By Lisa Graybeal, Correspondent
Those vast rows of green corn currently growing in the space marked as the site for Oxford Commons shopping center will give way to paved parking slots and roadways leading to stores, restaurants and other businesses by this time next year, according to developers.
It’s been a long time coming ? 11 years to be exact. Lower Oxford Township supervisors, who approved and signed the final plans for the project at last week’s meeting, remarked that the original plans came before the board in 1999 when they were still operating from the former township building. Supervisors had approved the final plans two years ago with contingencies. The township’s engineer and solicitor wouldn’t sign off on the project until those last details were addressed and completed, according to Deborah Kinney, the township’s codes and zoning enforcement officer.
The ‘Coming Soon’ sign placed at the site by developers, Wolfson Verrichia Group, Inc., of Plymouth Meeting, became an ongoing joke to Oxford-area residents as the project became bogged down with a lawsuit, permitting issues and water line hookup problems that held up progress for years. Some interviewed at a local ice cream shop this week still expressed skepticism at the latest news, taking the “we’ll believe it when we see it” position on the subject.
Final settlement on the shopping center between the developer and the bank is scheduled to happen in mid-July. The target date to move dirt is August 1, Kinney said. A Wal-Mart Supercenter, which will anchor the shopping center along with a large home improvement store, is scheduled to open in time for the Christmas shopping season next year. To reach that goal, Kinney explained, the pad for the store has to be in place by this December 1. It will take 10 months to build the store, she said.
Bill Dion, from Wolfson Verrichia, told supervisors that excavation of the site will last about four months. Construction of most of the buildings and paving the parking lots and roadways throughout the shopping center will begin early next spring, he said, adding that the goal is to have some stores opening next summer.
Though doubters remain, enthusiasm for the shopping center is still alive and well in the community. Other businesses planned for the shopping center include Fulton Bank, Arby’s, McDonald’s and Sonic restaurants, Eckerd drug store, a Verizon wireless store, a dry cleaner, hair salon, a mattress retailer and a computer game store, among others.
“I think it’s great,” said Debra Horton, who lives with her family in nearby New London Township. “I really like the idea of putting one (Wal-Mart) in.”
The Horton family said they often end up in Newark, Delaware, to do their shopping. They’re also in favor of the shopping center for its potential to create more jobs in the community.
Todd and Jenn Kinkus said they had heard of the shopping center plans when they moved from the Wilmington area to Oxford Borough nearly four years ago. The couple said they appreciate the small-town feel of Oxford. But Jenn, a mother of two and the primary shopper for the family, said she’s looking forward to having the bigger stores close by.
“I just hope the small town stores do OK,” Todd added. “They’re kind of the heart and soul of the town.”