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ShopRite Sues Over New Clark Commons Shopping Center

The developer believes the suit was brought on because the project will include Whole Foods, a ShopRite competitor.

A rendering of the proposed architecture at Clark Commons.
A rendering of the proposed architecture at Clark Commons.
Wakefern, the parent company for ShopRite, has filed a complaint against the Clark Planning Board and Krame Development over the newly approved Clark Commons shopping center to be built on the 28-acre former U.S. Gypsum Property.

The complaint alleges several things including: that adjacent properties, including ShopRite, were not given proper notice of the project; that discussed changes to the Hyatt Hills property were approved without the property owner's consent; that the project's proposed storm-water management design does not comply with NJ DEP regulations and best practices; and that the off-site roadway improvements surrounding the project "far exceeded" the developer's "fair share" and "were imposed as a quid pro quo for the Planning Board's grant of site plan approval."

Both Clark Business Administrator John Laezza and Krame Development's Bill Krame say that the suit is frivolous and is an attempt on ShopRite's part to delay construction on the project because it will house a competitor, Whole Foods.

"ShopRite is upset about ShopRite basically," Laezza told Patch. "They are a large corporation that does not like competition, and so ShopRite automatically sues any shopping center that’s in close proximity to one of their stores. That’s their habit."

ShopRite recently lost a years-long fight in Linden, where they sued over a development proposed near their property on Route 1&9.

Laezza was quick to defend the Clark ShopRite specifically, blaming instead their corporate office.

"The Clark ShopRite is well-managed and has been a good neighbor," says Laezza. "However, their corporate office's only concern is how many months or years they can delay a project in order to make more profit. The complaints they filed consist of many pages and, as is usual, they are quite frivolous."  

Also, Laezza says claims that ShopRite was unaware of the project cannot be true because the developer and town officials had initially approached the business about relocating into the larger space and larger parking area that would be created on the new site. (ShopRite currently backs to the railroad tracks on one end of the project property.) The old site would then be connected to the Clark Commons property and rented to another tenant, to create one whole complex.

"We had spent many months talking to them," Laezza says. "The mayor talked to their controller. I talked to their president. They had indicated they had spent a lot of money on the ShopRite and didn’t want to go because it would cost them money. Then the developer even offered to pay all money they put out to embrace them to come in to make it one beautiful project. Still they didn't want to."

For their part, ShopRite officials told Patch their concerns stem from safety issues. 

"The safety of our customers and associates, in particular, is a top priority," Tom Urtz, VP of Human Resources & Community Affairs for ShopRite wrote in a statement to Patch. "Plans to develop the site behind the ShopRite of Clark are a concern for us as they directly impact traffic flow for our customers. These concerns, which our customers have expressed as well, have yet to be properly addressed in the proposed plans." 

As far as traffic concerns, Laezza says ShopRite was again difficult, canceling a meeting that was set to discuss the proposed roadway improvements.

"I just think it’s a shame," Clark Commons developer Bill Krame told Patch. "It's a travesty that they felt the need to bring a lawsuit to try to stop project when they had ample opportunities to show up at the public meetings and express any concerns."

Krame adds that ShopRite was the first supermarket approached as an anchor store for the project. 

"We had been in lengthy negotiations with them about relocating and eventually had no choice but to make a deal with Whole Foods," says Krame. "I think ShopRite is trying to stop competition coming in and it's just not right. Suing is costing taxpayers money."

Krame is also quick to shut down the claim that the roadway improvements he's taking on are "excessive," or were done as a "quid pro quo" for the plan's approval. (Read about the road improvements in our story.)

"We decided on these improvements voluntarily," says Krame. "We recognized the problems and came up with a very extensive plan. It so happens that that's expensive, but we have no choice but to pay if we want the project to move forward."

Krame says the suit hasn't stopped progress on the project, however.

"We've got most of the buildings down already," says Krame. "We don’t want ShopRite to scare us. We're going forward."

READ MORE:

'Clark Commons' Developer Will Widen Roads, Add Traffic Light

UPDATED: Clark Says Yes to Plan for Town Center on Former Gypsum Site

'Clark Commons' Shopping Complex Details Outlined

Mayor Responds to Gypsum Rezoning Criticism

Clark Residents Voice Concerns About Proposal for New Town Center on Gypsum Site

Mayor Bonaccorso Asks: What Do Residents Want Built at Gypsum Property?

What Should Take the U.S. Gypsum Factory's Place in Clark?

