WooRi Mart, a Korean-owned grocer with a supermarket in Northvale, signed a lease to take over the former Mrs. Greens space at Windsor Plaza.
According to Jeremy Juffe, Director of Leasing for Cyzner Properties, the center’s developer and owner, the grocer signed a 20-year lease and is aiming to open in three months.
“They are a premier Asian grocer that is high end but with reasonable prices,” Juffe said. “The store will feature fish and produce and there will be something there for everybody.”
Mrs. Greens was shuttered in October. The grocer had opened in the spring of 2014 to much fanfare. Back then the organic market was heralded as a needed replacement for the Acme supermarket that previously occupied the space. Cyzner had renovated the shopping center in 2012, and it took the developer several years to find a replacement for the Acme that had been at the location for many years.
The closure of the 18,000-square-foot anchor tenant at the shopping center was not unexpected by many, as rumors circulated around town for months that the store wasn’t doing well.
For more than a year, the produce section of the market was cordoned off and empty.
Defined as an upscale organic and healthful food store, the “natural market” included a community room for in-store demonstrations and workshops. A nutritionist was on staff.
The store was the first New Jersey market for Natural Markets Food Group, the Larchmont, N.Y.-based company which owns the brand. Three other Mrs. Greens stores also closed this fall.
“The entire chain is under pressure, they’re having financial problems,” said Juffe.
There is another confirmed new tenant at the 60,000-sq.-ft. Windsor Plaza. A lease has already been signed for a Japanese, wok-type eatery. The new restaurant will open at the 2,000 square feet space previously occupied by the frozen yogurt shop Fill Yo Cup.
Council set to vote on union contracts
Three union contracts done, two more on the way. West Windsor township reached agreements with its largest employee bargaining unit, the Communications Workers of America, as well as its two police unions in November.
Council is set to approve a ratified contract with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union at the Monday, Dec. 12 meeting. Members in the remaining union, the International Association of Firefighters, have already ratified their new contract and it may go before Council Dec. 12 as well.
The previous contracts for all five township bargaining units expired at the end of 2015, and the recently approved three-year contracts will be retroactive to the beginning of 2016 and expire at the end of 2018.
According to business administrator Marlena Schmid, negotiations began in earnest in early May.
Asked what the major negotiating issues were, Schmid said, “I would say health care and the salary increases.”
All five unions will receive raises of 1.65 percent retroactive to 2016, 1.80 percent in 2017 and 1.95 percent in 2018.
PBA member salaries increase via a year-by-year step system, and only the members who have reached the maximum of eight steps will receive the percentage increases. The new contract adds three additional steps to the PBA wage schedule, which will apply to new police officers hired beginning in 2017.
Members of the other four unions will see wage increases in accordance with the negotiated raise percentages.
Council introduced an updated salary and wage ordinance reflecting the changes at its Nov. 28 meeting, and the public hearing will take place at the Dec. 12 meeting.
On healthcare benefits, the township will no longer offer the HMO or PPO health plan to active and retired employees. The exception is police retirees.
Their health plans are unchanged, and according to Schmid the town is following state-level arbitration decisions in favor of police retirees. Schmid added that township retiree health plans become secondary once federal Medicare kicks in for retirees over 65.
The town contracts with Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and all other retirees, active employees and new hires will either enroll in the direct access plan or the bronze plan offered in the federal healthcare exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act.
West Windsor employees will have to pay a portion of their salary towards healthcare premiums, in accordance with state regulations, commonly referred to as Chapter 78, promulgated in 2011.
“The negotiating team successfully preserved the principles of gubernatorial executive order Chapter 78,” Schmid said. “Some towns have negotiated the provision out of the contract.”
Schmid said it is too early to tell what the expected savings are to the township, as the township’s insurer does not provide 2017 premium figures until later in December.
“It’s hard to estimate,” Schmid said. “We are hearing double digit percentage increases.”
There were also changes to prescription drug co-pays. Mail order 90-day supply co-pays were previously $0 for generic and brand name drugs and the new co-pays are $0 for genrics, $20 for brand name and $30 for non-preferred — a newly introduced tier.
Prescription drug co-pays at a retail pharmacy were previously $10 for generic and $15 for brand name, and the new co-pays are $15 for generic, $20 for brand name and $30 for non-preferred.
Effective at the beginning of 2017, the boot allowance for Department of Public Works employees, who are CWA members, increased by $30 to $160. Clothing allowances for police officers increased $150 to $1,000.
There are 157 members in the five unions: 77 in CWA Local 1032, 21 in AFSCME Local 3242, 13 in IAFF Local 3610, and 42 in the Policeman’s Benevolent Association Local 271 and 4 in the Superior Officer’s Association.
According to the 2016 municipal budget, $13.201 million in salary and wages was appropriated for 2016. This includes the salary of non-union personnel but does not include “other expenses.” The 2016 group health insurance appropriation was $3.9 million, with employees contributing $733,286.
The 2016 budget also included $3.23 million in retirement contributions from the town, consisting of $1.49 million to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, $756,604 to the Public Employees Retirement System, and $971,000 to Social Security.
Canal Pointe Boulevard contract approved
Council approved a construction contract for improvements to Canal Pointe Boulevard at its meeting on Nov. 28.
The vote was 4-0. Council member Hemant Marathe was absent. The $1.41 million contract to South River-based S. Brothers General Contracting resolves a long-debated proposal, which will convert the existing four lane roadway into a three-lane road (one way in each direction and a center turn lane) with bicycle lanes on each side.
According to Township Engineer Francis Guzik, new paving is unlikely to take place by the end of the year. The asphalt mills typically close before Christmas and resume production in March.
In other words, barring an unusually mild winter, improvements to Canal Pointe Boulevard will probably not be completed before April of next year.
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Also at the meeting, Township Attorney Michael Herbert provided an update on the Cranbury Road sidewalk project in response to an inquiry by resident Donald Watrous.
The town is still trying to obtain temporary construction easements from property owners for the first segment of the project, from the Ellsworth Center on Route 571 to the part of Cranbury Road across from Sunnydale Way. Earlier in the year the town received permission from Mercer County to build the five-feet wide sidwalk in the public right of way.
Agreements have been reached with four out of six property owners. The town is seeking temporary easement appraisals for the remaining two homeowners and will then make an offer. Condemning property is an alternative way to obtain the temporary easements.
“Hopefully they will accept the offers,” said Council president Linda Geevers.
Zoning Board gives go-ahead to car wash
At its Dec. 1 meeting, the Zoning Board approved Valet Auto Wash’s application to expand its car wash business.
The business, located on southbound U.S. 1 off Farber Road, will now occupy 15 Farber Road, which previously was the location of the Peony Pavilion restaurant. All told, the new supercar wash will sit on 2.317 acres.
There will be a 1,200-square-foot addition over the existing car wash conveyor, and a 1,060-square-foot addition to the former restaurant space, which will be converted into two full service cauum lanes, a polish and wax/belt area, and customer area. 24 self-service vacuum stalls will also be added.