A new addition to Robbinsville Township will solidify a one-mile stretch of Route 33 as Bankers’ Row.
Already home to six banks, the portion of Route 33 from where it joins Nottingham Way in Hamilton Square to where it splits with Main Street will welcome yet another financial institution. A new Chase Bank is well underway at Route 33 and Park Street, next to Berkshire Bank. The branch should be open by the end of the year, said Hal English, Robbinsville Township community development director.
The concentration of banks is surprising for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that three—Berkshire, Chase and, in the former Roma Bank headquarters, Investors—now occupy prime real estate in the heart of the township’s Town Center. What was originally billed as a walkable, livable mini city now has as many banks and real estate offices as it does places to eat.
“Would I have loved to see a restaurant there in Town Center?” English said. “Absolutely.”
English was quick to add, however, that the owner of the Chase property also owns the land directly behind it on Park Street. The developer has plans for a smaller building that matches Town Center, with three stories of apartments above a ground-level retail space. English said the plans for this building included a grease trap, so perhaps an eatery or coffee shop could be coming there.
The developer also has committed to building sidewalks in front of the property, providing yet another link to make Town Center truly walkable. It is a goal of the administration to have sidewalks along Route 33 from Rite Aid in the east to Foxmoor Shopping Center at the township’s western border.
“The front end works beautifully with Dolce and [DeLorenzo’s] and Jack’s,” English said. “It’s beginning, and now it’s growing. We’re happy with how it’s growing. If we connect them, and it grows toward Foxmoor and all the businesses feed off each other, that’s a really, really good thing.”
English also pointed out that banks have been good for the township so far, providing a ratable that is clean with not a lot of traffic. That banks are locating here, especially because the industry trend is against new branches, also speaks to the demographic power of Robbinsville residents, English said.
“The money is here, plain and simple,” he said.
This means—thanks to prior approvals—that part of Robbinsville could potentially see two more banks.
The first, in Foxmoor Shopping Center, is a 5,000-square-foot pad site that was never built on.
The second is on Main Street in the complex that contains Papa’s Tomato Pies. The developer received approval for a bank pad site there, but has not started construction yet.
“I’m not expecting an eighth bank, but you never know,” English said.
As for how successful any of the banks can expect to be with so much competition nearby, English points to another industry that has a turf war on this stretch of Route 33: pharmacies. There are three—CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid—in a half-mile potion of the road. This is made even stranger by the fact that earlier this year Walgreens bought out all Rite Aid locations. But they all seem to have found their own clientele.
“A bank like Chase comes in, and people are saying, ‘How many more banks can we take?’” English said. “But they’re there sitting with over $100 million in deposits. So, they’re doing business, and they’re doing business well…It’s sort of like, ‘Why is there a Rite Aid and a Walgreens? They own each other, and they’re several blocks away.’ Yet both of them do an incredible amount of business. It’s strange but it’s business. ”
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The township has also turned its eyes across the street, to the south side of Town Center.
Township officials met in early September with all the property owners on the eastbound side of Route 33—from Starbucks to Foxmoor Travel (across from Centro Grille)—to discuss the landowners’ plans and see if they wanted to redevelop. It is part of a process as the township beings exploring options for the area. The township owns the land behind it, a redevelopment area with open space and more than 20 acres of buildable land.
Township officials are deep in discussion, English said, with the University of Pennsylvania regarding the construction of a medical or healthy living campus on the township-owned land. Plans are very preliminary, English said, but both UPenn and the Hamilton Area YMCA—which has been involved in the plans—have surveyed residents about what they’d like to see in town. Suggestions have included a community pool—a common resident request for more than a decade now—as well as community fitness spaces.
The land has some stormwater and wetland issues, and the township has discussed building a lake similar to Town Center’s at the back of the property to resolve those issues, plus provide a place for fishing, walking trails and biking trails.
The township and UPenn have also discussed providing ample parking—perhaps even a parking deck—to prevent the south side of Town Center from encountering similar issues to the north side. In addition to customer frustration when parking is short, many businesses have requirements for the number of parking spaces before they’ll open a location in a development.
English said the township also has prioritized designing a road out to Route 130—called Liberty Street—that would allow the bulk of traffic to bypass the Town Center and Main Street areas. The idea for a Route 130 bypass has been floating around for years.