Construction on the Maplewood Post House, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Post Office in Maplewood Village, has moved one step closer with the issuing of a demolition permit.
In addition, the project’s developer said Starbucks is a potential tenant for one of the five retail spaces, though a lease has not yet been signed.
“[Construction Official] Robert Mittermaier has issued the demolition permit,” said Maplewood Director of Community Development Annette DePalma on Wednesday. “He is in the process of reviewing the application for a footings and foundation permit.” While there is no firm date, DePalma said demo is expected to begin within a few weeks.
The township has a page dedicated to updated news about the project.
Joe Forgione of JMF Properties, the project developer, said although he has received permits for installing a fence around the area and working on the sewer bypass, he will not begin any work until he has a building permit. “I don’t want to disrupt traffic unless we are ready to go,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday with The Village Green.
“My intent is to have the building complete in under a year,” Forgione said.
Starbucks has been rumored as a possible tenant for months. Forgione said the coffee chain is a “definite possibility” and a “very strong candidate.”
“They want it,” he said. Addressing concerns voiced by some residents that the multinational chain would be a controversial addition to Maplewood Village — known for its locally owned, mom-and-pop establishments — and might provide competition for smaller local businesses, he said, “I truly believe that [Starbucks] will be an asset, a positive to the town,” that would drive traffic to the Village and to other local merchants.
Still, he acknowledged that if Starbucks comes to Maplewood, “Half the town is going to love it and the other will hate it.”
As the property’s owner/developer along with Steven Kalafer of Gladstone of Maplewood LLC, Forgione has great latitude in deciding what businesses will lease the five commercial spaces, as long as he adheres to the project’s redevelopment plan and township ordinances.
“The Township might have preferences for the kinds of businesses we would like to see in the new project, but as you know, it’s a market issue,” said DePalma.
Maplewood Township Committeeman Greg Lembrich echoed that. “As long as the commercial tenants comply with existing town ordinances, health codes, etc., I don’t think the Township Committee has any authority to veto potential tenants,” Lembrich said. “The developer owns the building and it will be his responsibility to lease the retail spaces…. I don’t think we have any greater control over who leases those stores than we do anywhere else in the Village, or Springfield Avenue, or anywhere else in town. The market will determine what goes into those spaces, and whether those businesses succeed or fail.”
Forgione said other potential tenants include a “Lululemon-type” women’s clothing store, an environmentally safe “natural” dry cleaner (the store would be a drop-off point with work to be done at another facility), and a farm-to-table restaurant. A bank has already signed a lease for a space.