SOMERS POINT – An empty dirt lot has replaced two vacant chain restaurants on MacArthur Boulevard.
But by the end of next year, a 5,025-square-foot, red-brick Wawa will be operating on the 2-acre lot.
“It’s a tremendous thing for that byway,” City Council President Sean McGuigan said of the newly enhanced Route 52 corridor where the property sits. “And everybody likes a Wawa.”
Lori Bruce, a spokeswoman for Wawa, said in an e-mail that work to clear the site began during the second quarter of this year.
“We project the new store will open third or fourth quarter of 2013,” she said.
Bruce said the new store will feature 16 fuel pumps and have more than 60 parking spots.
The store will also replace two vacant buildings – a former KFC and a former Pizza Hut – on the city’s tax rolls and create dozens of new jobs. On average, Wawa stores employ 45 to 50 associates, Bruce said.
And the community is already pleased with its new neighbor.
“The neighbors were able to have a lot of input in the planning process and Wawa agreed to several changes to help address many of their concerns, so we’re all looking forward to this coming to fruition,” McGuigan said.
Wawa agreed to restrict deliveries to the rear of the store to the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., regulate the idling of vehicles, and to have Braddock Avenue turned into a one-way street between Braddock Drive and Woodland Avenue to help preserve the quality of life of nearby residents.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said adjacent property owner Ginny Triniakos, who owns The Windjammer diner, bar and grill with her husband, Steve, next to where the Wawa site.
The Triniakos preceded Wawa in investing in an abandoned property along MacArthur Boulevard despite the down economy. The Windjammer, which opened Oct. 11, occupies what was once a TGI Fridays.
“The property had everything we were looking for, including the space and the liquor license,” Triniakos said. “But we also saw all the cars driving by and realized the potential that this location had.”
Triniakos said Somers Point has treated The Windjammer great during the last few months, but said business could improve once Wawa opens.
“It will make the whole street look nicer,” Triniakos said. “And people who stop in there for gas or a cup of coffee, might see us and decide to stop in here later on.”
The Windjammer is currently flanked by vacant properties on either side – the Wawa and the site of the former movie theater, which has yet to be redeveloped. And across the street, a lot that has been approved for an upscale 100-unit hotel also still sits vacant.
But Triniakos said she thinks the arrival of the Wawa will change that.
“I expect there will be a lot more interest in those properties now,” she said. “Everybody is excited about this.”