This article has been updated with comments from Jon Cortell of L&M developers.
After years of speculation and months of negotiation, Kings Market announced it will not move to a larger space in the redeveloped Maplewood Post Office site, according to an email release from the township.
L&M Garden State Associates, LLC, the site’s redeveloper, had been in talks with the principals of Kings since January about moving from its current space at 159 Maplewood Avenue in the Village into a larger facility with better off-street access for store deliveries, the release said.
Mayor Vic DeLuca and township officials had long made clear their desire for Kings to move into the larger space, as the market is seen as an important anchor for the Village.
However, the parties “could not agree on mutually satisfactory lease terms” and Kings will remain in its current location, according to the release.
Mayor Vic DeLuca said in the release that while the township had hoped Kings would move, they are “grateful for Kings’ continued commitment to Maplewood.”
DeLuca told The Village Green that while he was not directly involved in the private negotiations between the developer and Kings, his understanding was that the two parties could not come to an agreement on the finances of the deal.
Going forward, DeLuca said the developer would continue to look at the project “holistically” and try to ensure that any retail prospects fit into the overall mix of both the development and the Village as a whole.
“We were motivated to work it out [with Kings],” said L&M’s Jon Cortell in an interview with The Village Green. Cortell said L&M had “extensive conversations” with Kings and worked to design the building “around and over them, with their input.”
However, Cortell said, Kings “cannot or will not relocate,” adding that there had to be a significant financial inducement for them to take on the capital costs of building a larger and more modern store.
“There was only so much we could do to make it worth their while,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cortell continues to have conversations with a number of retail prospects of all types, he said, to complement what the town already has without “cannibalizing” existing businesses.
The space could be subdivided to hold more than one retail business, he said. He also mentioned the possibility of a restaurant moving in, which could include outdoor, cafe-style seating.
“My ears are open,” Cortell said. “I’m responsive to solicitations.”
Although additional parking could be added by using some of the space Kings had planned to occupy, Cortell said that would not be an appropriate use of the space. “We’re trying to emphasize the pedestrian experience” and enhance the circulation pattern around the building to make it easier for both pedestrians and cars to get around the Village, he said.
Judy Spires, President & CEO of Kings Food Markets, said in the release the store will continue to serve Maplewood “long into the future from our current location.”
Meanwhile, the project continues to move ahead. The Maplewood Planning Board will hold a site plan hearing in July. Demolition of the current building will begin in January 2015, allowing the Post Office sufficient time to move its retail operations to a new facility at 195 Maplewood Avenue, and avoiding construction disruption during the holiday shopping season.
“I’m excited by what we have in Maplewood,” said Cortell, who is also a resident. “It’s a town of smaller, entrepreneurial vendors.” The new development will not represent a “meaningful departure” from that, he said.