'Super' Wawa okayed for Rt. 130
An artist’s rendering of the new QuickChek on Route 130, set to be a part of Bordentown’s transit village. The residential component of Phase I, a luxury apartment complex, recently opened.
A new “super” Wawa convenience store and gas station may soon be coming to Bordentown Township.
The Wawa is one of two new convenience stores on Route 130 that were approved by the township planning board in the the past year. Also approved was a QuickChek with a gas station that is part of the first phase of the Bordentown Waterfront Community transit village.
The residential component of that project’s first phase—a 159-unit luxury rental apartment complex called Rivergate—opened at the end of last year, and is almost fully rented, according to officials.
Wawa received approval to build a new convenience store and a bank of gas pumps at the location of the closed Saturn dealership on Route 130. The old dealership building will be demolished as part of the project.
The developer of the Wawa, 237 Route 130 Convenience LLC of Marlton, was awarded preliminary site plan approval by the board, which grants the developer vesting rights for the project for three years. Wawa will have to again appear before the board for final site plan approval before starting construction.
Township Committeeman Stephen Benowitz, who is also a member of the planning board and the Economic Advisory Committee, said that he believes the Wawa only went for preliminary approval because the developer still needs to obtain approvals from the state Department of Transportation—the project is located on a state highway and proposes a new left turn lane off of Route 130 South into the site.
“Any other holdups might be internal with them. It’s not the fact that they don’t want to come here. They definitely do,” Benowitz said. “They’re full steam ahead, believe me.”
He said that there were some initial concerns regarding traffic and ingress and egress to the site, but he believes those issues have been resolved.
Benowitz also pointed out that Wawa has agreed to give the township $100,000 to help fund an engineering study to reconfigure the intersection of Rt. 130 and Farnsworth Avenue (located just south of the proposed Wawa). The intersection currently operates at a failed level of efficiency.
“We’ve already been in touch with the DOT (about the intersection) and it’s on their radar,” Benowitz said. “We have to make some improvements to that intersection. During rush hour, the traffic backs up all the way across Rt. 206 and down Georgetown Road sometimes. We’re trying everything we can to make sure that it’s improved.”
The Wawa, which is the chain’s second in the township, would be the latest of a number of “super” Wawas that are opening in the Central Jersey area. Last year, Wawa opened a store/gas station in Lawrence Township, and the chain has plans to open three stores in Hamilton Township.
The coming presence of revamped and bigger Wawas and QuickCheks is part of a trend in 24-hour convenience stores updating their images to attract new business. In the past eight or 10 years, QuickChek has greatly overhauled its image, capitalizing on its sharper Q logo and focusing on fresh-made sandwiches.
The new QuickChek, which was approved last March, will be constructed on the site at the front of the Waterfront project that was originally planned for senior affordable housing. Along with the QuickChek approval, the planning board amended the plans for the project to move the retail component closer to the highway and transfer the senior housing to another section of the transit village.
Site clearing work has already started on the QuickChek parcel, and officials believe that construction will start within the next few months.
“Initially they wanted to have it done before the end of the year, but there have been some holdups on their end,” Benowitz said. “We’re projecting that in about a month or two, they’re going to begin construction. That’s my understanding. They said that they can do construction during the winter, and once they begin, these QuickCheks get done quickly.”
The two convenience super stores are part of an influx of commercial development in the township, said Benowitz. “We’ve been trying to promote a business commercial-friendly attitude, and I think we’ve done that. We’ve been very successful with it.”
“We’re looking for tax ratables,” he added. “That’s the only way that you’re really going to get the property tax to become flat or even decrease.”
In addition to the convenience stores, Benowitz cited the new 1.3 million-square-foot warehouse being constructed by Grainger in Central Crossings Business Park on Bordentown-Hedding Road. Ultimately, that project could bring in some $2.5 million in tax revenues, which translates into several pennies on the tax dollar.
“Once these things come online, we’re going to flatten out our local-purpose tax, and you may find that 10 years down the road that taxes are the same as they are today or even lower,” Benowitz said. He also predicted that the township could see proposals for “three or four” new warehouse projects in the coming year or two.
Representatives from Wawa Inc. did not respond to inquiries regarding the project, or why there is such an interest in its rather assertive re-expansion into Central Jersey.
But the company itself is no stranger to New Jersey, having started here as an iron foundry in 1803. The company became associated with food at the end of the 19th century, when its owner, George Wood, got into dairy farming and opened a small processing plant in Wawa, Pennsylvania in 1902.
The company delivered milk to homes until that business faded away in the mid-20th century, when it repurposed itself in 1964 as a food market featuring fresh dairy products.
The chain abandoned the New York regional market in the late 1990s, taking many New Jersey stores with it and leaving many residents bewildered as to what had become of the chain that once seemed to have a location in just about every town between Trenton and Baltimore.
What happened to Wawa was that it was giving itself a facelift and planning its next phase. Enter the “super” Wawa, the chain’s latest trend, featuring convenience stores, associate businesses, and fuel pumps.
In 2010, there were about 570 Wawas; today, the company operates a chain of more than 700 convenience retail stores, with more than 430 offering gasoline throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida. In July, Market Force named Wawa “America’s Most Beloved Convenience Store” based on a survey of 7,000 consumers.