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Clark Guy 2 January 26, 2014 at 04:26 PM
Que???? CG1 and CG3.... no fighting por favor! Stick to the topic!
Clark Guy 3 January 26, 2014 at 04:28 PM
Right, back to topic.....who needs another freakin supermarket...we've got Mc D's, BK, and Wendy's right down the road. You've got all the meat, fish, and vegetables any healthy family needs.
Clark Guy 2 January 26, 2014 at 04:35 PM
CG3, Are you sure you are a guy? Who eats vegetables????
Clark Guy 2 January 26, 2014 at 04:36 PM
Maybe a strip joint will move into the new retail space. How do you guys feel about that?
Steve January 27, 2014 at 05:59 PM
I look forward to buying my wild salmon steaks and quinoa without having to travel to the Vauxhall Whole Foods. Thanks Clark for providing the venue.
Perc January 27, 2014 at 08:30 PM
Let me make sure I'm following: Clark now has a ShopRite, an A&P, and a Target with a new grocery section. Yeah...let's make the centerpiece of the new "town center" a grocery store. Perfect. (At least it's not a bank or nail salon!)
Steve January 27, 2014 at 09:07 PM
I congratulate the Clark decision-makers on their good taste and judgment on having a Whole Foods in their town. It is clear from the majority of posts here that I won't have to contend with many Clark residents in line, which makes it easier on us who appreciate the difference between a low-end ShopRite (or A&P or Target) and an upmarket purveyor.
bob barrett January 28, 2014 at 08:15 AM
Regarding the parking at the new site. For all residents who visit Florida they experience parking lots with many trees and well landscaped. The Shoprite and Target lots are ugly and depressing. I recommend our planning board get some expertise In designing pleasant parking to avoid the Jersey look prevalent look through out NJ Malls
bob barrett January 28, 2014 at 08:21 AM
Regarding increase traffic. Every time a builder wants a variance traffic is usually the reason protestors use to oppose the project. But in my opinion Clark's traffic problem is our ideal location for access to Parkway, route 1, Turnpike Route 22. Daily, cars are coming in from Edison, Rahway, Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains, etc. Just passing thru to and from work. It's location. But possibly it's a benefit.
bob barrett January 28, 2014 at 08:24 AM
Oops. Should have added the the rendering of Clark Commons appear to have the same depressing parking that I previously noted.
Clark Guy 2 January 28, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Dan, since when is Shop-Rite and Target considered low-end? Please elaborate.
Steve January 28, 2014 at 01:56 PM
CG2, my prior comment was directed to the relative comparison between the grocers currently in Clark and a Whole Foods, such as the Millburn-Union store where I often shop and have lunch. From time to time, I too shop at Garwood's ShopRite. However, when I am looking for high-quality vegetables, fruit, fresh pasta, fish and meat (for example), as well as healthier foods, WF is generally very much better, albeit also much more expensive. And if you are looking for Coke, Pepsi, Doritos or Oreos (for example), you won't find any such products on the shelves of a Whole Foods. I came across the following review from a recent article run in a major newspaper -- the Albany Times Union -- in upstate NY, where I have a country home: "Put simply, Whole Foods is a gourmet store stocked with largely organic, natural foods and products manufactured with an awareness of their environmental impact. The offerings are generally more expensive than those in mainstream supermarkets, often significantly so, but not always."
Michele January 29, 2014 at 09:55 AM
@Dan, re your comment -"And to those posters who are hysterical about crime on Raritan Road -- with all the capital letters and exclamation points in the "sky is falling" warnings -- that is primarily due to its proximity to the Garden State Parkway and the presence of easy targets like gas stations and Dunkin Donuts, not Whole Foods" BINGO. You are not to bright are you? The people such as myself who are concerned about the crime in that particular area are not concerned that a Whole Foods will bring more crime there....the idea of a mall AT ALL is what will bring more crime there specifically because of the entire area being a target for those who are well aware of the areas easy access to the GSP. It does not matter if it's a service station, a DD, a Whole Foods or an Old Navy....build it and they will come and that includes that criminal element. Need I mention the horror of the Short Hills shooting???? Oh and if you want quality fish head on down to Marinos in Cranford. As for that BS about a "country home" in upstate NY....it's just that BS. Why would someone who has previously commented about his desire to wipe out wildlife, specifically deer, have a "country home" in upstate NY??? What a phony!!!
Steve January 29, 2014 at 11:40 AM
