Friday, September 04, 2009

New 7-Eleven Coming to South Avenue

A 24-hour 7-Eleven may occupy the corner of South Avenue and Terrill Road by next spring.

The Planning Board heard the application of Plainfield Chai LLC Thursday and granted preliminary and final site plan approval after about two hours of presentation and discussion. Memorialization is expected in October, and owner Kenneth Mandelbaum said he hoped to see construction start in a couple of months for a spring opening.

According to its web site, 7-Eleven has 6,850 stores in the United States and about 29,600 internationally and is "the world’s largest operator, franchisor and licensor of convenience stores."

The Plainfield site was formerly a gas station which has been cleared of underground tanks and now has monitoring wells as required by the state Department of Environmental Protection, attorney Glenn Kienz said. Kienz said because the applicant received staff reports from the Planning Division well ahead of time, many of the issues were ironed out with city staff before Thursday’s meeting. The main sticking points at the meeting turned out to be about signage, but all were resolved Thursday.

Kienz called only one witness to testify on the application. Engineer Peter Wilner, president of Thor Engineers, described traffic plans for the proposed 28,000-square-foot store, which will have entrances and exits both on the South Avenue and Terrill Road sides of the lot. Store deliveries will be controlled by the company and will take place in traffic off-hours.

Eleven parking spaces will be provided. The applicant had proposed only one tree on the lot, where the city requires one for every 5 spaces. Kienz said another tree will be added. In addition, the city required five street trees for the site, but after consultation with April Stefel, a landscape architect in the Planning Division, Kienz said, it was decided the corner location was suitable for only one street tree. The applicant agreed to furnish four more for the city to use elsewhere on South Avenue.

Similarly, land use rules call for street lights every 60 feet, but staff agreed to have one at the corner location, matching South Avenue’s existing lamp style, and will use a second one elsewhere on the street.

Wilner said the building will be “washed with its own light.” Later in the meeting, it was explained that cornices will contain lighting across the front and eight feet back on each side of the building.

When it came to signage, the Planning Division had already advised the applicant that a 54-foot pylon sign would not be permitted. The applicant agreed to have a seven-foot podium sign on the ground, but Planning Director Bill Nierstedt argued against internal lighting for it. Kienz pointed out the need to meet 7-Eleven signage standards, but Planning Board Chairman Ken Robertson noted the board had successfully held another national chain, White Castle, to Plainfield’s standards for the South Avenue business corridor. After Kienz and Wilner explained that the corner ground sign really needed to be visible as well as distinctive, the board agreed to permit internal lighting instead of external spotlights.

In other concessions, the applicant agreed to reduce a 7-Eleven sign on the side of the building from 9 by 3 feet to 8 by 3 feet to meet the city limit of 24 square feet for building signs. An ATM sign was also reduced from 10 square feet to 6 square feet. But the main 7-Eleven sign on the front of the building was allowed to stay at 17 by 3 feet after members agreed a truncated sign might not look right.

Of two “panel boxes” proposed for the front of the building, one will be relocated inside and the other will be moved to where it will be hidden by landscaping.

Planning Board member Bill Toth, an architect, asked that the applicant do something to make the store entrance “look like a door rather than an emergency exit.” He suggested a canopy or other door treatment to improve the appearance of the entry.

With all issues resolved, the board approved the application.

Councilman Cory Storch, the City Council’s liaison to the Planning Board, explained that the city has “invested a lot of money” in South Avenue, most recently approving $1.7 million to repave the street. He also mentioned the efforts of the Plainwood Square merchants’ association to improve the corridor, suggesting “we should be very respectful” of South Avenue.

Storch also put in a pitch for a new Economic Growth Committee established by the council.

“We’re trying to make Plainfield business-friendly,” he said.

The South Avenue corridor is home to the Netherwood train station as well as numerous restaurants, Walgreens and a variety of specialty stores. The central business district and the South Avenue comprise the Special Improvement District, where an extra tax is collected and used for amenities and events to attract diners and shoppers.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how a nice 7-11 has to jump through hoops to get permits but the hideous signage and huge roll down gate is allowed at the tire place on the corner of South & Berkman streets. what gives?

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly why Plainfield looks like a trailer park.

First, if Bill Nierstedt does not approve, his opinion should be heavily weighted. The back lit sign will look trashy and give Plainfield a low class look.

Secondly, why does Plainfield have to adhere to back lit signage? If you go down the block on South Ave. into SCOTCH PLAINS, there is a 7-11 on the corner with no signage other than the sign on the store itself. Why does Plainfield need to have this crummy sign visible? It will look like an amusement park.

The 7-11 store coming to Plainfield is great, however, let's stick with a vision that befits the Queen City. If Bill says no, and Scotch Plains does not need a back lit sign on the corner, what did the Planning board hear to justify this tasteless decision?

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope there is extra accommodation for police to be there during the early morning hours. No gangs, no loitering and no low class people hanging out.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better there than downtown, South Ave. already has a lot of convenience places, one more it's not going to hurt it.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I believe the signage should come under major scrutiny. This will be something you see on the way into our city. It would be nice to think that we could as tough with signs that are in violation of the current zoning laws. Something other than a 7-11 would be nice, but lets not kid ourselves, this is Plainfield and we should be happy to get a 7-11.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was most interesting here is finding out that Plainfield has "standards..."

since when?

10:50 AM  

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