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Supermarket Strain

Supermarket Strain
Crossroads Cos. founder Stephen Hittman
Despite the amount of residents in suburban NY and NJ, both states have fewer supermarkets per 100k people than any other in the country—but it's not because of retail demand, says Crossroads Cos. founder Stephen Hittman, whose firm owns five retail centers with over 500k SF of supermarkets and has several more projects under construction. Both regulatory issues and scarcity of land affect the availability of supermarket offerings; development is particularly difficult due to site scarcity and the approval process. Site plan approvals often take a minimum of 15-18 months, he says, and if a planning board decision is appealed and not overturned, there's another year or two before groundbreaking. Time-consuming and expensive environmental-related site remediation is also a factor, particularly in NJ. Long lead times are the norm for communities throughout the Tri-State, including Westchester, Bergen, Middlesex, and Passaic Counties, he notes.
Crossroads at Somerset, a two-phase, 118k SF mixed-use development project in Franklin Township, NJ
Here's a rendering of the firm's Crossroads at Somerset, a two-phase, 118k SF mixed-use development in Franklin Township, NJ. Stephen points out it's difficult to find 10-15-acre sites properly zoned for commercial and retail in most communities. Existing shopping centers often have land or zoning constraints, which don't permit expansion. Many centers were designed decades ago, when supermarkets were half the size of today's supermarkets (before the ‘80s, this was 25k-30k SF, often in a CBD). What do you need to get through this? Time, money, and determination, as well as a talented team of attorneys, engineers, and architects to solve site and entitlement-related challenges, he says. Best solution: reduce red tape and bureaucratic political in-fighting that often results in unnecessary delays at different levels of government. The most successful projects happen when a community recognizes that there is a need for retail services, jobs, and ratables. And vegetables, we might add.
Related Topics: Franklin Township