PENNS GROVE, NJ-Ground will officially be broken next week for the Riverwalk at Penns Grove, a 195,500-sf mixed-use project on this South Jersey town’s Delaware River waterfront. As reported earlier by, state and local officials signed off on the project in April, and site work is just under way.

The Riverwalk at Penns Grove has been a long time in the making. Developer Fenwick Commons LLC, headed by George Kearns, has spent the past five years getting the project planned and approved. Besides New Jersey, that approval included an okay from the State of Delaware because a portion of the project will be on an island, connected to the mainland by a 900-ft pier, that is actually in Delaware waters.

“This complex development required us to collaborate closely with many organizations in order to bring it to fruition,” Kearns says. “But it was worth the necessary time and effort. The involvement and support of local and state officials has been tremendous.”

“Many new projects are in the works that ultimately will transform our community into an entertainment and commerce destination for the region,” says Mayor John Washington. “Riverwalk will have a positive economic impact on Penns Grove and all of Salem County.”

The 26-acre, nautical-themed Riverwalk will feature four restaurants, including a 40,000-sf entertainment, banquet and conference center, a 60-room hotel with business meeting space, 40 retail shops and office space. The island portion of the project will be utilized as a public entertainment venue. Also part of the mix will be artisan workshops for glass art, reflecting that industry’s historical presence in the region. Leasing of the project is being handled by Legend Properties Inc. of Mt. Laurel, NJ.

The project has a number of historical sidelights. For one, the community derives its name from the fact that the site was one of the original landing sites of William Penn. Actor Bruce Willis, a native son, owned the property in the mid-90s and proposed a similar redevelopment project in 1995. But two years later, after failing to get the necessary approvals, Willis dropped the project. Kearns and Fenwick Commons LLC bought the site in 2000 and proceeded through the five-year period to get Riverwalk started.

Finally, the mix will include a 4,500-sf, 1920s-themed Italian restaurant that will be fashioned out of one of the few buildings still standing on the site, a former bank building. The historical sidelight there is that the former bank was once robbed by gangster Pretty Boy Floyd.

Initial construction will include construction of a riverfront promenade and seawall, which will be done by the Borough of Penns Grove. “Construction of the project will take place through the balance of 2005 into 2006,” Kearns says. “The grand opening of the shops is slated for the summer of 2006.” Long-term plans for Riverwalk also include the addition of a marina along the pier, according to Kearns.

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