A vacant Pathmark in Delco Plaza that partially sits in both Rahway and Avenel will become a 24 Hour Fitness under an application approved by the Planning Board.
A unanimous 5-0 vote came after about an hour of testimony during the Planning Board’s Dec. 20 meeting. Since the property straddles two towns, representatives now must go before the planning boards of Woodbridge, Middlesex County and Union County for additional approvals.
The 3.7-acre site that is located within Rahway’s border is one of among six areas recently identified to be studied for potential redevelopment by the city.
Engineer John DiGiacinto of Langan Engineering and Environmental in Elmwood Park testified that the border cuts through Pathmark more than the proposed 24 Hour Fitness. The site in its entirety is almost 15 acres and the former Pathmark takes up less than 7 acres, of which about 3.7 acres is situated in Rahway and 2.8 acres in Woodbridge’s Avenel section.
The portion that lies within Rahway is assessed for $4,025,300 with recent property taxes of $257,176, according to property records, and is owned by Woodbridge Avenue, LLC, which lists a West 34th Street, Manhattan, address. Property owners in 2014 won a multi-year tax appeal of more than $1 million over five years.
The 24 Hour Fitness would occupy about 36,000 square feet, roughly the southern half of the 86,000-square-foot complex on St. Georges Avenue that also includes a Kmart. The northern half of the building would have one or two more retail tenants that are still to be determined. An existing Subway has about six months remaining on a lease that owners are looking to terminate, according to Lisa John-Basta, attorney for the applicant. The Subway space would be part of gym or moved to another part of building, she said.
Peak hours of a typical 24 Hour Fitness facility are 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with about 15 employees and five to seven at other times of the day, and at least two staff overnight.
The site is located in a B-2 zone (general business) and the application sought approval for several existing nonconforming uses, including signage. There also is a 29,000-square-foot Boston Market on the property and a 200-square-foot bank kiosk, both of which are closer to St. Georges Avenue. Retail spaces would like to have as large a sign as possible because the building is set back quite a bit.
The building is set back about 400 feet from St. Georges Avenue, which creates a bit of difficulty for motorists to identify the building. The sign package will be an improvement in proportion to the size of the building.
Jay Tuller of Rosenbaum Design Group testified that while the new proposed total signage of 224 square feet still exceeds the 100 square feet that’s permitted, it’s still less than the 260 square feet total of the previous signage (190 square feet Pathmark, 40 square feet Super Center, and 30 square feet Pharmacy). There are no additions or expansion proposed and the architecture will remain with mainly cosmetic improvements and painting, he said.
The expansive parking lot currently has scattered landscaping. The applicant proposed planting 38 new shade trees and 300 shrubs. The lot would be repaved with asphalt, resealed the lot, or a combination of both, according to a paving expert.
About 12 existing spaces would be lost due to redesigning and re-striping but still would have 794 spaces. Based on requirements of one space for each 200 square feet of shopping center, the site would require 866 spaces. Greg Woodruff of Langan testified that the analysis and redesign, for ADA purposes mostly, would further reduce an existing nonconforming use. Planning Board member William Hering said he’s never seen the parking lot full.
“Whatever you do in front of that building will be an improvement; it’s ugly,” said Planning Board member Al Shipley.