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SOMERDALE, NJ-Construction will start by the end of this month for Coopertowne Center, a 385,000-sf shopping center at the intersection of White Horse Pike and Evesham Avenue here. The project is being done by the Purchase, NY-based National Realty & Development Corp.

And it’s actually a mix of old and new construction. The existing, 20-year-old Lions Head Plaza is currently 70% vacant, and the property’s assessed value has dropped from $10.5 million to $7 million. That coupled with the loss of about 200 jobs and reduced tax revenues qualifies the property as what the State of New Jersey terms a “greyfields” project and a requirement that it be fully redeveloped.

“It sets the stage for how revitalization should be done in New Jersey,” says NRDC president John Orrico. “We’ve worked with the community to design elements to the center that will create a traditional Northeast downtown look and feel. In the end, we will be able to take an economically blighted site and create a balance of public and private accommodations, something that’s not done very frequently.”

NRDC’s redevelopment plan calls for the existing Lions Head Plaza to be reduced from its existing 235,000 sf to 209,000 sf, and to be completely made over. A new Wal-Mart will rise adjacent to the existing building, boosting the total retail package to 385,000 sf. Additional tenants currently lined up include Cinemark and L.A. Fitness.

The center’s 42-acre site will be downsized by nine acres, and pad sites along both White Horse Pike and Evesham Ave. will be developed, with banks and restaurants as targets. Plans also call for a 100-unit active adult community on an adjacent parcel.

And the site itself will be spruced up, according to NRDC’s plans. Improvements include a tree-lined entrance, gazebos, a public plaza for civic events, extended sidewalks for outdoor dining and generally enhanced landscaping.

The redevelopment will also add a new municipal road connecting Kennedy Blvd., a main thoroughfare, with Route 30. Coopertowne Center, which straddles the border of Somerdale and Magnolia, is located about 10 miles southeast of Philadelphia.

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