In Evesham, 'upscale retail' to replace office park

FINAL-RENDERING
Final rendering for The View at Marlton.

The owners of Greentree Commons, a 1980s-era office park on Route 73 in Evesham, announced Thursday that they were razing it to make way for a $30 million "upscale retail complex."

Demolition began last month, and four of the six single-story office buildings are already demolished, Peter Lazaropoulos, managing partner of Lazgor L.L.C., told an on-site news conference.

Rising in their place will be a suite of buildings called the View at Marlton, housing four restaurants, an AAA auto club office, shops, and a 45,000-square-foot LA Fitness center.

The 10-acre parcel fronts about a quarter- mile of Route 73 near Lincoln Drive. To its south are single-family homes.

Lazaropoulos also said the former Rizzieri spa and salon, adjacent to Greentree, would be converted to a Virtua Health System urgent-care facility. A BB&T bank, which opened on the site in 2010, will remain.

Work crews will likely start pouring concrete in April, he said, and the buildings are expected to be ready for occupancy by year's end.

Lazaropoulos, an architect who also designed the new buildings, was joined by Mayor Randy Brown to announce the project, part of Evesham's redevelopment plan.

Under redevelopment, municipalities may identify neglected or underused properties and use 30-year tax abatements, spot zoning, and design specifications to encourage new development.

If the owner continues to neglect the property, a municipality may exercise eminent domain to acquire it and resell it to a redeveloper, who must agree to build according to the town's plan.

"All we can do is put pressure in places," Brown said Thursday. "But we need private investors who believe in Evesham and want to be here for years to come."

Enticed by the prospect of tax abatement, Lazgor in 2013 requested inclusion in Evesham's then-new redevelopment plan.

The township eventually classified Greentree as a "rehabilitation" project, which provides shorter-term tax abatements than redevelopment and does not involve eminent domain.

Redevelopment and rehabilitation help "us make the town what we want it to be," said Brown. He said the township council has not yet determined how much tax abatement it will offer Lazgor.

Lazaropoulos said after the news conference that he and his business partner, Henry Gorenstein, bought Greentree in 2003 with the intention of replacing it.

Its 80 office suites had been built "without quality" on a former peach orchard, he said.

The strategy, which involves "quick and dirty" construction, is called "land banking," Lazaropoulos said. The owner earns income until market forces make it profitable to "knock them down and build something more upscale, which is what we're doing."

He said Greentree's offices included low ceilings, which are unpopular with modern tenants, and cheap heating and air-conditioning systems. His firm has spent three years relocating tenants so that it could create the project.

Thursday's announcement comes a month after Brown joined officials of RD Management of New York to announce they were demolishing the long-vacant Tri-Towne shopping site on Route 70.

The township had long called the 20-acre site, which included a vacant K-Mart store, an "eyesore," and included it in its redevelopment plan against RD's wishes.

The township and RD eventually agreed on a vision for the site. Plans call for a five-building, 338-unit apartment complex, 12,600 square feet of retail space, a 2,100-square-foot coffee shop, and rehabilitation of 84,000 square feet of existing commercial space.

The retail space will be called the Shoppes at Renaissance Square, and the apartment complex the Residence at Renaissance Square.

At the January news conference, Brown announced the project would cost $30 million, but said Thursday that RD principal Richard Birdoff later called him to say its cost would be $70 million.

"So we've got $100 million worth of tax ratables coming into town," he said.

doreilly@phillynews.com

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