Laurel Mills Redevelopment Project Proposal Includes 14,000 Square Foot Retail Building, Townhomes

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All Photos by SJO

Stratford Mayor and Council have called a Special Meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. to hold a public meeting for discussion about the Laurel Mills Redevelopment Project, according to a Legal Notice that was published on June 21, 2019.

The meeting will include a “closed session for contract negotiations regarding Laurel Mills. The governing body may conduct other business as deemed reasonable or necessary.”

According to a separate recently published Legal Notice, “Laurel Mills, LLC, has taken title to the property and submitted a proposal to the Borough to construct a mixed-use project consisting of a 14,000 square foot retail building and related improvements and a for-sale residential townhome community consisting of 80 units, including sixteen affordable housing units and related improvements…”.

A formal request was sent to the Borough for a five-year tax exemption on the residential improvements to the property pursuant to the exemption law. “The Borough approves the tax exemption requested by the entity subject to the terms and conditions of a financial agreement, and the parties desire to set forth in detail their mutual rights and obligations with respect to the tax exemption applicable to the residential improvements,” the Legal Notice reads.

Ordinance 2019-14 authorizes the mayor or Borough administrator and Borough clerk to execute a financial agreement, pursuant to the exemption law, between the Borough and Laurel Mills, LLC for completion of the residential improvements of the project on the subject property. The Ordinance will be further considered passage during on July 9, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at the next regular meeting of Mayor and Council.

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On the Redevelopment section of their website, the Borough of Stratford uploaded a Redevelopment Plan dated March 28, 2011 that gives a great history of the Stratford area and the shopping center.

The following are excerpts (Page 9):

The shopping center was constructed in the early 1960s and over the years has been anchored by supermarkets such as A&P, IGA, and Incolligo’s at one end, and the W.T. Grants variety store at the other end. The southerly anchor, the food store, was last occupied in 2008. The northerly anchor, the former W.T. Grants, later became Camden County education offices, and portions of the space have been used for day care and a contractor over the years. W.T. Grants left in the 1970s and the County offices left in the 1980s. The space has been largely unoccupied for at least twenty years and has fallen into disrepair...

The Laurel Mills Shopping Center was built as the population of Stratford and surrounding communities were exploding as America became a largely suburban nation. Stratford Borough’s population increased from 1,356 people in 1950 to its peak of 9,801 people in 1970, a 723% increase over twenty years. In its heyday, the Laurel Mills Shopping Center served the shopping needs of the surrounding area as ever more families moved to the suburbs and more families had access to one or more cars. Changes in land development patterns and changes in retailing over the last twenty years have left shopping centers such as Laurel Mills largely vacant and decaying.

Photos taken June 23, 2019
Photo taken June 23, 2019

Today, there are few remaining tenants at the shopping center — including a nail salon, a karate studio, a summer camp, and a dance studio.

SJO photo taken June 23, 2019

While searching for photos of the W.T. Grants or the Laurel Mills Shopping Center, I came across this comment dated February 16, 2010 from Steve McVicker that was posted under an article titled: “Anyone remember WT Grants?”

McVicker wrote that he worked at WT Grants in Stratford from 1973 to 1976. “When they went out of business, I went back and tried to buy our old Santa suit, but it had already disappeared. I started as a janitor and worked my way up to sales and department manager. I remember the 10% employee discount and that we were paid in cash!”

I also came across this photo posted by Cathy Kuehner from the “You know when you’re from Stratford when”… Facebook group.

Another nostalgic Facebook group I came across is dedicated to W.T. Grant Co.

To view the Laurel Mills Redevelopment/Rehabilitation Plan, click the image below.

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