grocery store than Springfield Avenue. Located in the heart of the city, this new ShopRite will strengthen our local economy by retaining more of our citizens’ buying power in Newark, in addition to providing hundreds of new job opportunities for residents.”
Booker also acknowledged he has talked to Whole Foods as another potential candidate to further enhance Newark’s revitalization.
The “Springfield Avenue Marketplace” development is part of Newark’s Urban Enterprise Zone, where customers are entitled to a 50 percent reduction of sales tax on most purchases, along with the full exemption of taxes on grocery and clothing purchases in New Jersey.
Also spearheading the project is Tucker Development, the Highland Park, IL real estate firm that last year completed development of the Courtyard by Marriott Newark Downtown, the first hotel in the city’s central district in more than 40 years.
Groundbreaking for the new ShopRite is expected this fall and the development is projected to create approximately 240 construction jobs and almost 400 full and part-time jobs.
The new Newark project is a continuance of Wakefern/ShopRite’s effort to open new stores in urban areas, many of which are considered food deserts. Earlier this year, the company announced that the Ravitz family would open its sixth store in downtown Camden, NJ, the GardenState’s 10th largest city, which had not seen a new supermarket since the early 1980s. That store is slated to open in 2015 and will be 75,000 square feet in size.
In Philadelphia, Wakefern/ShopRite is the leading retailer in the city, largely because of the company’s efforts to build stores in challenging economic areas. The Philadelphia expansion has been led by Jeff Brown (owner of 10 ShopRites), who is currently building a new 71,000 square foot unit in the depressed Hunting Park section of the city that is slated to open later this year.
Brown has also been also lending his expertise in two BaltimoreCity projects that are owned by the Klein family. One of those stores, in the Parkville area of Baltimore, opened last year, and ground was recently broken in another food desert in the Howard Park section of the city for a 67,000 square foot store that will open in 2014.
Additionally, Wakefern is building a 180,000-square-foot distribution center on Cornelia Street in Newark.