Michele, I will refrain from responding to your ad hominem personal attacks on me. With regard to Marino's, it is not at all to my liking. Whole Foods is much better, in my opinion. And I have never seen Marino's seriously described as "gourmet," as Whole Foods was described in the quoted excerpt from the Albany Times Union (for example). With regard to violent crime, unfortunately in this country it may strike anywhere at any time. School and church shootings, as well as home invasions, also have been much in the news lately. However, no sensible person would rationally oppose the construction of homes, schools and churches in a town because of the possibility they may attract crime. (DDs, gas stations and other such thinly staffed cash-based retailers, on the other hand, are statistically shown to suffer inordinately high-crime rates, especially when near easy escape routes. Of this I was originally informed by a relative who was a longtime police chief of a Union County town near us. Of course, if traffic is substantially slowed down on Raritan Road due to the new project, as some posters have suggested, it may actually lessen the crime there in the absence of a quick escape.) In any event, I am pleased that the officials in Clark, in their wisdom, have soundly rejected any knee-jerk crime-based arguments made by NIMBYs, and are proceeding with the development. Finally, most (but not all) of my comments last week directed to the soundness of the deer hunt in Cranford were indeed posted from my upstate country home, where my closest neighbors are all wildlife. It is one reason I go up there every chance I get. Your mischaracterization of my posts in support of the officially sanctioned harvest of Cranford's overpopulation of deer is likely indicative of either your not reading the posts or your intentional misconstruction of them.
bob barrett January 29, 2014 at 12:15 PM
It is unfortunate that people cannot express their views.if you disagree with someone then provide your own thoughts. There is no reason to attract the person. Just provide your own views.
Steve January 29, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Thank you, Bob.
Perc February 03, 2014 at 07:55 PM
This from the Clark Patch last Spring: "The vision presented in the plan is for a new town center – an environmentally friendly commercial center with retail and office space in "a park like setting with tree-lined streets" and with "a central architectural focus such as a fountain, plaza, clock tower or landscaped boulevard." And now we know it's going to be 1600+ parking spaces surrounded by a bunch of stores with a Whole Foods as the anchor store. In other words, a shopping plaza much like the Target plaza. Yup--another flim-flam by Mayor Sal and his band of merry idiots.
Lars Erickson February 03, 2014 at 08:09 PM
I'm getting a little amazed at what people think are most important. According to some, Whole Foods is an "upscale" store while Shop-Rite and Target are for the rest of us knuckle draggers that live in the area. Hmmmm....you mean I won't be able to get Cheez-Whiz at WholeFoods? Then who needs 'em?!! And just I make my point clear....I am no better then anyone else and nobody is better than me. If the stores in this area are not to your social status...move to a higher property tax bracket!!!
Steve February 03, 2014 at 08:57 PM
Fortunately, Clark officials paid little heed to those of less than fully erect posture and having pedestrian food tastes. And there is nothing necessarily inconsistent with a Whole Foods and an attractive, environmentally friendly commercial center, even one with a large parking lot. Indeed, Whole Foods embraces a core set of values that favors the environment, unlike mainstream grocers already gracing Clark's presence.
Steve February 03, 2014 at 08:57 PM
And let us all have a moment of silent respect for Jessica Remo, the author of this informative article, who was unceremoniously fired when AOL recently sold Patch.
Clark Guy 2 February 04, 2014 at 02:27 PM
We need an adult theme business at this new mall.
Clark Guy 1 February 04, 2014 at 03:05 PM
that is not a bad idea CG2, how about a drive thru adult books and novelty store.....like they have in the south, ya know how wacky those red states can be....
Clark Guy 1 February 04, 2014 at 03:06 PM
how about something real upscale like Christmas Tree Shoppe or Dollar General.....??
Clark Guy 2 February 05, 2014 at 10:24 AM
CG1, that's a great idea! You can shop there right after you are finished with AHOLE FOODS.
Perc February 09, 2014 at 08:28 PM
Hey Dan--20 or so stores surrounding 1600+ parking spaces is hardly an environmentally- and/or pedestrian-friendly town center. With or without Whole Foods, IT'S A FREAKIN' SHOPPING PLAZA. PERIOD.
Steve February 09, 2014 at 08:43 PM
Some folks seem to have a lot of anger surrounding this issue. It's good that the Clark town fathers took a much more measured and reasonable approach. Clark is fortunate to turn a large parcel of land containing an industrial eyesore into a welcoming amenity that serves the area well. Congrats to all involved.
Perc February 11, 2014 at 07:12 PM
Steve is either an idiot or a "town father."
Perc February 11, 2014 at 07:16 PM
You can't be serious.
Happy_Mom March 20, 2014 at 01:42 PM
I know I'm a little late on this but I personally cannot wait for Whole Foods to be ready for business! I have been a Clark Shoprite patron for years and the aesthetic and quality have gone downhill year after year. Whole Foods will make them step up their game, replace their disgusting and ill functioning shopping carts, clean up their parking lot and surroundings and hopefully clean up the store itself! I do not plan to do all of my shopping at Whole Foods but their reputation of high quality organic fruits and veggies is beyond comparison to ANY of the shopping in the immediate area! Good call Clark!
Matthew April 13, 2014 at 09:55 PM
Shop Rite should be thankful they were given the opportunity to have a new store in the new shopping center. I am sure the store they are now in is outdated,not to mention their current parking lot is a complete HORROR,that;s why I don't shop there,I live in Colonia and would rather shop at Wegmans,the Linden shop Rite or the Stop and Shop on Inman Avenue in Edison.

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