The transformation of the former ACME grocery store into a Lidl grocery store at Lawrence Mall is well under way, with an opening date slated for mid to late summer, according to Lawrence Township officials.
The renovation has taken place in spurts since the start of the demolition of the vacant space in August 2020. Behind a chain-link fence that bars the entrance to the site, signs promoting the imminent opening of Lidl were attached to the plywood covering the storefront.
The former ACME grocery store has been empty since 2018, when the store’s lease expired. ACME Markets decided not to renew the lease for the Lawrence Shopping Center at 2495 Brunswick Pike because the store failed to meet company targets.
Lidl signed a lease for the nearly 40,000 square foot space in August 2019.
The new Lidl grocery store will occupy one of 49 retail spaces at Lawrence Mall, whose mainstays are Staples and Burlington Coat Factory, according to mall owner JJ Operating Inc.’s website at www. jjop.com.
But the old ACME grocery store isn’t the only one to be renovated at the Lawrence Shopping Center.
The old Wells Fargo Bank building across from the parking lot of the old AMCE grocery store has been dismantled and will be rebuilt to accommodate a Starbucks coffee shop and an Aspen dental office. An opening date for them is not known at this time, municipality officials said.
When the renovations are complete, Lidl, Starbucks and Aspen Dental will join the growing list of companies that have started to fill the mall. Several stores have rented space and opened in the past two years.
The Dollar Tree discount store, which opened in August 2020, traversed Brunswick Pike / Route 1 from its former location. The store occupies approximately 11,000 square feet.
The Auto Zone auto parts store also opened. It is located next to the Dollar Tree store. The two shops occupy part of the space that was once occupied by the CVS pharmacy chain.
The Island Sports Bar and Grill opened at the end of 2020 in the space formerly occupied by the Fusion House restaurant. Next to the Island Bar and Grill is the Heavenly Hounds dog training business.
City Electric Supply, which is a wholesale power supply company, occupies the space that housed the R&S Strauss automotive supply store in the same one-story building as Island Sports Bar and Grill and Heavenly Hounds.
New Jersey Camera, Café du Pain bakery and Plato’s Closet, which sells trendy second-hand clothing for teens and young adults, have also opened.
The former Huffman Koos furniture store was demolished in January 2020 to make way for the construction of the LA Fitness gym. The parking lot has been paved, but construction of the gymnasium has apparently been put on hold.
There are still a few vacant storefronts and signs announcing the holidays have been stuck on store windows.
The 393,430-square-foot Lawrence Mall was purchased by JJ Operating Inc. for $ 16.2 million in December 2016, according to the Office of the Township of Lawrence Tax Assessor.
The previous owner, wbcmt 2007-c33 Brunswick Pike LLC, acquired the Lawrence Shopping Center in a 2013 Mercer County Sheriff’s sale. Lawrence Center LLC, which owned the mall, defaulted on a loan of $ 39.5 million, which led to the sale of the sheriff to satisfy the debt.
JJ Operating Inc., the current owner, is a New York-based family-owned property investment and management company.
The Lawrence Shopping Center, which opened in 1960, was the first major shopping center in the Township of Lawrence. It consisted of 150,000 square feet and 13 stores. The shopping center underwent several expansions and renovations between 1966 and 1997.
Among the original stores in the Lawrence Mall was WT Grant, which was a 5 and 10 cent store; Rexall Pharmacy; the Dunham department store; the Pantry Pride grocery store; and Lawrence Liquors, according to records in the office of the Lawrence Township Tax Assessor.